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Beloved | [Toni Morrison]

Beloved

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
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Publisher's Summary

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.

Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey.

©1987 Toni Morrison; (P)1998 Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature." (New York Review of Books)
"A masterwork....Wonderful....I can't imagine American literature without it." (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (469 )
5 star
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4.0 (235 )
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Story
3.9 (238 )
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Patricia San Diego, CA, United States 02-08-13
    Patricia San Diego, CA, United States 02-08-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Magnificient - Toni Morrison's voice will haunt me"

    What a powerful book! I had a basic idea of the plot and had actually read or heard clips over the years but nothing prepared me for this powerful reading. Having the author herself read it just added to the beauty of the experience.

    I don't like to give away too much about plot lines but this is the story of a particular family of slaves, the horrors they encountered and some of the dreadful decisions they make under extreme pressure. I grew up in the old South during segregation but even that did not prepare me for this book. It was mesmerizing. And the language is simply gorgeous. And Toni Morrison's voice is haunting. This is going to have to go to the top of my list of favorite books of all times. Don't miss it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Guillermo Palo Alto, CA, United States 10-15-11
    Guillermo Palo Alto, CA, United States 10-15-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Great novel, poor performance"

    I don't think this is the place to do reviews of the stories, techniques or narrative structure in books, so I will not comment on the novel itself (a masterpiece, by the way).

    The performance of Mrs. Morrison is not good. She has to catch her breath after each sentence and you can hear that. I tried several times to listen but I just couldn't stand it. It is annoying. Narration should be done by professional actors, not by the authors. Recording a book requires different skills than writing a book.

    I'd rather sit down, open my hardcover edition and re-read the novel. I want my money back.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 02-24-10
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 02-24-10 Member Since 2009

    I love literary fiction and I occasionally delve into non-fiction. I love books that are suspenseful and am really into well-told stories.

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    "A Stunning Book by a Master Writer"

    Beloved is one of my favorite books of all time. I have read it in print 4 times. When my book club elected to read this and selected me to lead it, I decided to buy it in audible format to get another dimension to my 5th time through it. Toni Morrison reads, and while she is an amazing wordsmith, she isn't really an audio book actress. So, I really understand some people's comments here about it being hard to listen to. I sort of agree with you.
    If you want to read this book (or need to for school) please start with a print copy. While I found the inflections Morrison brings to the characters SHE created, I don't think that the first time through this book should be in audible form. (also, please don't go see the movie...it should never have been made)
    While these characters are forever etched into my memory and in some ways, my entire being, if this would have been my first time through Beloved, I may not have liked it. To listen to Morrison's voice after hearing my own interpretations of the voices in my head for so many year, it is a great treat for me.
    If it has been several years since you last read Beloved and you want to rediscover it a new way, I recommend this version completely.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Renata los gatos, CA, USA 08-30-07
    Renata los gatos, CA, USA 08-30-07 Member Since 2003
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    "A deeply moving tale"

    I found Beloved to be a rich and compelling tale. It brought out for me the vulnerability and helplessness of people bound in slavery like no other book has done. At the same time there was humanity and hopefulness and love. I think this book should be required reading for all people. It is written in a style that may at first be confusing. Ms. Morrison does not spell things out in chronological order for us. But if you stay with it, you will find that she does
    wrap up each inner tale. I think it also helps to listen to it twice. As is often the case, the first time through you are caught up with the story, the second time you catch more of the nuances. I also loved listening to her voice, although it too takes a little patience until you learn her cadence. She hesitates as she reads, and often you think that she has finished a sentence only to find that it continues. But once your ear has figured that out, she is a pleasure and I believe her voice perfectly complements her story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    william c thill 06-03-06 Member Since 2013
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    "One of the best ever"

    This is probably one of the best novels I've read, and the best one on audio as well. I was blown away when reading it ten years ago, and I am back there again in listening to Toni Morrison read her words. Her choices of words, cadence, and voice bring the listener face-to-face with the character's point of view, as effectively as any novel by James Joyce or Dostoyevsky, Nabokov. This is a must listen, in my opinion. One of the great remarkable achievements in literature, made even more remarkable by this reading. I am under it's spell.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna grants pass, OR, USA 03-07-09
    Donna grants pass, OR, USA 03-07-09 Member Since 2004
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    "Listen to sample before purchase"

    I have read several of Toni Morrison's books and loved her writing. I purchased Sula and Beloved and put Tar Baby on my wish list. I will never purchase a book again without listening to a sample. Toni Morrison is a terrible reader; slow with frequent pauses, and at times difficult to hear what was being read. I suffered through Sula and after 20 minutes gave up on Beloved. I have never made any comments on books purchased, but this was so bad I felt compelled to warn others.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jared 07-03-14
    Jared 07-03-14
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    "Be patient..."
    Any additional comments?

    Be patient with this one. It requires close listening but Morrison's voice does carry the weight of the words.

    The writing itself is beautiful. The story is nonlinear, and conveys the wide ranging and conflicting emotions involved in what has become familiar narrative. It is deeply human.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jackie 05-05-14
    jackie 05-05-14 Member Since 2014
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    "horrible narriation"
    Would you try another book from Toni Morrison and/or Toni Morrison?

    not if she's the narrator


    Has Beloved turned you off from other books in this genre?

    no, however it was hard to even understand the book.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Toni Morrison?

    Nicole Small


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    no

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Vancouver, BC, Canada 03-31-14
    Julie Vancouver, BC, Canada 03-31-14 Member Since 2013

    I'm a writer and a yoga teacher with a Masters in English Literature.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Some of it breezes past you"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Beloved to be better than the print version?

    No, this is one of the few books I would say would be better in the text version. It's very subtle and layered, there is a disconnectedness to the narrative that is important to the theme of the consequences of slavery, but it's difficult to follow if you lose a word or phrase that turns out to be key, or if you can't pause and reread a paragraph a few times to get it.


    What other book might you compare Beloved to and why?

    My experience with the Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was that I was at first a bit confused, but the story unfolded for me effortlessly by simply continuing to listen. That didn't happen for me with Beloved. I got to the end, thought "...what?" and restarted it from the beginning right away. I had to google it to understand what the heck just happened.


    Have you listened to any of Toni Morrison’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I haven't, but I love her voice, it's so gorgeous. Even though I feel like I missed a lot of the narrative, I really enjoyed listening, and certain images, moments, and phrases stick with me even now.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There are many moving moments in the book, it's very detailed and beautifully written.


    Any additional comments?

    I'd like to try the book again in print, but I appreciate having listened to Toni Morrison's voice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Indianapolis, IN, United States 02-16-14
    Susan Indianapolis, IN, United States 02-16-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Loved it!"
    If you could sum up Beloved in three words, what would they be?

    Happy, sad, angry


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Beloved?

    When Setha was telling about the delivery of Denver.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Denver telling of them ice skating.


    If you could take any character from Beloved out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Baby Suggs


    Any additional comments?

    I have read the book a couple times, have watched the movie a few times and now I have listened to the audio book. Toni Morrison is a great writer and I love the way she "read" the book. To me she wasn't reading to me she was telling me a story. I loved listening to her voice. I also appreciated her not changing her voice for each of the characters. I will definitely be listening to this one again. Thank you MS. Morrison.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 35 results PREVIOUS1234NEXT
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  • Deborah Richards
    7/16/06
    Overall
    "Astounding"

    The style, subject matter and structure of this book demanded a re-read; listening to it, after 3 attempts has transformed my understanding and appreciation of it. The author has an important 'voice' and hearing her read her own work is a potent experience in itself.

    This book records slavery from the slave perspective. At times harrowing and frightening it is illuminating of the slave world and humanity in general. The characterisation is strong and meaningful and Morrison's use of included and deliberately excluded elements brings the reader to the heart of the tale and lives of the characters. The style and use of language is powerful, both difficult and confusing at times but the Audible edition almost eliminates these difficulties. Having 'read' this novel before I matched what I was hearing to the text and a real sense of dawning understanding overtook me.

    Not a light listen but an incredibly important one, moving and life enhancing, it demands time and concentration; you might feel as though you'd like to give up: but perseverance and acceptance of the challenge will reward you. A truly truly a great book, made greater in this format.

    Toni Morrison is a complex and contraversial writer and this her most gritty book would be a good starting choice; introducing all the themes of her writing. As long as the plight of the dispossessed and down trodden remain at the heart of our world Morrison enables the reader to understand what it is to have nothing to fall back on except raw human nature, good or evil - somewhere in this tale is a lesson for each of us, but Morrison leaves us to work out what.

    Give this a go - it will not disappoint or fail to move you.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. N. A. Burton
    Oxon, England
    6/12/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Unbearably moving"

    Sometimes fiction can be the best way of treating reality, and this groundbreaking novel is surely a prime example of that. It explains the reality of slavery in a way which none of the first hand accounts such as Douglass, Jacobs, Equiano, Prince can do. It speaks of the depths of the human experience of those directly affected and the scars that are left both on the outside and the inside. The narrative voice is unfamiliar and takes some getting used to. Toni Morrison's expressive but understated delivery is perfect for her novel of characters who "remember as little as they dare" but gradually let their stories out despite themselves.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    5/23/11
    Overall
    "Important subject but ..."

    Such an important subject but the style was not my cup of tea. This is a very personal reason not to like it and I can see why other reviewers raved about this book. If you like poetry, read in the stereotypical way, with pauses in unusual places and metaphors abounding then this may be for you. At times it felt like I was listening to a poem that was going on for hours and hours! I found the book hard to get into and stay connected with because of the reading style. The story depicts the harrowing nature of slavery and what humans, whatever their race or background, are capable of.
    I give it three stars because I think it probably is a very well written book, covering a very difficult subject, but one that I could not appreciate because of the style of writing or reading.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Jenny
    Redruth, United Kingdom
    11/28/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Difficult to listen too"
    What did you like best about Beloved? What did you like least?

    If the narration had been easier to listen to, I may have been able to follow the story better. The accent was good and authentic, but pausing where there are no fullstops and not pausing when there is one makes it unintelligble at times.
    I am halfway through it but I am considering giving up and moving on to something more worthwhile. I have not been able to see where the story is going.........


    How could the performance have been better?

    I don't know much about narrating books but have listened to a few now.
    Although this was not done in a monotone, it feels like it because the narrator did nothing to distinguish the different voices (as has been done so expertly in other books eg The 100year old man)This made it very confusing.
    Also pausing at fullstops and not taking breath in the middle of sentences would have helped a great deal I think.


    Was Beloved worth the listening time?

    Not for me. I am probably not going to finish it. This means I will probably never see the point of it, if there was one.


    Any additional comments?

    Professional readers are better!
    If this happens to me again I will send the book back!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jennifer
    Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
    9/23/12
    Overall
    "Bad narration"

    I know in theory it's great to have the author narrate but Toni Morrison unfortunately isn't cut out for it. Her voice is so low, husky and whispery and the inflection/emphasis is peculiar, I just can't finish it. Will be looking for a version with a different narrator or possibly reading the book instead!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    5/18/11
    Overall
    "Loved Beloved"

    I loved this book and in particular hearing the author read the wonderfully poetic and sometimes searing prose.
    Like others have said you do have to take time to get used to this particular style. It works like a partnership, you the listener have to concentrate and picture the words as the author paints her horribly violent but wonderful story. It is a partnership that gives lots of rewards.
    This book stayed with me for a long time after reading it and has inspired me to find more by this author.
    Wonderful and I am only sorry I came to this so late.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sophia
    CULLOMPTON, Devon, United Kingdom
    1/9/10
    Overall
    "I was scared witless..."

    This has to rate as one of my top ten audio books of all time. It's always a treat to hear an author read her own work and this is no exception. The pathos that Morrison's diction lends to this exemplary text makes for a stunning dramatic recording. I was gripped throughout and had switch off on several occasions, because it was too frightening to go on. This is not billed as a thriller, and nor should it be. Rather it is a terrible story. It?s not a comfortable read, but it is outstanding: for what is said, and how.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    Whitstable, United Kingdom
    9/23/09
    Overall
    "Riveting"

    Anyone who wants to feel what slavery was really like should listen to this. A gripping story, beautifully read, I was completely absorbed. Fantastic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Helen
    Norwich, United Kingdom
    12/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hard going"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    It's just so in-depth found myself totally lost, I know people rave about this book but I'm finding it hard going


    What will your next listen be?

    Less heaving going book


    What didn’t you like about Toni Morrison’s performance?

    Toni Morrison voice sent me off to sleep, not in a bad way but I'd wake up and have no clue what she was then talking about.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sue
    Fleet, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Beloved"

    A wonderfully evocative narrative exploring a mother's reaction to the possibility of returning with her children to a life of slavery. An empathetic yet harshly realistic view of the lives of American slaves, one that takes into account the human relationships and feelings of a group of people believed to be less than human.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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