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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.

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings


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  • Overall

Perhaps best read on paper

Lyrical prose is woven into this story of a compelling period in our history. The story line is believable, and is an adept portrayal of how human beings can treat and react to each other. I believe I would have enjoyed this book much more if I had consumed it with my eyes instead of my ears. I missed the opportunity to go back a few pages to check a line or re-read a paragraph. The complexity of the story is at times like the quiet taste of a familiar herb in a vibrantly constructed meal - something you can't quite place, can't quite encompass on the first pass. I would recommend this book, with the reminder that other listeners may have the same problem maintaining grasp of the elusive thread. I've listened to several hundred books, and would place this in the top 50.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Saint Helena, CA, USA
  • 10-04-06

Amazing Book-Bad Audio Book

I love Tony Morrison, and think she is one of the best living authors. However, I had to quit this one--only the second time I have not completed an audiobook. The author reads the book in a monotonous wisper. The combination of her quiet voice and the lack of differentiation of the character's voices made it impossible to keep my attention.

Do yourself and Tony Morrison a favor by passing on this product and picking up the paper book. I have read several of her novels and they are amazing. This audiobook would also be improved by a professional actor/reader in lieu of the author (believe it or not).

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Author-read Books

I have just started listening to this book, and have decided that I will have to buy a printed copy and read its text concurrently while listening in order to make it to the end. This is the third audiobook I have purchased which is read aloud by its author, and it will be the last. I cannot understand Ms Morrison's pronunciation of many of the words. There is no differentiation in voice, so one doesn't know what character is talking or thinking. There are no pauses between the paragraphs or shifts in the time periods. [Contrast the amateurish reading of Beloved with the professionally read "The Sound and The Fury"--an even more diffcult book to follow.] Frankly, Ms Morrison is not a professional reader and subscribers are cautioned to listen to the sample [which I did not] before purchasing this audiobook. Unfortunately, Beloved is only available as an audiobook read by Ms Morrison. So readers of this review don't think I am picking on Toni Morrison, Charles Frazier's self-read of Cold Mountain suffers from the same deficiencies. Does any one know why the producers of audiobooks allow authors to read their own books? I will guess that it all has to do with retaining copyrights and royalties by the author and the author's agent.

53 of 58 people found this review helpful

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  • Peregrine
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 11-23-07

Morrison is a terrible reader

Toni Morrison reads her own book as if she's constantly out of breath. She pauses in the middle of sentences and even in the middle of words, spewing out 3 or 4 words at a time. The content is brilliant, her reading is the worst I've ever heard. I gave up half-way and just read the book once I had time.

26 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Guillermo
  • Palo Alto, CA, United States
  • 10-15-11

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.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

You may not like this book.

Rated by the NY Times as the best American novel of the last 25 years, I decided to try *Beloved* by Toni Morrison. I had serious difficulty liking this book at first. It seemed to me that in the first hour or so of this book, the narrator *told* me how the characters felt. I thought, "Wouldn't it have been better to *show* me, rather than *tell* me?" I thought to myself, "Either Nobel Prize winning fiction is not what it used to be, or I am seriously deficient in my literary appreciation." I suspect that my own lack of appreciation was at fault, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that I frequently had difficulty staying awake, especially in the first half of this novel. "Suspense as taut as a rope," to quote the publisher, would not have been my tag for this book. Some friends told me, "Yes, Toni Morrison takes some getting used to." Others said, "Yes, I hear it's problematic to read. That's why I decided not to read it." Ultimately, I am very glad that I finished this book, because it had a powerful effect on me. The characters and the dilemmas they faced were fascinating and gripping. Be forewarned, however, that this novel requires active participation of the reader: it's some work to read it. The best way for me to describe it is to say that the novel contains a series of fragmentary episodes, often incompletely described. You, as the reader, have to try to piece together the events. There are abrupt shifts of time and place. Again, there is often no explicit guidance. The reader must infer where in time and place the narrative has jumped to. Perhaps, as a reader, I found it to be rather too arduous. However, in the last third or so of the novel, when all the pieces start coming together, the novel's accumulated effect was riveting. Now that I understand more about the novel's structure, I wonder whether I might enjoy re-reading (re-listening?) to it in a few years.

29 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


There's nothing like hearing the beautiful Music of Toni Morrison's voice reading her own work. You move as if between dream and reality, between rememory and illusion, between truth and time, alongside the complex, flawed and all-too-human characters. Of course, to some Caucasian listeners unaccustomed to the heavily dialectical reading, there may be some short adjustment. But if the listener is patient and attentive, and feels the words instead of trying to interpret them, the experience is profoundly moving and enlightening. Thank you Toni Morrison for giving such a rare and perfect gem to the audiobook world!

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great literature!

This is the most important work of fiction in the last 25 years—according to a recent NY Times survey. The audio book, read by the author, is the most powerful work I have ever listened too—and that is saying a lot. I am practically addicted to my headphones, my connection to the real world while the rest of my body lives in Costa Rica.

This is not entertainment; it is literature—something that changes you. It is original and disturbing. It will affect your dream life. If you are the kind of person who does not dream, you will not be interested in it at all; if you do dream, be prepared for some scary trips; get ready for some changes in your life.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Di
  • Tulsa, OK, USA
  • 07-12-09


I loved hearing Toni Morrison read "Beloved". It was very difficult to read the book because it is so intense, but when Toni Morrison started reading the audio book, I was hynotized. Hearing the author read gave the book the proper cadence.
This is a great book for discussion, but be warned, it isn't light reading.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 02-08-13

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • Mrs
  • 05-23-11

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Deborah Richards
  • 07-16-06


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.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Annette Brazier
  • 09-01-15


A deeply woven story. Both touching and moving. Great characterisation, leaving nothing uncovered, and laid bare, but the true nature of humankind.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jenny
  • 11-28-13

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!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jennifer
  • 09-23-12

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!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sophia
  • 01-09-10

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Linda Seddon
  • 08-04-17

beautiful and brilliant

Absolutely love this audio book. Listening to it being read by the author, for me, changes the whole tone of the story.

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  • Godfrey Carnegie
  • 04-15-17

Slavery's haunting!

This book tops my list of the many excellent references on the subject of the cost of slavery to our humanity and the light it shone on our inhumanity.

It is so beautiful and yet very chilling that it's hard to merely talk about what I've just experienced on these pages. It scared and succoured me. Enraged and soothed me. Bewildered and enlightened me. I unashamedly re-read pages like the keenest of students scouting for clues to humanity's greatest riddle.

Reading this book will lead to change. I suspect Toni Morrison knew this.

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  • El
  • 03-24-17


Some books don't just move you; they change you. The poetry of the language, the richness of the story, the vividness of the characters of Beloved effected me many years ago, when I first had the bittersweet pleasure of reading it. To hear it told in the calm, expressive voice of Toni Morrison has added a new dimension to Beloved that has enriched the experience of entering its world. I thoroughly recommend this book if you have the courage to hear its 'unspeakable things' - spoken.

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  • Ross Bennett
  • 01-06-16


An amazing book. Can't recommend it more. A must have for any library. Honest and moving.

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  • Fiona O'Connell
  • 12-02-16

A challenging listen

A difficult book to listen to as it switches narrators and time frames without notice. The story feeds out in disjointed pieces - challenging but a good story. Loved the author's use of language and her poetic turn of phrase.
The narration was very slow and breathless which I initially felt created good atmosphere, but later found annoying so I slightly sped up the narration speed with good effect.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful