August 12, 2013

Beloved by Toni Morrison (Review)

Title: Beloved
Author: Toni Morrison
First published: 1987
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I have definitely had too much of stream-of-consciousness this summer, and all of it for The Fiction of Relationship course. I admit that my total inability to appreciate Beloved may be partially caused by my fatigue from fighting my way through this type of writing, but I'm sure it is not only this. The novel has both Nobel and Pulitzer prizes and is widely acclaimed, so I may be very mistaken, but I tried to like this book and I can't. And I'll try to explain why.

First, this magical realism didn't work for me in Beloved. I have nothing against this genre, for example Kafka does it beautifully, Borges is just brilliant... But can't a story of slavery be told without it? I don't think it is necessary or revealing in the novel. Most of the time I was asking myself what the hell was happening in that house and what do these ghosts, spirits and other mystical creatures are doing in and for the story.

Another problem is that I didn't understand any motivations of the characters, and explanations and remembrances were too vague and too far in the novel to get a clear picture. If reading Faulkner is like exploring, reading Morrison is like feeling your way in the dark, stumbling all the time. I never got who was Beloved, why did she behaved like this, why everybody treated her as they did, etc.

And then the writing... It is even less coherent that Woolf's and certainly less beautiful than Faulkner's. I regularly found myself not understanding what was being talked about at all and not paying attention as a result. And I just flapped through the several pages of what seems to be some LSD-caused balderdash without any punctuation in the end of the second part, not being able to read it at all. A very unusual occurrence, as I'm generally very persistent.

In my book:
Beloved is a miserable and weird novel. The story itself might have been very powerful if treated normally and used with skill, but this is not the case. I apologize for any fans of Morrison for this maybe rather harsh review, but for me this was the worst read for quite some time.


  1. I appreciate your raw honesty. Great review...

  2. I appreciate your honesty as well. I also hated this book the first time I read it. Then I read it again and fell head over heels in love with it. I never read Toni Morrison lightly, however. I quite literally have to gear myself up for her because she is such a powerful writer that I find myself reacting rather than responding to her writing.

    Life is too short to reread a book you loathed but perhaps give The Bluest Eye a chance. It's certainly an easier novel to read than Beloved.

    1. Thanks for your recommendation! I'll remember The Bluest Eye if I'm ever to pick Morrison again, but I'm not sure it'll happen for a couple of years... Maybe sometime I'll even re-read Beloved, but it's hard to imagine right now :)

  3. I really enjoyed Beloved when I read it a couple of years ago. But I understand your reaction and review: it seems to be one of those love or hate books. And, of course, if you don't like stream of consciousness it's going to be a painful read.

    And never apologise for not liking a book and saying so. It's honest reviews that are the best :)

    1. Well, actually the problem with stream of consciousness may be rooted in my far from perfect knowledge of English. Although it doesn't usually spoil the books I love :)


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