One of Toni Morrison’s best known novels, Beloved is an immensely moving account of loss, longing, memory and identity.
Set against the backdrop of post-Civil War America, the story centres on Sephe, who has escaped from a life of slavery, and her family. It tells of the legacy of slavery and the physical and psychological horrors it entailed.
Morrison seamlessly weaves past and present, creating a story which does not seem linear but instead slowly snakes its way around until you have the full history of the characters.
The book is a wonderful example of magic realism, encompassing as it does elements of magic and the supernatural. Beloved herself is the most obvious example of this: is she Sephe’s dead child come back to life? Is she a figment of the imagination of the inhabitants of 124 Bluestone Road, Cincinnati, Ohio?
This story kept me enthralled from the very start. What made it even more special was that I listened to it as an audiobook, which was narrated by Toni Morrison herself.
Listening to a book on audio rather than reading it is always a bit of a risk. A narrator can either add or detract from the story, and, almost like watching a movie adaptation, it gives you an interpretation of the story, from the narrator’s understanding of the book.
So, to listen to the book read by the author herself was something really special. Morrison brought the characters to life, and I felt that she was carrying me through all the layers of the story with her gentle voice.
Morrison achieves something special with this book. Dealing with the themes that it does, it is not the easiest read (or listen), but nor should it be. Like countless others before me, I wholeheartedly recommend Beloved, whether in paper format or as an audiobook.