Review: Beloved

by Toni Morrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beloved / 0-452-28062-1

"Beloved" is not for everyone, but if you cherish the tradition of rich symbolism given to us by such masters as Hawthorne and Poe, you may well love "Beloved".

"Beloved" tells the languorous story of the set-upon Sethe, an ex-slave who has endured the worst hardships life can offer. Having lost a child, she feels deeply burdened with the guilt of the death, her feelings of failure as a mother, even her regret that she could not procure a more elaborate grave marker for her dear baby. When a mysterious girl arrives, seeming to embody the ghostly spirit of the lost child, Sethe clings to the girl in an attempt to salvage some forgiveness for her past sins. As the girl grows stronger every day, she seems to leach Sethe's own spirit and Sethe withers away, to the sorrow of her friends and loved ones.

The rich symbolism is so heavily redolent of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, only here the shame is directed (however unfairly) inwardly, rather than from outside forces. "Beloved" is, at the heart of it, a wonderful novel of how destructive our guilt and pain can be, when we allow it purchase.

~ Ana Mardoll

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