Book - 1987
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Toni Morrison--author of Song of Solomon and Tar Baby --is a writer of remarkable powers: her novels, brilliantly acclaimed for their passion, their dazzling language and their lyric and emotional force, combine the unassailable truths of experience and emotion with the vision of legend and imagination.

It is the story--set in post-Civil War Ohio--of Sethe, an escaped slave who has risked death in order to wrench herself from a living death; who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad: a woman of "iron eyes and backbone to match." Sethe lives in a small house on the edge of town with her daughter, Denver, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and a disturbing, mesmerizing intruder who calls herself Beloved.

Sethe works at "beating back the past," but it is alive in all of them. It keeps Denver fearful of straying from the house. It fuels the sadness that has settled into Baby Suggs' "desolated center where the self that was no self made its home." And to Sethe, the past makes itself heard and felt incessantly: in memories that both haunt and soothe the arrival of Paul D ("There was something blessed in his manner. Women saw him and wanted to weep"), one of her fellow slaves on the farm where she had once been the vivid and painfully cathartic stories she and Paul D tell each other of their years in captivity, of their glimpses of freedom...and, most powerfully, in the apparition of Beloved, whose eyes are expressionless at their deepest point, whose doomed childhood belongs to the hideous logic of slavery and who, as daughter, sister and seductress, has now come from the "place over there" to claim retribution for what she lost and for what was taken from her.

Sethe's struggle to keep Beloved from gaining full possession of her present--and to throw off the long, dark legacy of her past--is at the center of this profoundly affecting and startling novel. But its intensity and resonance of feeling, and the boldness of its narrative, lift it beyond its particulars so that it speaks to our experience as an entire nation with a past of both abominable and ennobling circumstance.

In Beloved, Toni Morrison has given us a great American novel.

Toni Morrison was awarded the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Literature for Beloved.
Publisher: New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1987.
ISBN: 9780394535975
Branch Call Number: MORRISON
Characteristics: 275 pages ; 25 cm.


Featured Blogs and Events

The Great American Read

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one. —George R.R. Martin I’m going to report this fact, though it hurts me to do so: in a recent Pew study, 24% of US adults said they had not read a book in the last year. (Okay, let’s look at the bright side that means 76% of us have read a book in the past year!) However, not making or having time for reading… (more)

Books & Birthdays

Most years, I don't make much fuss about my birthday.  Not infrequently, I'll forget it's coming and only remember when thoughtful friends and family start asking me about presents. But not this year!  This year, I decided to treat myself to a birthday extravaganza.  And when I realized I'd have a blog post due around the time my birthday hits, I was full of ideas to tie the wondrous fact of… (more)

View All Staff Blog Posts »

From Library Staff

eBook & eAudiobook available. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize, A powerful ghost story with real historical roots. First published in 1987

Killed. Me. Dead. I honestly cried off and on for week after reading this book in college. I don't know if I could manage it again, or if maybe I'd be less tender knowing what was coming. Such a great and important book, but it really rips your heart out.

List - Polli Recommends
LPL_PolliK Sep 06, 2016

This book eviscerated me, left me sobbing for a week and I still think about certain scenes 25 years later. If you want a book to change you and haunt you, this is the one.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
CMLibrary_DJeffrey Apr 08, 2021

Possibly the hardest book I've read. You can tell she put her soul into every single word.

Sep 13, 2020

bookriot list of top 50 historical fiction--never read it, so maybe it's time.

Sep 06, 2020

I think it reflects the love a mother has for her child

Aug 22, 2020

A good novel that conveys the horror and depravity of slavery in the United States around the time of the civil war. The author does a good job of entwining mental and supernatural haunting as a way of illustrating the damage caused to slaves by maltreatment at the hands of both sadistic and well intentioned white Americans. While the author's writing was a bit confusing at times, almost poetical in her lack of clarity, she still managed to paint a powerful picture.

Aug 18, 2020

This was a hard book to read: hard to find my way through Morrison’s dense imagery, overheated personal drama, circuitous narrative style, magical realism. And hard to stomach its subject matter: hardly any aspect of human degradation has been omitted. There were passages that brought to mind my recent experience in reading Dante’s Inferno, but even Dante introduced some moments of grim humor; Toni Morrison doesn’t. She doesn’t understand the concept of restraint; she gives her reader no respite, nothing that can be taken lightly, glossed over, put to the side as stage dressing. You must either swallow it whole or dismiss it altogether. It’s hardly surprising that many readers have detested the book while others praise it to excess. There can be no middle ground.
Morrison is not concerned with telling a story; attempting to follow the plot is not only frustrating: doing so misses the point. She is intent on getting across the emotional journey of her tortured characters, what conscious state they are inhabiting, rather than how they came to find themselves there or whether they are dwelling in the present or re-living bits of some former existence. The concerns of the moment are far outweighed by the business of dealing with memory, with what might have been, of roads taken, trials endured, sacrifices made.
Even though I understand all that, I still find myself resenting Morrison’s helter-skelter time-shifts that rendered the book more laborious to read than it needed to be; hence my less than ecstatic rating of it.
Trauma doesn’t stop when the event itself ends. No matter how many times you tell yourself that this is a new day, all of that agony is in the past and best left behind. We are cursed with memory and the worst horror is that which we carry in our own mind, because there is no escape. We carry it with us to the end of our days. Perhaps worse, we cannot truly share it with anyone else; what our own mind subjects us to must be borne alone. That is the cross that Sethe must bear in this brutal, horrifying novel and that's what this book is all about: the agony of memory.
"All she wanted was to go on. And she had. Alone with her daughter in a haunted house she had managed every damn thing. Why now, with Paul D instead of the ghost, was she breaking up? Getting scared? Needing Baby? The worst was over, wasn’t it? She had already got through, hadn’t she?"
In the end, after each stream of consciousness has been allowed to run its course, after all the sound and fury, Morrison reverts to poetry, or at least her own brand of free prose and we’re left more or less back where it all began. The presence of Beloved will fade, questions of her origin, her nature or whether she even existed at all cease to matter.
Paul D says "Sethe, me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow."

Aug 11, 2020

The story begins in 1873 in Cincinnati, Ohio, following the end of the American Civil War and the abolishment of slavery. The story centers around Sethe, a former slave, who lives with her eighteen-year-old daughter, Denver, on 124 Bluestone Road. 124 is known to be haunted by an abusive, malevolent spirit which is believed to be that of Sethe’s dead child. The arrival of Paul D., another former slave that Sethe previously knew from their shared time on the Sweet Home plantation, induces an apparent exorcism of the spirit. Yet the following day, a young woman who calls herself Beloved, appears in front of 124, and Sethe takes her in.

Although it’s unclear whether Beloved is truly the embodied spirit of Sethe’s dead baby or some other person, the importance lies in what she symbolizes: when Beloved arrived, she also brought with her all the “rememory” of Sethe’s past, including her time at Sweet Home and the atrocities she had endured and witnessed, her escape, and her life as a free woman thereafter.

Beyond its plot, one of the most interesting aspects of the novel is the way in which it’s written: out of linear time sequence. Throughout the novel, the tenses change, moving back and forth between the present moment and flashing-back to twenty years prior, each time revealing more and more of the characters’ past. The perspective of the novel also shifts from omnipresent point-of-view, often narrowing in on each character, to first-person, and back.

Another highlight of the novel is Morrison’s style of writing. At first, it can be difficult to follow, as Morrison has a way of describing events without ever really saying exactly what she means so that it takes the reader some time to fully grasp at it. However, when understood, her writing flows poetically and is deeply engaging.

The content of the novel is very heavy. Morrison directly brings the modern reader into experiencing the impact of slavery and its aftermath, and she is brutal in describing the inhumanity of slavery. Despite the disturbing content, or because of it, I highly recommend this book, because it’s important for everyone to understand the history of our country.

Oct 12, 2019

Did I read this already?? Do we have at home?

Sep 03, 2019

Didn't care for or finish it.

Aug 07, 2019

Saw the acclaimed 1998 film (many thanks to Oprah) and then read the book years ago. Recall surprised and shocked by the very raw story ... and the prose on "colors" of things and "without skin" used to describe white men. Have not reread the novel yet but scanned the 200+ quotes in goodreads and the book's wiki page (summary, themes and characters.) An unique historic American literature.

Jun 23, 2019

Personally I had difficulties in starting the book, but after finishing Beloved I can see why it is considered to be a classic novel and the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize!

Definitely the type of novel I would come back to read and analyse over time, (once I've matured lol) and to appreciate in its entirety.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Laura_X Feb 22, 2019

Outside, snow solidified itself into graceful forms. The peace of winter stars seemed permanent.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

Laura_X Feb 05, 2016

Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.

SPL_STARR Jun 15, 2015

"124 was spiteful."


Add Age Suitability
knitty78 Jun 10, 2014

knitty78 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

EuSei Sep 26, 2013

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


Add Notices
EuSei Sep 24, 2012

Violence: Rape. Extreme violence.

EuSei Sep 24, 2012

Sexual Content: Oral sex, incest


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number



Find it at LPL

To Top