I finally read it.
This is the book that I’ve been meaning to read ever since I discovered the Diverse Book Blogger community. This is the book that I’ve been meaning to read for years, but could never quite find the time for. (And, in retrospect, I don’t think I was ready for it until now.)
I feel a bit silly, writing a review of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, because. Well. Its a classic, isn’t it? Published to universal acclaim, it is on my university syllabus, for God’s sake! But hey, I’m going to do it anyway, because I want to try and work through my very convoluted thoughts about this strange and poignant novel.
I’m quite glad I read this in October, actually. Although not a stereotypical horror novel, it deals with topics such as murder and the supernatural. There is an aura of horror that runs through every interaction the characters have in house number 124, and even beyond. I interpreted this as the unique horror of memory. How do you remember and reconcile with the traumas from the past, especially when they refuse to leave you be? What about the collective trauma of slavery for African Americans – how is this to be remembered, without allowing it to subsume identities? When the figure of murder and imprisonment is literally talking to you, eating your food – what do you do?
It is also a powerful insight into the psyche of the African American woman, with specific reference to the experiences of childbirth and motherhood. As a slave, Sethe was encouraged to have children (her particular way of making money for the slaveowners), but not to be a mother. This haunts her for the rest of her life – causing every important event to reference water (as in, waters breaking) and breastfeeding. Sethe’s love for her children is ‘thick’ – perhaps a little too much so.
Beloved certainly poses more questions than it answers. In fact, the more I read, the less I understood. Which is brilliant! This is not a book that passes judgement or persuades the reader of a certain point-of-view, but an almost journalistic-like approach to the question of how memory works, and how it should work. It isn’t a question of liking or not liking the novel, I think. It is more of a reflection on whether you, too, need to confront your own Beloved – without letting her sweep you away.