“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
“That “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.”
I picked up this book because I wanted to get some perspective, but I feel changed after reading this book. So complex, so painful, so painfully beautiful, such life in the telling of this story, It grips at your heart, and somehow you can feel the pain. It makes you shudder to think of how evil and cruel humanity can be. People were worse than animals in their treatment of so many people of this era. The chain gang was a terrible way to make people live. It shows how power in the hands of the wrong people can bring about a hell on earth. We might not be able to believe these things could really happen, that man was capable of such things were it not for the proof that we have in so much of history.
The story is based on a real case, on in which Margaret Garner (remembered in this book as the family name given to the less horrendous slave owners) killed her children for the same reason in 1856, Ohio. Sethe and her daughter Denver live in a house on 124 Bluestone Road. Once a lively place where freed slaves congregated after Emancipation to get news and socialize, it’s now desolate and creepy, haunted by the spiteful ghost of Sethe’s dead two-year-old child. The matriarch Baby Suggs (Sethe’s mother-in-law) is now dead, and Sethe’s two sons have fled the premises.
When Paul D enters the home, things begin to change. He and Sethe worked on the same plantation – called Sweet Home, ironic because it was anything but – decades earlier. They share history, good and bad, and harbor secrets from the other. Paul D’s presence makes the ghost leave, and he alienates the shy, awkward Denver and begins to make Sethe unshackle herself from the past… until a mysterious stranger – with no lines on her hands or face – appears at 124 to mess things up.
There are a lot of men and most of them in this book are oppressors, but a few rise above. Mister Garner, although a slave owner, shows at least some signs of humanity. Paul D is the most developed male character, struggling with his fears and weaknesses, but in search of truth and peace.
The only difficulty, it takes a while to get all the names straight; I found myself flipping back to see when a character was introduced. It’s not a long book, average length really, but it’s dense and full of layered, complex imageries. Moreover, the tale is related in a disjointed and dreamlike manner. And the story is built in spiraling layers, so it's only at the end that we have the whole story. And even at the end, not all the loose ends are wrapped up (although we are lead to a certain interpretation of events).
In conclusion, Beloved is a truly great book that lives up to the hype. Hard to put down. The writing is excellent. Take your time and read this one bunch of times. It can be really painful. But it is beautifully written and important to read. Highly recommended!