To mark the recent passing of Toni Morrison, our Book of the Month for September is Beloved. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, Beloved tells the story of Sethe and her youngest daughter Denver after their escape from slavery. Their home in Cincinnati is haunted by a revenant, whom they believe to be the ghost of Sethe's eldest daughter. The haunting - which often involves objects being thrown around the room - has left Denver shy, friendless and housebound, while Sethe's sons, Howard and Buglar, have run away from home.
Paul D, one of the slaves from the plantation where Sethe once worked, arrives at Sethe's home and tries to bring a sense of reality into the house. In attempting to make the family forget the past, he forces out the spirit. He seems successful at first; however, after getting housebound Denver out of the house of the first time in years, they meet a young woman calling herself Beloved. Sethe becomes convinced that Beloved is the daughter she killed after her slave master found her and tried to reclaim her and her children.
While Beloved revolves around a pivotal and traumatic event which has impacted upon the lives of several generations, Morrison is careful that this does not become the climax of the novel. Instead Morrison focuses on the night of Sethe's escape from the slavery plantation and the horrific violence the escapees were subjected to, as well as Denver's slow realisation that she must go out into the world in order to save herself. Morrison is undoubtedly one of the most important American novelists of all time and her versatility, technical and emotional range is astounding. Beloved is one of those books designed to educate and as such should be read by all.