I have two standing rules when it comes to books – I never leave a book unfinished (I have left only one book unfinished, and that is a story for another day as it taught me a genre I am unsuited for), secondly, I don’t care how highly rated a book is or highly acclaimed its author is, as long as I bought the book with my money, I am never weary of being contrarian in my view of that book.

This book tested me on both fronts. I still vividly remember buying this book from a second-hand bookshop in Pretoria as far back as 2003. That shop is etched in my memory as it was a little shop with almost no ventilation, and the owner smoked like it was about to be outlawed. Every book in the shop smelled of cigarette. Fast forward to 2019, I finally picked up this book brimming with accolades from all corners, and I find myself struggling to make sense of it. Maybe I am not bright enough, and the book flew over my head.

The premise of the plot is very engaging, but the characterisation is confusing and tasks your concentration to the hilt. The flashbacks are so random that the readers are left feeling dizzy. The reader is not given an option to buy into the supernatural basis of a large portion of the plot.

Beloved is primarily a historical fiction about Sethe, a former slave during the slavery era in rural Ohio. It chronicles her (Sethe) and her family’s experiences during slavery and its aftermath, her relationship with the men in her life and her children (including Denver and the sometimes ghost, other times human – Beloved). A rare light in my gloomy view of the book is that the chronicling of the psychological effects of slavery and its attendant effects is raw and vivid

The writing is a bit too poetic for my liking (made worse for me by the additional mix of prose and streams of consciousness), and it randomly flows from one character to the other, and you are often unsure if you are reading of a ghost or human. I struggled for a large part and considered giving up at several parts. I managed until the end and sad to say; it did not get any better. This is a classic that probably flew over my head and I am not ashamed to say so. Besides, I read for enjoyment and I did not enjoy this one.


As usual, the suya was first class.

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