I read a wide range of fiction, and occasionally like to challenge myself with a work that’s well outside my usual fare. Many times I rise to the challenge, and those experiences can be rewarding. Yet there are times when I find a work a little overwhelming; those experiences can be frustrating.
Unfortunately for me, Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction that year, falls into the latter category.
The elements of a great story are all there — a band of unforgettable characters, a tense setting with a tragic history, and a supernatural being sowing chaos. When I step back from the prose and consider the individual elements of the novel, I’m very impressed with its scope.
The prose, however, is very dense, and the timeline is anything but linear. The text moves effortlessly between past and present, but the shifts happen with a frequency that is dizzying.
This isn’t a novel to be read; it’s a novel to be studied.
However, I feel the fault in this case is more on me than the work itself. I may not be able to appreciate its artistry, but I can at least acknowledge it. Some works are to weighty for me to enjoy, and “Beloved” is one of those works that is just too big for me.