GAN Quest: Beloved by Toni Morrison

belovedA story to pass on…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Sethe and her daughter, Denver, live isolated lives in their community, because everyone knows that their house at no. 124 is haunted. Sethe’s two sons have already left, unable to take any more of the spiteful tricks played by the ghost. But Sethe and Denver see the ghost differently. To Sethe it is the other daughter that she lost, a child known only by the single word carved on her gravestone, “Beloved”. The ghost is angry but Sethe understands why and endlessly forgives, no matter how cruel or violent her behaviour. And to Denver, the ghost is her sister, her only companion in her loneliness. Then one day a man from Sethe’s past arrives, Paul D, who knew her when they were both slaves on Sweet Home. It seems at first that he has driven the ghost away, until some weeks later a strange young woman arrives at the house – her name, Beloved.

Despite the ghostly presence of Beloved, this is mainly a straightforward account of the horrific treatment meted out to many slaves and of the need for the characters to face their past in order to be able to create a better future in their hard-won freedom. Beloved is an obvious metaphor for slavery itself, still haunting and torturing those who have apparently escaped its chains. And the ‘message’ is that freedom is as much a state of mind as of body – that slavery’s after-effects still have Sethe in its toils, and that even the next generations, embodied in Denver and the missing sons, live their lives in its shadow.

The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread. In, through and after life, it spread, until it invaded the whites who had made it. Touched them every one. Changed and altered them. Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be. So scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.

The simplicity of the message does not, however, make it in any way a simple book. Morrison’s brilliant writing and imagery turn this into one of the most powerful and emotionally devastating books I have ever read. There is furious anger here, in scenes of brutal horror, cruelty and vile humiliation, but the overwhelming tone is of a sorrowful lament for humanity. And to make it bearable, just, there is also beauty, love, some kind of healing, and ultimately hope.

Oprah Winfrey in the 1998 movie of Beloved
Oprah Winfrey in the 1998 movie of Beloved

Sethe was born into slavery and sold to Sweet Home when she was a young girl – the only girl amongst a small group of men. Sethe had her pick of them and her choice fell on Halle. The story of Sethe’s time on Sweet Home is told in flashback, so the reader is quickly aware that some horrific series of events led to a heavily pregnant Sethe, alone, on the run, trying to make her way to the Free States. Her three children had been smuggled out before her and she is desperate to get to her youngest daughter, whom Sethe was still breast-feeding when they separated. But we also know from flashbacks to a later period, when Sethe has made it to freedom, that this is the daughter who dies in infancy.

Morrison uses the imagery of milk throughout the book, as a symbol of the bond between mother and daughter, and of the basic right of any woman to nurture her own child. Sethe herself was denied this right as a child – it was more economic for there to be one slave to feed all the children than to allow mothers to feed their own. So for her, giving her milk to her own children is a deep need, an assertion of her humanity. And in an act of extreme brutality, she is subjected to something that for her is worse than rape – the stealing of her milk, her children’s milk. It is this moment of fundamental violation that drives her to act as she does – to be willing to do anything rather than see her children, especially her daughters, raised as slaves.

Oprah Winfrey as Sethe revealing the "tree" on her back
Oprah Winfrey as Sethe revealing the “tree” on her back

Paul D’s story is just as harsh, and Morrison’s telling of it is an eloquent indictment of some of the worst practices inflicted on slaves – not just appalling physical cruelty, but a process of psychological dehumanisation that left the men stripped of the strength to rebel. And perhaps the worst aspect of it is that it is entirely believable – the basest cruelties carried out with a casual disregard – man’s inhumanity to man indeed.

They sang of bosses and masters and misses; of mules and dogs and the shamelessness of life. They sang lovingly of graveyards and sisters long gone. Of pork in the woods; meal in the pan; fish on the line; cane, rain and rocking chairs.

And they beat. The women for having known them and no more, no more; the children for having been them but never again. They killed a boss so often and so completely they had to bring him back to life to pulp him one more time. Tasting hot mealcake among pine trees, they beat it away. Singing love songs to Mr Death, they smashed his head. More than the rest, they killed the flirt who folks called Life for leading them on. Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last.

These are the histories that Sethe and Paul D, and Beloved, must face and understand before they can have hope of true freedom. As the memories, or rememories as Sethe calls them, are told, they will have to be able to forgive each other and themselves for the things they did to survive. And Denver, the one child not born into slavery, if she is to provide hope for future generations, will have to find some way to break the chains that bind her to her mother’s history. As the book draws towards the climax, these three women, Sethe, Denver and Beloved, reveal their deepest selves in an intertwining stream of consciousness of unforgettable horror, power and dark beauty.

In the beginning I could see her I could not help her because the clouds were in the way in the beginning I could see her the shining in her ears she does not like the circle around her neck I know this I look hard at her so she will know that the clouds are in the way I am sure she saw me I am looking at her see me she empties out her eyes I am there in the place where her face is and telling her the noisy clouds were in my way she wants her earrings she wants her round basket I want her face a hot thing

Even when the imagery is at its harshest, Morrison fills it with a savage poetry that lifts it to something so much more than a mere catalogue of human baseness. The sheer beauty of the writing contrasts so vividly with the ugliness of the story that it, in itself, provides a kind of promise of redemption – a proof that humanity can indeed rise from the ashes, however devastating the fire. In the end, Sethe comes to believe that Beloved’s is not a story to pass on – but it is! It is a story that must be understood if we are ever to truly understand ourselves, and ultimately isn’t that what literature is for? Tragic that such a book should ever have come to be written, heartbreaking and devastating to read, but I count it a true privilege to have been given an opportunity to hear Beloved’s story.

Toni Morrison Photo: Reuters
Toni Morrison
Photo: Reuters


* * * * * * *

Great American Novel Quest

So…how does it fare in The Great American Novel Quest? To win that title it needs to achieve all five of the criteria in my original post…

Must be written by an American author or an author who has lived long enough in the US to assimilate the culture.

us flagAchieved.

The theme must shed light on a specific and important aspect of American culture and society of the time of its writing.

us flagYes, although it is written about a previous time in history, it certainly is addressing questions that are still resonating throughout American society today. So – achieved.

It must be innovative and original in theme.

us flagYes, the story of slavery may be one that has been addressed before but I doubt it has ever been told so deeply and brilliantly from the viewpoint of a woman slave. So – achieved.

Must be superbly written.

us flagNot just superb, but stunning, with a sustained power and beauty I’ve rarely encountered, especially in a story of such brutality. Achieved.

Must capture the entire ‘American experience’.

us flagYou know, the straightforward answer to this would be no. It concentrates almost entirely on one aspect of the American experience, one part of the culture. But… I so want this to be my second GAN… so I would argue that to some degree the whole of American society is still suffering from the after-effects of its foundation on slavery, and is still trying, like Denver, to find a way to break those chains and become truly the country it wants to be – can be. So I’m going to say yes… and it’s my quest, so there! 😉

* * * * * * * * *

So, for achieving 5 stars and 5 GAN flags, I hereby declare this book not just to be a great novel and A Great American Novel, but to be my second…


beloved the gan

* * * * * * * * *

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

98 thoughts on “GAN Quest: Beloved by Toni Morrison

  1. Isn’t this a remarkable novel, FictionFan? And it’s not just the writing style, as superb as that is. It’s the power of the story. The characters stay with the reader, and the story just thoroughly penetrates, I think. I know I’m being a bit fulsome in my praise, but I think this is a truly fine novel. Thanks for sharing it with those who might not yet have read it.

    • Amazing! I’d heard so many conflicting reports of it, I was a bit apprehensive, and as I think I’ve told you before I tried to listen to it on audio once and Morrison’s narration kept sending me to sleep. So I was totally surprised when it grabbed me from the first chapter and didn’t let go – it still hasn’t let go in fact! It’s one I’ll never forget, and despite how devastating I found it, I can’t wait to read it again to be honest…

    • You could change your first name – Professor Pittsburgh Duke – it has a certain ring to it, don’t you think? I like Denver though, as a name. All the names were brilliant – I bet Sethe means something… er… meaningful…

      She was last seen heading your way… and she didn’t look happy… *shudders*

      • I bet it doesn’t! Hm. Pittsburgh just sounds ugly, though, don’t you think? Don’t answer that! I mean, it’s not a lovely city name…like…Vienna, for instance, or Rome. Yes, Rome. I should live there with the legionnaires.

        That’s okay. I’ll fetch her with the my new found powers from watching The Conjuring.

        • Not if you pronounce it properly – Pittsboig! Then it sounds kinda cute in a gigglish way… Well, if you should live in Rome then I should live in Paris – we could meet up for lunch on the border *hastily checks if there is a border between France and Italy…* Yes! *nods* On the border!

          Ooh, that looks scary…

            • Do they really?? I always assumed it was sort of a joke… *giggles* I would be Queen Marie Antoinette, but I wouldn’t let them eat cake… I’d eat it all myself!

              Ooh, I might watch it sometime then. Did you ever see The Babadook?

            • *laughs* I’m not sure I’m a six-pack kinda gal really! And anyway if you’re Queen, you don’t have to be fit.

              Haha! I have no idea – I was going to ask you! You need to watch all the films first so you can tell me if I’ll like them…

            • *laughing* I don’t think any girls are, really! It’s supposed to be unhealthy, I think. Never mind it! But then you can’t play dodgeball…which is fun!

              Whoa! Just watched the trailer. That’s scary and creepy and scary!! Let’s go see it, if you’re up for it.

            • Unhealthy for girls? Or for everyone? Personally, I think muscles should be banned (except Rafa’s). May I just say that, even in terms of American sports, dodgeball looks particularly silly? *laughs*

              Yes, let’s! I’ve been meaning to watch it for ages – maybe tonight…

            • I can imagine it might be – I’m not convinced about all this body-building really. *laughs* That would have been much more fun!

              Ugh! Watched it last night – don’t! It’s not scary at all – totally boring, and with a bit of yucketh animal cruelty thrown in. I reviewed it on Amazon… ” Boring AND sick – that’s some achievement!” Short and to the point…

            • Exactly! Brock Lesnar!! John Carter isn’t nearly as over-muscled – he’s just fit and toned. My dad (who as you know was a boxer) reckoned that the over-muscly ones were much slower and worse fighters. His attitude was that you only need the muscles you actually use – speed’s just as important as strength. Even Rafa had to lose a lot of his muscle-mass because it was slowing him down and causing injuries. *laughs* I’m guessing you must have dodged…

              No! The mother did! *rampages like the Professor*

            • I didn’t know your dad was a boxer! *very impressed* That’s like, really cool, you know. Hmm, you’re sounding just like my fighting coach. It’s true. Body building really doesn’t make one strong, and it definitely slows one down! Can’t get over your dad was a boxer!!

              But…the animal didn’t really die!

            • *laughs* We’ve talked about my dad boxing more than once before, I’m sure. It was indeed cool – it’s something of a shame it’s become all about how the body looks these days more than how it performs, but hey! I guess I’m just out of date.

              Still don’t want to watch it though!

            • We have? *bangs head* Oh no no no no no. WWE is like that. It’s all show. But the real boxing of today and the MMA…it’s all real. There’s always blood in one of those fights, don’t you know.

              But what if humans die?

            • Yes and you can see the difference in the body shapes of the real sportsmen and the fakes – especially since the real ones have to do it without bulking up with steroids.

              That’s always a bonus…

    • I did cheat to make it The GAN, but I loved it so much it seemed only fair! 😉 Yes, I think it’s one I will always remember too – incredibly powerful. Can’t wait to read more of her stuff now…

    • Thank you! 🙂 I haven’t read any of her other books yet – but I certainly will! But given the power of this one I’ll need to wait a while to let it settle before I’m ready for another…

        • I can well imagine! It’s a good three weeks or so since I finished Beloved and yet it’s still not finished with me. And writing the review was hard since the tears were dripping off my face almost the entire time… 😉

      • I thought Beloved too derivative of Faulkner. I thought she really found her own voice in Song of Solomon (although it was earlier than Beloved). Also, I found that the contemporary setting in Song of Solomon allowed for more range on the racial politics and better allowed the characters to represent archetypal struggles, worked out through the circumstances of African Americans, making the novel fully viable on both levels. But maybe after all that, I just liked the characters better 🙂
        (Of course my opinion is just my opinion, and thougtful people might disagree.)

        • Ah, I haven’t read any Faulkner yet so wouldn’t have caught that. (He’s up soon!) Oddly, I grew to love the characters in Beloved, even Beloved! I think that’s partly why I found it so emotionally devastating – she made me 100% care for every one of them. Part of me wants to rush straight in to her other books, but I feel I need to wait and let this one settle a bit so I don’t spoil the next one by making comparisons. But Song of Solomon does sound fantastic… thank goodness for the GAN Quest! I’d probably never have persuaded myself to read her books if it weren’t for that…

    • Brilliant! I’ve found so many great books by reading all the Great American Novel contenders – some of my best reads of the last couple of years. And this was one of the best of the best! Yes, I’m thinking of watching the film too – it seems to be considered a pretty good interpretation…

  2. This is one of those books that I feel deeply glad to have read, but don’t think I could bear to reread. I know it is fiction, but it felt “true” to me in all the ways that matter. A great GAN choice.

    • I know what you mean, and totally agree about its truthfulness – but oddly, I’m having to restrain myself from re-reading it again straight away – a thing that almost never happens to me. The writing is just so fabulous…

  3. This is one of those books I meant to read but never got around to it. I like books that carry some messages and food for thought alongside the story. Thanks for the lovely review! 🙂

    • I had really read so little American fiction before I started searching for GANs, and I feel I’ve missed so much! So many great books, and this is one of the best – if you can fit it in sometime, I highly recommend it, even though it’s so devastating. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Wow– great review!

    This is one of those books that I had to read in HS and, reading your review, I realize how inappropriate it is for HS. I don’t mean “inappropriate” due to content, I mean that many of the themes defy the scope of a HS class, Honors or otherwise.

    I read Morrison’s Paradise in college and thought it was far superior to Beloved. At the time, I thought this was due to a lack of stream-of-conscious passages*, but now I think that being a little older and having more productive class discussions made the difference. Morrison is a tremendously powerful writer and I don’t think anything she has written can be written off.

    *As little patience as I have for stream-of-conscious writing now, I’m sure I had less in HS. 😉

    • Thank you! 😀

      Absolutely! I can’t imagine me having even got through it as a teenager, must less appreciating it. I really think they force feed adult books on kids far too early in general – it can destroy not just the book, but sometimes even put people off reading for life. I wish they’d let people come to books when they feel ready for them rather than at some pre-defined ‘age’. I remember you mentioning the stream of consciousness in this when I was talking about reading it, and in fact, it’s only a tiny part of the book – though an extremely powerful and important part. I’m doing my best to tempt you to re-read with adult eyes – is it working?

      • Hrm. I picked it up and flipped through the first few pages and I am a little tempted…

        I still see myself preferring Paradise though. I perused the first few pages of this one too and the writing is razor-sharp and clear. Its sharpness is what makes it so striking and brutal. As much as I remember Beloved as a painful read, I don’t recall the prose being nearly so incisive.

        • I shall get to Paradise at some point since I’ll be reading all her stuff gradually now. I think she is incisive in parts in Beloved, and certainly brutal – there were bits that had me gasping out loud and sobbing helplessly. But there are also parts that are more… hmm… allusive, and dreamlike perhaps, in a nightmarish kind of way…

          • The dreamlike/poetic passages were endlessly confusing in HS and so I know I didn’t get the full weight and meaning of them. It has been long enough now that when I re-read it, I’ll almost be going in fresh.

            That said, it definitely needs to wait until I’m full-strength again. It’s amazing how muddy-headed cold medicine makes me and I’d like to give this book my full attention.

            • It’s definitely one that needs full attention, though I found that after a bit it flowed so well it was no effort to read. The thing about reading books for study is that you have to analyse what’s happening, whereas when reading for pleasure you’re able to just go with the flow…

  5. I agree with Big Sister. I read Beloved quite a long time ago and thought it was a brilliant piece of work. The books stays in you and with you but I wouldn’t reread it in a hurry. Absolutely agree with GAN status.

    • As you’ll have gathered, I found it stunning and completely devastating – but oddly, I’m having to fight the desire to re-read it again immediately. The quality of the writing is just so amazing, and now that I know the story I’d like to look again at the structure. I could have written thousands of words about this book and still not felt I’d given it adequate praise… 😉

  6. Brava! Great review! To have the FF GAN title is an honor bestowed upon the few. (I think someone should notify Ms. Morrison!) I say it’s a difficult read subject-wise, but important with stellar writing.

    • Thank you! 😀 Haha! Yes, I can be an exacting audience, but this book snuck under my guard and left me with nothing – not one thing – to criticise! Thank goodness for the GAN Quest – if it wasn’t for that, I’d probably never have persuaded myself to read this, and what I would have missed! The writing is incredible…

    • About that last criteria of it having to capture the entire American experience…is that really possible? Coming from a very culturally diverse country myself I wonder if all the stories of all the citizens of a country can be told honestly and still capture the entire country’s experience. Due to all kinds of elements like class, education, race, etc, can anything really be the experience of everyone? Just wondering, or have I misunderstood that criteria? Loved reading this review as always xxx

      • Thank you! 😀

        No, you haven’t misunderstood it all! It’s a problem and I thought for a long time about changing the criterion, but decided to leave it as it is in the end. It makes it pretty well impossible for any book to be THE GAN, though several of them have been A GAN – and I reckon that’s exactly how it should be. I argued that American Pastoral actually does meet the criterion, and this one I cheated a bit, but not too outrageously, I think… the joy of having my own quest – I can change the rules any time it suits me… 😉

        • 😀 I don’t think you cheated on this one really. I reckon if a significant number of Americans identify with it then that should be enough to satisfy that criteria.

  7. How did I miss reading this one, FF?? Of course, I’m not sure I want to revisit that painful era in American history, but still. I agree with what you said about it being tragic that such a story even happened necessitating its telling, but I understand her writing is splendid.

    • It is an absolutely devastating read, Debbie, so one only to be tackled when in the right frame of mind, but the writing is so wonderful that the reading is a pleasure even while the subject is ripping your heart out! I’m so glad I’ve finally read it!

  8. Your review of this book makes me feel like I should drop everything and read it. Now. And, from what I’ve heard about it and what you’ve said, it sounds to me like it qualifies to be a GAN (which I have only just discovered your quest for!). I love the idea of your quest, and because I am new here, I have to ask what your first GAN was?
    If you read another of her books, it will be interesting to see how it compares.

    • You should! 😉 Seriously though, it really is a wonderful book that I’d highly recommend – but so devastating you need to be in the right frame of mind before reading it. It took me three weeks to be able to write something even approaching a rational review, it affected me so much. The GAN Quest has been brilliant – some of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years have come from it. The first “The GAN” was American Pastoral by Philip Roth – another incredibly powerful book – a totally different style of writing but still left me reeling… And if you want to see what other ones I’ve read as part of the quest there’s a GAN Quest button on my men at the top of the page… there have been several GANs, though only the two THE GANs so far… 🙂

        • Initially it came out of a conversation with a couple of fellow reviewers on Amazon US – I had said a book should be considered as a contender, and one of them asked me what other books I’d consider. Ha! I could only think of a couple! So they gave me the first half-dozen or so suggestions and then I blogged about it, and all the lovely bloggie people turned that into a list of 60 or 70 – so far!! Although I’m in Scotland, so many of the people who visit are from the US and loads have studied literature at school, college, university… what a resource!

          So now I post a batch of 10, read them and post another batch, and each time I end up with loads more suggestions. 😀

  9. Woohooo! Dancing in the streets! I am most willing to allow you that last cheat, because yes, it is a piece of American history, a nation’s history, that continues to reverberate long after the bell was torn from the tower.

    • Hurrah! Yes, I didn’t feel it was huge cheat, because the race question is so much a part of American society – we all have race issues, but somehow not to the same fundamental degree nor of the same type, presumably because most European countries kept their slaves away from their homelands, so were able to disengage more effectively. No that that makes it better… just different. A truly brilliant book – have you ever watched the film?

  10. Ah, FF, a wonderful review of a wonderful and harrowing book. Now I DO want to re-read this, inspired by your passion and surrender to it. And i absolutely agree on your making it a proper GAN. Let’s stand up for the fact that , as you point out, and Jilanne reinforces, the after waves from that time continue to reverberate in America’s history

    It seems remarkably GANNISH to me, straight up, no cheating!

    • Thank you! Definitely one for the re-read pile – it’s one I’ll certainly re-read myself. Yes, I felt it was a fairly small cheat – it’s hard to think of America without the race question rearing its ugly head, which is what makes books like this so important. Somehow (and logic tells me this shouldn’t be, but it is) a white person writing about slavery doesn’t have the profound impact that the same story told by a black person does, and as so often it is the women who seem to be trying to face the past and come to terms with it… but politics aside, the storytelling is amazing…

    • Thank you! 😀 I didn’t feel I cheated too much on the criteria – and I did so feel it should win! This is the only one of hers I’ve read but I’ll definitely be reading the others – a brilliant writer!

  11. Great review of a great book.
    After reading Rankin’s ‘Citizen’, I’d like to argue that you don’t need to qualify your opinion that this is a GAN. American Pastoral doesn’t capture the experience of the South, or of the rural poor (the poverty depicted is very much of the urban, upwardly mobile immigrant experience). Maybe it feels more all-American because it’s white, male and middle-class? I love AP, but I think it reflects a different, not a broader, Anerican experience. ‘Beloved’ is about a much less documented American story, but is an equally powerful evocation and subversion of the American Dream. I think your review has really captured the splendour of the novel and your gut instinct that it’s a GAN is completely correct!

    • Thanks, Shoshi! 😀

      Hmm… interesting, but I really don’t think it’s the white maleness that makes me think of AP as the GAN – it’s because the subject matter – Vietnam, the draft, the ’60s youth rebellion etc – affected all of America to some degree, black, white, rich, poor, north, south. The book itself looked at one small part of the culture but I felt its themes were universal to America. With this one, I kinda feel the same, although I’m always aware that the majority of the American population of today is not in fact descended from either slaves or slaveowners, but from immigrants who arrived much later. And I think there’s a tendency (which frankly worries me by its implications) for newly arrived people of whichever colour to ‘buy in’ to the history as if it were their own. So, as an outsider, I’m not sure if the after-effects of slavery are as universal as the impact of the Vietnam draft, though I think they are more profound….

      But I still think both are fantastic books and am quite happy to make that last criterion mean whatever I need it to mean to let them both be The GAN! 😉

      • You’re right. I think I may be doing some slightly contrived agenda-lead reading at the moment after being so wowed by Rankine’s ‘Citizen.’ Certainly, when reading ‘Beloved’ I didn’t get the sense it was supposed to be about the whole American experience. You’re right, to read it as such is itself a dubious act of historical appropriation.
        I can’t wait to see when your GAN quest will take you next!

        • I must look for Rankine’s ‘Citizen’ – I love books that make people look at things differently! The GAN Quest is the best thing that’s come out of blogging for me – some fantastic reads and even the ones I’ve enjoyed less have all added something to my understanding of what I look for in a GAN – or in a great book in general! And interesting discussions too… 🙂

  12. Over the last couple of decades, I’ve read all Toni Morrison’s novels. Each time I have one of her books waiting, I find I almost feel some reluctance to start reading and enter her intense and often dark story world; and then with each book, I’m captivated once again, by, as you say, the beauty of her redemptive writing, and the devastating truth of her stories. A wonderful and wise-woman writer.

    • I don’t know how I’ve missed her till now. I hadn’t even really come across her name till about five years ago – I do think we’re quite parochial in our reading in the UK, though that’s obviously a huge generalisation. But I’m very glad I’ve finally “met” her, and glad to hear that her other books are of the same quality. I do think I’ll have to spread the books out though – too powerful and gut-wrenching to read one after the other. Beloved will still be in my head for a long time yet, I think.

    • I’m coming to the conclusion I’m the only person in the world who hadn’t read it! Definitely worth re-reading – I’m having to restrain myself from reading it again straight away…

  13. For your 5th criteria: I would definitely say this book fits, especially because you can’t untangle the effects of slavery, nor do the effects of one generation on the next disappear for white or black Americans. We’re still steeped in racism issues today. Think about prisons, income inequality, education inequality, racial profiling, police brutality, etc. We still have people waving the Confederate flag for reasons both racist and defensive of heritage. It’s a lot to take in.

    • I know – in some ways the Civil War seems like ancient history but in other ways it seems the questions (not slavery, but the other stuff) are still going on. I reviewed a history book about Stonewall Jackson on Amazon US and the comments section turned into a re-run of the war! As a Scot, I was fascinated by how strong feelings still run…

  14. I was on tenterhooks there – would it make it in all the categories? So glad it did. I’ve never been able to bring myself to read this, but I’m glad it’s there and out in the world, if that makes sense?

    • I did have to cheat a tiny bit – but it so deserves to be The GAN that I couldn’t resist! I do indeed know what you mean! I’m not going to pretend it’s not a pretty devastating read, but if you can bring yourself to do it sometime, it’s worth it. The prose is simply stunning…

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