Toni Morrison's new novel is set in Cincinnati in 1873 after the abolitionists' deafeat of the slave-owners and tells the story of Sethe, an escaped slave, who cut her child's throat with a handsaw rather than surrender her to slave-catchers.
Beloved is Sethe's dead baby. Beloved is the only inscription on the tomb-stone. Sethe paid the stone-cutter in kind, 'her knees wide open as the grave', and she wonders if she might have got 'Dearly' for ten minutes more.
Beloved wants more. For 18 years, Sethe's house has been wracked by the dead baby's tantrums, her two boys have fled, and only Beloved's sister Denver remains in the sad, friendless atmosphere of the house.
Enter Paul D Garner, Sethe's old friend from a slave establishment called 'Sweet Home', which is