Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2004
National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2004
Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor, William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful white man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation, as well as of his own slaves. When he dies, his widow Caldonia succumbs to profound grief; and things begin to fall apart: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend estate, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave "speculators" sell free black people into slavery; and rumor of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years.
An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present, The Known World weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians, and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.
©2003 Edward P. Jones; (P)2003 HarperCollins Publishers
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2005
"A masterpiece that deserves a place in the American literary canon." (Time)
"Flawless rendition....He gives each character color, personality, and heft, without ever vamping or straining for effect." (AudioFile)
"A complex, often startling picture of life in the region....[Jones'] narrative achieves crushing momentum through sheer accumulation of detail, unusual historical insight, and generous character writing." (Publishers Weekly)
"Jones has written a book of tremendous moral intricacy." (The New Yorker)
I am happiest with a story in my ear. I earn my living as a strategist and work hard as a mom of 2 boys. I'm 45, mixed race, Black & Jewish.
No, I don't think so.
My husband absolutely loved reading this book, which is why I got it. I think the story is a really intriguing one, but I just couldn't keep up with all of the characters and the plot line while listening to it. I also found the voices that the narrator used really annoying. You also have to be emotionally prepared for the subject material, and as an African American woman, this was hard for me.
The voices of the characters just grated on me. I don't know if it's possible to use two actors -- one male and one female -- to narrate a book, but I think in this case, that would have been ideal.
The plot of this book and the characters are complex and subtle enough to completely immerse you in their world which feels so real and compelling. The level of detail makes the story extremely rich without bogging it down at all. A powerful exploration of human nature.
When this book started I was captured within the poetic descriptions and rich visuals the words conjured, but by about half way through I was wondering if there was ever going to be a point of any kind. Worse still I realised I had actually heard it before some time ago and had managed to forget the entire experience, something I didn't think was possible for me with any book.
I found myself board and desperate for something exciting to happen. It didn't.
This is a rich and moving story of the impact of slavery on the people in a small area of Virginia. It makes no moral judgements, just lets the characters speak. Yes, there are many characters and plotlines but each tells an important aspect of a tale that is far more than the sum of its parts. Very highly recommended.
But I just couldn't grab hold of this story. The author has a wonderful unique way of writing and I certainly appreciated that, but oh goodness... too elongated for me...at least for now. I lasted 2 hours and had to move on to something more contemporary. I will come back to this book because I realize it is a worth while read. But for now I favor stories that are so compelling I just want to lie in bed, close my eyes, and do nothing else but listen.
In some ways this is a story which really moves the listener, unfortunatly it's couched in prose which is not particularly thrilling. The person who said this book meanders, is right on target.
If you are looking for light, simple reading - don't read this book.
BUT, IF YOU WANT a truly quality read that gives you insight into a world you might never have known, you HAVE TO READ!! It's got depth of characters, love, action, adventure, fear, worry .... and it makes you think about today.
This book is challenging but well worth the effort. It is beautifully written, but the style may take some getting used to. It's very "stream-of-consciousness" - and very much the way most people talk while telling a story about something that happened in their lives. It's disturbing and thought-provoking and one of the best, most original books that I've read/listened to in years. The narrator is perfect.
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