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The Known World Audiobook

The Known World

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (555 )
5 star
 (160)
4 star
 (137)
3 star
 (128)
2 star
 (76)
1 star
 (54)
Overall
3.9 (160 )
5 star
 (69)
4 star
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3 star
 (31)
2 star
 (15)
1 star
 (9)
Story
4.0 (161 )
5 star
 (70)
4 star
 (42)
3 star
 (30)
2 star
 (11)
1 star
 (8)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    mamamijo 07-06-14
    mamamijo 07-06-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hard to keep up"
    Would you try another book from Edward P. Jones and/or Kevin Free?

    No, I don't think so.


    What was most disappointing about Edward P. Jones’s story?

    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.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff 03-06-13
    Jeff 03-06-13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    10
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An amazing, subtle, complex book"
    What did you love best about The Known World?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tess Mitchell Gold Coast, Qld Australia 12-03-09
    Tess Mitchell Gold Coast, Qld Australia 12-03-09 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    13
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    FOLLOWING
    1
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    Overall
    "Very tedious"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Christopher Leighton 02-25-07 Listener Since 2006
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    "New narrator"

    A wonderful book, but I could not take the narrator seriously. I ended up turning off the machine and reading the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trish Cape May, NJ United States 11-24-04
    Trish Cape May, NJ United States 11-24-04 Member Since 2002
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    309
    1
    Overall
    "A Gem."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adele Beeman Culver City, CA, US 10-16-04
    Adele Beeman Culver City, CA, US 10-16-04 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    54
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    57
    21
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "I tried...I really tried..."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicholas Cambridge, MA, USA 10-15-04
    Nicholas Cambridge, MA, USA 10-15-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    440
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    21
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    FOLLOWING
    1
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    Overall
    "Powerful and boring"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tammi North Vancouver, BC, Canada 10-10-04
    Tammi North Vancouver, BC, Canada 10-10-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    11
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    0
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    Overall
    "FIVE STARS"

    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.

    STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alice Bisno 10-09-04
    Alice Bisno 10-09-04
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    "An amazing, original book"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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