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The Known World | [Edward P. Jones]

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

3.4 (475 )
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  •  
    Adele Beeman Culver City, CA, US 10-16-04
    Adele Beeman Culver City, CA, US 10-16-04 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
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    "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 Culver City, CA, USA 10-09-04
    Alice Culver City, CA, USA 10-09-04 Member Since 2004
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    1
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    "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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