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Washington Black

A Novel
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (883 ratings)
Regular price: $31.50
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Publisher's Summary

Top 10 Book of the Year: New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, Entertainment Weekly, Slate

One of the Best Books of the Year: Boston Globe, NPR, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Economist, Bustle

Winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize

Finalist for The Man Booker Prize, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, the Rogers Writers' Trust Prize

"Enthralling" (The Boston Globe)

"Extraordinary" (The Seattle Times)

"A rip-roaring tale" (The Washington Post)

A dazzling adventure story about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.

George Washington Black, or "Wash," an 11-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is terrified to be chosen by his master's brother as his manservant. To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning - and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Christopher and Wash must abandon everything. What follows is their flight along the Eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic. What brings Christopher and Wash together will tear them apart, propelling Wash even further across the globe in search of his true self. 

From the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom?

©2018 Esi Edugyan (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

Washington Black is as harrowing a portrayal of slavery as Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, but it also becomes a globe-trotting, page-turning adventure story. A historical epic with much to say about the present-day world.” (The Guardian)

Washington Black is nothing short of a masterpiece. Esi Edugyan has a rare talent for turning over little known stones of history and giving her reader a new lens on the world, a new way of understanding subject matter we arrogantly think we know everything about. This book is an epic adventure and a heartfelt tale about love and morality and their many contradictions. I loved it.” (Attica Locke, author of Bluebird, Bluebird)

“Edugyan’s magnificent third novel again demonstrates her range and gifts.... Framing the story with rich evocations of the era’s science and the world it studies, Edugyan mines the tensions between individual goodwill and systemic oppression, belonging and exclusion, wonder and terror, and human and natural order.... Crafted in supple, nuanced prose, Edugyan’s novel is both searing and beautiful.” (Publishers Weekly

"This memorable audiobook takes a young slave from captivity to freedom as narrator Dion Graham wrings every heartfelt emotion from the story. Edugyan's work embodies the fear and brutality of 1800s slavery, using beautifully turned phrases and clear-eyed observations - which Graham takes to another level - to give voice to the horror and high adventure of Washington Black's life." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Now what do I do?

This is one of those books that draw you in so completely, when you're finished, you feel lost. What will I do now? What can I possibly read -- listen to, that can equal this?

Beautifully written, beautifully read and totally engrossing. My only complaint is that it had to end. Dion Graham makes the story come to life. Highly recommend.

28 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Phyllis
  • Glendale, WI, United States
  • 09-25-18

Unexpected but Remarkable

Magical realism is not quite the description that fits but it is close. Though written as a traditional story narrative, there was almost a fantasy quality to the events and characters. I found that I was willing to accept the unreal plot and appreciate the visual quality of the writing. Sometimes difficult. The book was worth the effort.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Raymond
  • Lebanon, CT, United States
  • 11-08-18

Book of Wonders

This was a beautiful book. lt was sensitive and exciting at the same time. My only reservation was the accents attempted by the otherwise terrific narrator. Less is better with any accent.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Prepare to take a pause from everything and immerse yourselves Washington Black’s world.

His tale will enter your soul and send you to museums. I disengaged from my life to stay with the story.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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solid effort by author and narrator

Washington Black is the story of a young boy born into slavery and his everlasting struggle to escape. The novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and it’s good, though I enjoyed a couple others on the list maybe a little more. Regardless, it’s deserving of its recognition. Wash, the protagonist, takes the listener all across the globe in his perilous journeys. It’s a bit like an English version of the Underground Railroad. This was my third audiobook narrated by Dion Graham, and another excellent performance, though I thought his portrayal of crying was a bit over the top. All in all, it’s a solid audiobook.

Overall rating: 4.18 stars

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Spectacular

I enjoyed this book immensely! The writing is masterful, the narration wonderful. One of the best books I've listened to or read in several years! I will definitely be looking for this author's other works.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Truly moving.

This book gives you a perspective that rings true! If you have even a modicum of sympathy for another's plight (let alone empathy!), you will enjoy this book. Listener beware of uncomfortable language.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Rick
  • Urcuqui, Ecuador
  • 11-11-18

A Genuine Masterpiece

We know from the opening moments that the perspective of a slave is one we could never imagine, when the child describes witnessing the death of his owner as “watching the dead go free.” So desperate is the slave experience that they share a belief that when they die, they will be returned to their ancestral homeland. No wonder they contemplate suicide, and sometimes accomplish it.

Dion Graham’s almost-whispering narration belies the nonstop unexpected drama that awaits an 11-year-old boy called Wash whose whole world in 1830 is a Barbados sugar plantation. That will soon change, beginning with a hot air balloon in a storm at sea, and a dead white man left behind.

The novel spans great lengths of time and even greater distances, through the eyes of a bewildered former slave with physical and emotional wounds, like a scarred Phileas Fogg with a cutthroat bounty-hunter on his tail. From the Caribbean to Virginia and the Underground Railroad, to the Arctic, Nova Scotia, London and Morocco, he encounters other damaged mortals in his travels, each flawed in their own unique ways.

Esi Edugyan wields brilliant, evocative prose with such descriptive power, and plot points you never see coming. It is history, science and travelogue, but none of those is an adequate description. It is an adventure, but also a kind of pilgrimage.

Near the end, in an African desert, a grown-up Washington Black rages at the benefactor who transformed his prospects and later abandoned him: “You are more concerned that slavery should be a moral stain upon white men, than by the actual damage it wreaks on black men!”

But the truth is even more complex than that, and more subtle.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Magnificent

This is a masterpiece. One of the best books I have ever read. Simply astoundingly wonderful!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Washington Black : A Novel

This is truly a remarkable novel. The narrator (Dion Graham) was excellent. I ordered a Hard copy from Amazon for my library.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful