Winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize
A dazzling, original novel of slavery and freedom, from the author of the international bestseller Half-Blood Blues
When two English brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation, they bring with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black – an eleven year-old field slave – is horrified to find himself chosen to live in the quarters of one of these men. But the man is not as Washington expects him to be. His new master is the eccentric Christopher Wilde – naturalist, explorer, inventor and abolitionist – whose obsession to perfect a winged flying machine disturbs all who know him. Washington is initiated into a world of wonder: a world where the night sea is set alight with fields of jellyfish, where a simple cloth canopy can propel 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 one fateful night, Washington is left to the mercy of his new masters. Christopher Wilde must choose between family ties and young Washington's life. What follows is a flight along the eastern coast of America, as the men attempt to elude the bounty that has been placed on Washington's head. Their journey opens them up to the extraordinary: to a dark encounter with a necropsicist, a scholar of the flesh; to a voyage aboard a vessel captained by a hunter of a different kind; to a glimpse through an unexpected portal into the Underground Railroad. This is a novel of fraught bonds and betrayal. What brings Wilde and Washington together ultimately tears them apart, leaving Washington to seek his true self in a world that denies his very existence.
From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy plains of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness of life. This inventive, electrifying novel asks, What is Freedom? And can a life salvaged from the ashes ever be made whole?
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan’s novel—which was longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize—follows Washington Black, a young slave who escapes from a Barbados plantation in the 1830s. After Black forges a life-changing friendship with an English abolitionist and inventor, the duo embark on a series of treacherous and unforgettable adventures that take them to Arctic ice fields and North African deserts. Soaring and hopeful one moment, violent and sorrowful the next, Washington Black explores the devastating emotional legacy of slavery and the outer limits of human resilience.
Edugyan's magnificent third novel (after Half-Blood Blues) again demonstrates her range and gifts. Eleven-year-old slave George Washington Black cuts sugar cane on a Barbados plantation owned by a sadistic Englishman named Erasmus Wilde until Wilde's scientist brother, Titch, visits in 1830 to work on the experimental airship he calls Cloud-cutter. Titch makes Wash his servant because the boy's weight makes suitable ballast for Cloud-cutter, teaches Wash to read, and nurtures his gift for scientific thought and illustration. As Wash is transformed and confused by Titch's tutelage, Erasmus becomes increasingly punitive toward him. Titch, afraid for his prot g 's life, devises a risky nighttime escape on Cloud-cutter, which collides with the masts of a ship bound for Virginia. After arriving there, the two head northward, getting as far as the Arctic before Titch, insisting that Wash stay behind, strikes out into the snow for reasons Wash cannot understand. Not knowing whether Titch is alive or dead, Wash continues his travels and scientific work. But he feels compelled to find out Titch's fate and learn why his mentor rejected him. 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. The novel's patience feels essential: the characters' many passages from painful endings to tentative rebirths are necessarily slow and searching. Crafted in supple, nuanced prose, Edugyan's novel is both searing and beautiful.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This story is told through the eyes of a young boy born into slavery on a sugar plantation in Barbados. All that is known to him is the pain and suffering of those around him. There is no parent to guide him. However, in a surprising manner, he sets off on a journey of discovery that leads him to recognize many aspects of his life that those of us more coddled take for granted. A beautifully written story with wonderful visualizations and characters.
First 30+ pages interesting then the writing became pretentious, repetitive ,meandering all over the place until the story ! plot?became ridiculous and boring.This is up for consideration ?must be a desperate year for publishers!
Despite the rave reviews I found this to be an average book only. It meandered and I often was not clear about the characters and their relationship to each other. A rather odd, bizarre tale of odd, bizarre characters.