From Edward P. Jones comes one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory—winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
The Known World tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order, and chaos ensues.
Edward P. Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all its moral complexities.
“A masterpiece that deserves a place in the American literary canon.”—Time
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Edward P. Jones’ sweeping, Pulitzer Prize–winning epic is exactly the kind of book the phrase “modern classic” was made for. Henry Townsend is a former slave—who becomes a slave owner himself. His journey from working the fields to holding the whip is a dense one, full of harrowing violence and complex relationships. Jones tells this captivating story in deliberately minimalist, plain language that maximizes its emotional impact and highlights the central theme of slavery as a disease that infects everyone around it. The Known World opens a different window into a brutal period of American history.
In a crabbed, powerful follow-up to his National Book Award nominated short story collection (Lost in the City), Jones explores an oft-neglected chapter of American history, the world of blacks who owned blacks in the antebellum South. His fictional examination of this unusual phenomenon starts with the dying 31-year-old Henry Townsend, a former slave now master of 33 slaves of his own and more than 50 acres of land in Manchester County, Va. worried about the fate of his holdings upon his early death. As a slave in his youth, Henry makes himself indispensable to his master, William Robbins. Even after Henry's parents purchase the family's freedom, Henry retains his allegiance to Robbins, who patronizes him when he sets up shop as a shoemaker and helps him buy his first slaves and his plantation. Jones's thorough knowledge of the legal and social intricacies of slaveholding allows him to paint a complex, often startling picture of life in the region. His richest characterizations of Robbins and Henry are particularly revealing. Though he is a cruel master to his slaves, Robbins is desperately in love with a black woman and feels as much fondness for Henry as for his own children; Henry, meanwhile, reads Milton, but beats his slaves as readily as Robbins does. Henry's wife, Caldonia, is not as disciplined as her husband, and when he dies, his worst fears are realized: the plantation falls into chaos. Jones's prose can be rather static and his phrasings ponderous, but his narrative achieves crushing momentum through sheer accumulation of detail, unusual historical insight and generous character writing.
The best book I have read in decades!
Boring & Confusing
This book has to be one of the worst books I've read. It started off really good. And then all of sudden, I was thrown into a whirlwind of names and different characters. In one paragraph, I would find myself reading about some random charter moving back to England and his life after leaving the United States. This fact nor this character was not significant. This happened several times with several characters. Well, I made it to page 79....TWO CHAPTERS!!! Please save your money and the gigs on your smart device by not buying this book!