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The Known World (2003)

by Edward P. Jones

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6,8361611,346 (3.79)282
Fiction. African American Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

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… (more)

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    Widsith: The obvious companion-piece...both Pulitzer-winning novels about slavery in 19th-century Virginia
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English (155)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (160)
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
If found it hard to get through, despite some striking moments, and some interesting glimpses into the lives of slaves and free black slave-owners. I think the collage-like structure - jumping around between a variety of loosely connected plots and characters - is a promising literary device in theory that Edward Jones doesn't quite master in practice, leaving me uniformly indifferent to all of the characters (and indeed there are so many that it can be hard to follow the story of some of them). Perhaps that's the biggest fault of the book - there's little reason to care about any individual character in narrative that spreads itself thinly among so many. ( )
  breathslow | Jan 27, 2024 |
This is an adult book of interest to teens,
  VillageProject | Jan 25, 2024 |
I have just finished The Known World and I remain puzzled about the story, wondering why I stuck with it to the end.The Known World is a fiction about a fictional place. But it is set in antebellum Virginia. A white plantation owner fathers children by his black concubine. He allows a talented slave in his estate to buy his freedom and the freedom of his family. A freed black buys slaves in his own right. But the free black is still subject to the laws and morays of a slave state. The laws protect the property of the whites ahead of blacks even though they are officially colour neutral. This is what constitutes "the known world" inside The Known World. Then I ask myself, what is unknown about this world. To the whites, the inner lives of the blacks are unknown, or ignored. What is unknown is in the night, beyond the borders of Manchester County, and what the future will bring. The death of the black slave owner is the wheel about which characters and their fate are set in motion. It is a clever device. It unpacks what is not known in the hearts of men. Author Edward P. Jones sneaks in fictional information about the fictional future of Manchester County, but no-one knows that the day is coming when all the slaves will be freed. In many ways, The Known World is a deeply unhappy and pessimistic work. It foreshadows no good for the slaves, no good for women in this society, and no honour for the slave owners. Religion is a crutch and there is little redemption for sinners in this world. Sometimes children escape the clutches of their fate, but more often than not, they do not. The light of day brings us to the obvious conclusions about what is known. It is stark and the evil is unrelenting. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
To be honest, I was reading this in bits and pieces, which probably didnt help things, but there also wasnt anything that made me want to sit down and read whole chunks in one go either. Was annoyed with the timeline jumping in and out in the middle of the paragraph (present, present, present, something he did 20 years ago, which affects why he does this 5 years from now, present, present).......dont really care....
  nordie | Oct 14, 2023 |
Interesting historical novel that highlights slavery in Virginia for what it is, even if the slaveholder is a free black man. ( )
  kslade | Dec 8, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
Among the many triumphs of ''The Known World,'' not the least is Jones's transformation of a little-known footnote in history into a story that goes right to the heart of slavery. There are few certified villains in this novel, white or black, because slavery poisons moral judgments at the root
added by charl08 | editNew York Times
 
One great achievement of Edward Jones's Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Known World is the circumscription of its moral vision, which locates the struggle between good and evil not in the vicissitudes of the diabolical slaveholding system of the American south, but inside the consciousness of each person, black or white, slave or free, who attempts to flourish within that soul-deadening system
 

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Epigraph
My soul's often wondered how I got over. . . .
Dedication
TO MY BROTHER
JOSEPH V. JONES

And, again,

TO THE MEMORY OF OUR MOTHER
JEANETTE S.M. JONES
who could have done much more in a better world.

First words
The evening his master died he worked again well after he ended the day for the other adults, his own wife among them, and sent them back with hunger and tiredness to their cabins.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Fiction. African American Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

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

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Book description
Set in Manchester County, Virginia, 20 years before the Civil War began, Edward P. Jones's debut novel, The Known World, is a masterpiece of overlapping plot lines, time shifts, and heartbreaking details of life under slavery. Caldonia Townsend is an educated black slaveowner, the widow of a well-loved young farmer named Henry, whose parents had bought their own freedom, and then freed their son, only to watch him buy himself a slave as soon as he had saved enough money. Although a fair and gentle master by the standards of the day, Henry Townsend had learned from former master about the proper distance to keep from one's property. After his death, his slaves wonder if Caldonia will free them. When she fails to do so, but instead breaches the code that keeps them separate from her, a little piece of Manchester County begins to unravel. Impossible to rush through, The Known World is a complex, beautifully written novel with a large cast of characters, rewarding the patient reader with unexpected connections, some reaching into the present day.
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