Just because a book has won a pulitzer prize and everyone around you says its a great book does not make it a good read. I found the prose hard to digest and the story drawn out and frankly boring. The characters seemeed one dimensional and there far too many tangents.
Pulitzer Prize winner for 2004, this book is a rich portrayal of slavery and free blacks during the mid-1800s in the US. No Civil War militaria, this book is a profound and deep look of the lives of slaves and their masters--some of whom are black. Left me thinking of the characters long after finishing the book.
Emily R. (lereil) reviewed The Known World (Today Show Book Club # 17) on
Helpful Score: 7
Jones brings you deep into the world of the confused South through his beautiful, dramatic, illustrations of life as it was for slaves - both in bondage and freed - and their owners - both white and black. This is a fabulous book that was hard to put down.
My husband and I listened to this book on CD while traveling. The story is not a happy one, so don't read it if you're looking for something uplifting. However, it is a very well written book, deeply moving, depicting what it must have been like during the dark days of slavery in America.
This is a fantastic book - a book not just about slavery, but about the lives of people, black and white, and the concessions they make in their lives to suit the times, the ways of the South, and the little bit of world that they know. I have not read a book that resounds with such clarity as this work about the lives of slaves, black and white slave owners, and the people who just simply know that things should change but seem powerless to initiate it. A sometimes dark and sad tome, but always interesting and written in such a way as to jump from present to past to future seamlessly. I loved it and recommend it to anyone who wants a good read. I also recommend it for anyone who has any doubt that prejudism was and still is a cyclical legacy, passed on from generation to generation, even among those who were the most oppressed.
I liked this book. I read a lot of reviews complaining about how it jumps around in the story which I really think was part of message the author is conveying. These lives are interwoven and small things that happen continue to impact the characters throughout their lives in ways they may not even realize. It's a really compelling story of black slave owners in VA around the time of the civil war. I honestly didn't even know black slave owners existed so it really surprised & interested me. It's definately not an easy read but I felt it was worth the effort.
Too many characters being introduced right up to the second to last chapter and it jumps around in time quite a bit; however, I'd still recommend just because its so interesting. If the topic hadn't been so interesting, though, I wouldn't recommend it.
This book is brilliant on many levels. It focuses on an aspect of the antebellum south which which few are familiar: ownership of Black slaves by Black people. This in itself makes it important. The story is extraordinarily well-crafted, with incredible characters, description and story line, all presented in deceptively understated prose.
What is most remarkable about this book, however, is that Jones invented the place in which it takes place. Not the state, of course - Virginia is real enough. But the towns, the county, the history - all is fiction. Once one has read the first part of the book it becomes obvious what a feat this is.
Finally, Jones himself is interesting. An insurance adjuster, he wrote in the evenings after work, finally quitting his job to devote himself full-time to writing this amazing novel. He gathered material on Black slave owners in the antebellum south, but decided not to read any of it until after his manuscript was complete. A remarkable book both in how it came to be and the final product.
This book was so thought provoking~freed slaves owning slaves...very difficult to wrap my brain around anyone owning slaves of course, but I was riveted. Jones seamlessly moved from one time period to another, giving glimpses of the futures of some of the characters. He gives amazing/horrifying details at points, but leaves the judging up to us. A great read by an incredibly talented author.
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. Townsend becomes a slaveholder and runs his affairs with unusual discipline. When death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order and chaos ensues.- I was unaware that during the pre-Civil War era there was a small population of blacks, many of whom were freed slaves, that became slave-owners themselves. The book begins slow, with seemingly unrelated storylines that appear to run independent of one another. Stick with the story and be amazed as all these story "threads" begin to weave together. A wonderful read!
This book of historical fiction is so raw and real that I almost felt and wished it could be historical non-fiction. I understand that the author had to "fill in" details between what the historical record could provide. But it is entirely plausible that these people existed.
It is well written and characters carefully crafted. The reality of slaves' lives in the 1800s is hard to take, but it is worth the effort.
I quote a back-cover blurb because I can't say it better myself:
"Brilliant ... So utterly original that it makes most everything previously written about slavery seem outdated and pedestrian. It belongs on a shelf with other classics of slavery, like Toni Morrison's Beloved..." This is so much more than the story of a black farmer and former slave who owns slaves and how his widow manages the estate when he dies. So much more. The Cold Mountain of slaves in Virginia. Absolutely stunning.
A very interesting perspective of pre-Civil war plantation life in the South. The main characters are black slave owners. There are a myriad of characters whose lives are interconnected. It to some degree takes race out of southern slavery--i.e. slavery is appalling no matter who practices it.
This is the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and slave holder who runs his affairs with unusual discipline. When he dies unexpectedly, chaos ensues. Described as a daring novel that takes an unflinching look at slavry in all its moral complexities. It's no wonder the book won a Pulitzer Prize, was a national best seller and an Oprah selection.
Since I had a difficult time getting into this book I thought I'd read other people's thoughts... they called it "non-lateral" fiction. I guess that's a good description for me too. I tried a few times to get into the book, but it's hard reading, lots of nitty gritty detail, hard to keep a story line in my head. I gave up reading it!
Has quite a lot of characters, but well worth the read. If I had flipped to the back of the book to get the Dramatis Personae before reading the book, it wouldn't have been so hard to remember characters and their relationships with other characters.
Good historical novel about the little-known culture of slave-owning blacks in the South. Storyline tends to shift around a lot but it's not so hard to follow if you are paying attention! Pulitzer Prize winning book.
I've never read anything that captured the utter insanity of slavery and racism as effectively and affectingly as The Known World. Read it, read it, read it!
The author, Edward P. Jones, is one of the men celebrated in the new book FRATERNITY: IN 1968, A VISIONARY PRIEST RECRUITED 20 BLACK MEN TO THE COLLEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS AND CHANGED THEIR LIVES AND THE COURSE OF HISTORY. His classmates included Clarence Thomas, Ted Wells,Stan Grayson and Eddie Jenkins.
"The Known World" has an interesting premise in that the slave owners are the same race as the slaves. A lot of the incidents in this book are very eye-opening. I never really thought about what happens to slaves when their master dies. It is so amazing to me that people feel that they have a right to own their fellow human beings, treating as possessions instead of humans. Another part of the book that I found disturbing was the idea that slaves should not be educated. This dehumanization of the slaves had a lot of similarities with Nazi Germany...For anyone who enjoys fiction in a historical setting, "The Known World" by Edward Jones, is required reading.
This is the story of Henry Townsend, a freed black slave, who goes on to buy his own plantation and own slaves. We then get vignettes of all of the people who are remotely related to Henry at any point in his life. It's tedious. A lot of the book feels like stream-of-consciousness writing and it just plain doesn't make sense. It was interesting to get a glimpse at the life of free black families just before the Civil War, but I had to power through this book to finish. I would not recommend it.
Fascinating look at slavery from multiple viewpoints of slaves and others.
it really makes you think and is certainly deserving of the awards it has won. If you find it a bit off-putting at first due to the various different stories stick with it and you will find it worth it.
This is a pre-review: a local university hosts a "visiting writers series" each year, and Edward P. Jones was the third writer in this year's series. He read a chapter from The Known World; I was mesmerized by his crafting of visual images, detailed characterizations, and the historical research which led to his writing the book: a 50-page book on slavery in Virginia (which had been written many, many years ago) and, in the chapter he read to us, the interaction between a free man of color and an African-American woman who, with her husband, owned slaves. As good writers and books do, he gave us much to think about.
This Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel requires patience and a willingness to follow a narrative that's nonlinear. It also helps if you keep the list of characters in the back material nearby, since the book is heavily populated. The prose style's got overtones of the King James Bible. If you like Faulkner and Toni Morrison's "Beloved," the book may appeal to you. I was also reminded a bit of E.L. Doctorow's "Rag Time." But the attraction for me was the structure and telling. It's the story of a whole community and traces how everyone's lives are intertwined. Thus, everyone bears some responsibility for what happens. There are no easy moral judgments here. People who are a very complex mix of good and bad do unbearable things to one another here. This subtle, cumulative condemnation of slavery for the way it warped thinking and behavior is extremely powerful. And the nonlinear telling reminded me of hearing some kind of oral rendition. As if a storyteller within the community had started by trying to give one person's history, but found himself continually led off on associations to further fascinating anecdotes, thinking of this and then of that, leaping from that person's appearance to that person's eventual fate or death, sometimes giving the highlights of a whole life within one paragraph. Which is why it requires patience, because one story sets off another. In the end, they are all related. There are also some magical and supernatural elements in the book, as there always must be, in such tellings. A brilliant book, but not for everyone, because of this very large cast and the many tangents the author hies off on. As for me, I agree with the Pulitzer committee. This one's brilliant.
Belva H. reviewed The Known World (Today Show Book Club # 17) on
This is a rather profound book protraying the relationship between the powerful and the weak through the medium of slavery as practiced by former slaves who became slave owners. The emotional life of the illiterate and uninformed is vivid and moving. I enjoyed this book very much.
I enjoyed this book, and it had some very unique features as far as alluding to what would happen to the characters in the future and had happened to them in the past. I was reading it at a slow pace and found that it was a little hard to remember who was who each time I picked up the book. I found the characters to be nicely developed and quite conflicted. It was eye-opening to see the way humans were regarded sheerly as property.
Jones' intriguing novel is based on the little-known historical fact of black slaveowners in antebellum south. As setting, he constructs a fictional world so compelling readers will want to track the locations on maps. Full of sorrow and heartache, this impressive work invites us to rethink the histories of the South we so often take for granted.
A very moving saga of a little kown aspect of the lives of slaves and their families and their 'masters'. While it took me about 50-70 pages to fall into the author's style, it was well worth the wait. Note: in the back of the book there is, following the interview with the author, a list of characters by 'location' that will help you in the beginning.
Diane Rehm (of NPR) discusses this book with guests on her show--I enjoyed their conversation so much that I picked up the book. A good read that would prompt good discussion. (You can listen to an archived broadcast of Diane Rehm's show on the NPR site.)
"So utterly original that it makes most everything previously written about slavery seem outdated and pedestrian. it belongs on a shel with other classics...like Beloved and The Confessions of Nat Turner." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Was highly readable, a kind of an amazing unique story. It's telling was very detailed, very accurate, you knew the characters so well by the end. Dull story at times, predictable in it's slave brutality, basic injustices of the time. Kept waiting for it to get exciting, but it never did... Loose ends stayed loose as they are in real life, no Hollywood happy endings. A masterpiece of fiction. Written like an enjoyable history book, but it was all made up. Edward Jones, brilliant mind.
AT first it was difficult to remember who everyone was. But after I got into the book it all came together. This book gave a good description of how hard slavery was precivil war. It's one of the books I couldn't put down because I wanted to know what happens next. Life was hard, times were bad yet you learned how to survive. Would recommend this book because everyone should know how the slaves were treated and lived in our country.
This book is amazing! Who knew that freed black slaves owned other slaves? It was a can't put it down audio tape . About Black people owning slaves during the time of slavery in America. Situations I never heard of or thought of told in fascinating manner through the lives of the owners, the slaves, the freed slaves, the freed slaves captured & sold back into slavery. The slaves buying themselves out of slavery & going to work to buy each of their children out of slavery. Makes you wonder if it is about racism or socio-econimic motivation then & now.
When I first began reading it, I wasn't sure if I could finish it. The subject matter itself is difficult, but I also struggled with nailing down who was who, as there are so many characters introduced in the very first chapters. I found myself having to go back and reread which is frustrating, but that combined with the author's way of going forward and back in each character's history, well, it was a little baffling at first. But once I got a good foothold, it goes along naturally and I found myself really enjoying the flashback/flashforward style. Again, difficult subject matter that we often push out of our minds because it's too horrible to comprehend, but important to learn just the same. And this particular story is very real and true to the brutality, but at the same time, very lovingly portrayed.
Written by a Pulitzer prize winning author who takes you deep into the life of a black farmer, a former slave, and his wife who struggles to make her life work when he suddenly dies. Edward Jones stabs us in the heart with his bold commentary on slavery.
This dialogue in The Known World was agonizingly repetitive and the plot was scattered. I listened to it about half way through, maybe more, before I gave up. I rarely stop listening to an audiobook. I just didn't care what happened to these miserable and forsaken characters. The narrator was fine. He had A LOT of voices to cover and he did a pretty decent job with the challenge.
This was actually a good story. Very well written. At times, my book club members thought it was non-fiction and we tried to get more information on the areas and characters. It was simply not my topic of choice for a good read. I am aware that this history took place and this very well could have been a true story, I just don't like to read about it.
I read THE KNOWN WORLD for the April 2015 "Pulitzer Theme" challenge in my online book club, The Reading Cove.
I thought it was somewhat engaging initially. Freed black people who owned their own slaves is a most interesting premise; but aside from a few moments of engaging snippets, the narrative style was too rambling and meandering, with too many random-ish characters thrown in to hold my interest. So I found much of this story skimmable.
A stiring look at the history of life in 1800 Virginia. Where slaves were property bought and sold with the other beast of burden. The story reads like conversation between friends gathered for a on the front porch.
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. --Regina Marler, Amazon.com
Winner of the PULITZER PRIZE. 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 ensurs. In a daring and ambitious novel, Jones has wovn a footnote of history into an ipic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all of its moral complexities.
In one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory,Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize winner, 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. In a daring and ambitious novel , Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all of it's moral complexities.
I haven't read this yet but I have another copy that is on my "to read" list. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2004 and a bazillion other awards. Deals with slavery from the perspesctive of the black slave owner. Very interesting and well written book.