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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.