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Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor -- William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful white man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation -- as well as of his own slaves. When he dies, his widow Caldonia succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart:slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend estate, the know world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave "speculators" sell free black people into slavery, and rumor os slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years.
An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present, The Known World weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, white, and Indians -- and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.
Read by Kevin Free.
"[A]n impressively researched, challenging novel debut....The particulars and consequences of the 'right' of humans to own other humans are dramatized with unprecedented ingenuity and intensity, in a harrowing tale that scarcely ever raises its voice....This will mean a great deal to a great many people. It should be a major prize contender, and it won't be forgotten."
"[Jones] write[s] about history not as if it were over and done with, but as if anything could happen in the chaos of the moment....Jones writes with a sense of narrative foreboding undercut by the erratic nature of events, and the result is a portrait of a society that is seemingly immutable but...tentative and fragile....THE KNOWN WORLD is an achievement of epic scope and architectural construction, which nonetheless reads like a string of folk tales...--tales told by a conjurer who distracts you so well that you never know what hit you."
John Vernon, New York Times Book Review, 08/31/2003
Jones, Edward P.
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