Esi Edugyan Washington Black: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781443423380

Washington Black: A Novel

 
9781443423380: Washington Black: A Novel
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Winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize

A dazzling, original novel of slavery and freedom, from the author of the international bestseller Half-Blood Blues

When two English brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation, they bring with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black – an eleven year-old field slave – is horrified to find himself chosen to live in the quarters of one of these men. But the man is not as Washington expects him to be. His new master is the eccentric Christopher Wilde – naturalist, explorer, inventor and abolitionist – whose obsession to perfect a winged flying machine disturbs all who know him. Washington is initiated into a world of wonder: a world where the night sea is set alight with fields of jellyfish, where a simple cloth canopy can propel a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning – and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human.

But when a man is killed one fateful night, Washington is left to the mercy of his new masters. Christopher Wilde must choose between family ties and young Washington's life. What follows is a flight along the eastern coast of America, as the men attempt to elude the bounty that has been placed on Washington's head. Their journey opens them up to the extraordinary: to a dark encounter with a necropsicist, a scholar of the flesh; to a voyage aboard a vessel captained by a hunter of a different kind; to a glimpse through an unexpected portal into the Underground Railroad. This is a novel of fraught bonds and betrayal. What brings Wilde and Washington together ultimately tears them apart, leaving Washington to seek his true self in a world that denies his very existence.

From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy plains of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness of life. This inventive, electrifying novel asks, What is Freedom? And can a life salvaged from the ashes ever be made whole?

 

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From the Back Cover:

Escape is only the beginning

When two English brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation, they bring with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black, an eleven-year-old field slave, is terrified to be chosen as manservant to one of these men. To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, an explorer, an inventor and an abolitionist. Soon, Washington is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where the night sea is set alight with fields of jellyfish, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning—and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human.

But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Washington’s head, Wilde must choose between family bonds and Washington’s life. What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, which opens them up to the extraordinary: a voyage aboard a ship captained by a hunter whose real purpose is unknown to them; a dark encounter with a scholar of the flesh; a glimpse through an unexpected portal into the Underground Railroad; and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic. What brings Wilde and Washington together ultimately tears them apart, leaving Washington to seek his true self in a world that denies his very existence.

From the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black is an electrifying story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, that asks the question, What is true freedom?

About the Author:

Esi Edugyan is the author of the novels The Second Life of Samuel Tyne and Half-Blood Blues, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Orange Prize. In 2014, she published her first book of non-fiction, Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband and two children.

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