The Known World: A Novel

Paperback | May 25, 2004


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In one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Edward P. Jones, two-time National Book Award finalist, 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 its moral complexities.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

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From the Publisher

In one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Edward P. Jones, two-time National Book Award finalist, 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 run...

Edward P. Jones, the New York Times bestselling author, has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award for The Known World; he also received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2004. His first collection of stories, Lost in the...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.97 inPublished:May 25, 2004Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0060557559

ISBN - 13:9780060557553

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Customer Reviews of The Known World: A Novel


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Delightful! Slow start. But once I got used to the writing style, I loved it. It was historically interesting. There were twists & turns in the story that were unexpected thus keeping me on my toes! I loved this book!
Date published: 2015-08-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I wouldn’t have given it the Pulitzer but it is worthwhile The thing I particularly liked about this book was its knowldege of time, and how past, present, and future often intermingle. That self-awareness really added to the unique storytelling.
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Jones is a master of character and narrative! It's been a long time since I came across a novel that gripped me as much as Edward P. Jones' Pulitzer Prize winner, The Known World. Mr. Jones has created some of the most complex, intriguing and "real" fictional characters I have encountered in a long time. As he says in his interview at the end of the audiobook, even the most minor characters are very dynamic and rich. The story itself is masterfully woven, told in the third person narrative, but subtly reminiscent of an oral tradition of history that is less popular these days than it once was. Based on this novel, I plan purchasing both of Mr. Jones' short story collections as soon as possible.
Date published: 2010-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read Henry Townsend was born to Augustus and Mildred Townsend, slaves on the plantation of William Robbins in Manchester County, Virginia. We first meet him at the time of his death, around 1855, when he is a just 31 years old. From there we learn how a black man came to be free and how he managed to purchase property as well as the slaves to provide labour for the running of the farm. We also meet the other free black people who surround him and the white people who control Manchester County. In the opening chapters of this book the reader is diluged with the introduction of the many characters and their connections with each other. Each character is tied with numerous other characters in this story. Their livesweare so tightly woven together that a happening with one resident of that county would affect the lives of dozens of others, black and white alike. I had to reread the first forty of so pages to get all these connections straight, though there is a complete list and description of characters at the back of the book. Once I got past the introductions, the story flowed quickly and begged not to be put aside. By that point I had no doubt that this story was a fictionalized, though true, historical account. That these were real people who's lives had been documented in the state census and in plantation ledgers. I was truly surprised to find that it was all a work of fiction. Having said that it was fiction I believe that many of the event depicted did occur during the times when slaves were held in the United States. Black people worked as overseers on plantations, that they learned skills that enabled them to earn money with which to buy their freedom, and that there were white people who would never see them as free and equal people. Plot spoiler One of the most difficult passages for me to read was when Augustus was detained by the slave patrollers and sold back into slavery. The tears were rolling down my cheeks unchecked. It did help when a bit later in the story, Barnum, the only patroller who objected to the enslavement, confesses the events to the sherriff. Barnum knew that what they had done was wrong and he wanted to do the right thing. He called for a stronger law or some sort of "body" that could discern right and wrong to ensure that this didn't happen again.A moment of true insight. This book provides many opportunities for discussion: interactions between the free and the enslaved blacks, the treatment of the free blacks by the white population, and the very act of slavery then and today. Winner of the 2003 New York Times Best Book of the Year Award for Fiction Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize Winner of the 2005 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Date published: 2010-05-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Boring, and a little frustrated. I am reading this selection for my book club, but I am not enjoying it at all. I am completely confused by all of the characters, especially the fact that there is an older couple named Henry and Caldonia, and there are apparently twins by the same names, but I don't know who the children are or how they relate to the story. I cannot believe this won the Pulitzer Prize. I am going to have to force myself to finish this book because I enjoy meeting up with my book club (and we are going to a fabulous restaurant to discuss the book), but it's going to be difficult.
Date published: 2010-02-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Confusing and Time Consuming This book is bad. If you're drawn to it because of its "Pulitzer Prize" status, don't waste your time. It's completely confusing and drawn out. In introducing one character, the author goes on to introduce 7 others in the explanation. You end up not being able to keep everyone straight and having to re-read passages just to remember what was going on before the introductions started!
Date published: 2009-07-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Better with time I found the beginning really slow. I had to read up to page 100 before it picked up. It was better then but not amazing. The writing style was different than what i'm used to.
Date published: 2008-03-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Confusing mish-mash Although the subject matter is fascinating, this book followed a non-linear storyline with a multitude of characters and was completely confusing.
Date published: 2007-06-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Painful look into history This novel is about the relationships and status of people who lived in the South during the time of slavery. This is the story of Henry and how his relationship with his master eventually turns him into a master himself. A beautifully written book with raw emotion.
Date published: 2006-07-19

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Editorial Reviews

“A masterpiece that deserves a place in the American literary canon.”