The Known World

  • by Edward P. Jones
  • Narrated by Kevin Free
  • 14 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2004
National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2004
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 known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave "speculators" sell free black people into slavery; and rumor of 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, whites, and Indians, and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.


What the Critics Say

IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2005"A masterpiece that deserves a place in the American literary canon." (Time)
"Flawless rendition....He gives each character color, personality, and heft, without ever vamping or straining for effect." (AudioFile)
"A complex, often startling picture of life in the region....[Jones'] narrative achieves crushing momentum through sheer accumulation of detail, unusual historical insight, and generous character writing." (Publishers Weekly)
"Jones has written a book of tremendous moral intricacy." (The New Yorker)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A meandering audiobook...

This is one of the books that seems to have a never ending narrative. After about 4 hours I had no real sense of what was occuring other that the comings and goings of many, many people. My wife calls me the "goal oriented" man, and she is correct, as usual. I look for a theme or direction in a book.

Well written and gently narrated, it just never seems to go anywhere. The patient, poetic souls out there will likely enjoy this audiobook, but for me, I shall never know how it ends...
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- Daniel

wonderful and highly recommended

i am fairly new to audiobooks but very glad that i listened to this at the begining of my journey - it was a wonderful early introduction. The story is not a straightforward journey from A to B, rather a journey around a whole community, every individual and every incident in it. There is an enourmous amout of detail which does mean that you need to pay close attention to it, but the depth of character which it creates is well worth the effort. When I finished listening I was still wondering about these characters. The book is inspired by the concept of free black people who owned slaves in Virginia, an aspect of American history I had not known anything about. I loved this 'read' and hope that you do too.
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- Rachel

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-15-2004
  • Publisher: HarperAudio