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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.
©2003 Edward P. Jones; (P)2003 HarperCollins Publishers
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Critic Reviews

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

By Rachel on 09-06-04

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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39 of 40 people found this review helpful


By Amazon Customer on 03-27-05

A soft-spoken treasure

This book is a real pleasure to listen to. It's not a plot-driven book, so be forewarned, if that's what you're in the market for. Instead, it's an empathetic, nuanced, and often poetic look at a certain historical time and place. Jones is just an extraordinarily humane writer; every character is painted in painstaking detail and with unusual sympathy. This is one of my favorites of the audiobooks I've listened to.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Nelly_dog on 11-09-05

Too complicated to work well as an audio book

I downloaded this novel based on the great reviews for the paperback. Unfortunately I found that the style of novel did not work well as an audio book. I struggled to keep track of the different characters and the story was not sufficiently gripping for me to persevere.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful


By John on 09-22-06

the known world

boring as hell . the worst audiobook i have bought by far .

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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