The Known World, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (11 ratings)


Masterful, Pulitzer-prize winning literary epic about the painful and complex realities of slave life on a Southern plantation.

An utterly original exploration of race, trust and the cruel truths of human nature, this is a landmark in modern American literature. Henry Townsend, a black farmer, boot maker, and former slave, becomes proprietor of his own plantation - as well as 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 household, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave `speculators' sell free black people into slavery, and rumours of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years. An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges from the past to the present, The Known World seamlessly weaves together the lives of the freed and the enslaved - and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multi-dimensional world created by the institution of slavery.


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Showing 1 - 5 of 11 reviews.

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Review by

readable story but didn't quite grab my attention and I didn't really care or get involved in the characters. It did read like how my father tells stories all the same, wandering around and eventually getting to the point.

Review by

One of the best books I read last year. I never would have picked it up, if not for my book club, but I am really glad I did.

Review by

before i read this book i had no idea that freed black people in the south also owned slaves. it is a very well-written account of the complexities of freedom and identity in virginia before the civil war.

Review by

In my estimation, The Known World was worthy of the Pulitzer. Beautifully told. The points of view and conflicts about former slaves owning slaves were told in shades of gray. It was not preachy. It fully demonstrated the complexities of life situations. I would recommend it highly.

Review by

I was impressed with Jones's first collection of stories, LOST IN THE CITY, but was transfixed by his novel. The ending made me gasp out loud. The range of characters across racial and political spectra keeps you questioning and reassessing your beliefs and expectations.

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