The Known World, Edward P. Jones, 2003.

Written by Edward P. Jones, The Known World is an interesting novel in many ways (probably the reason why it received the Pulitzer Price in 2003). The plot revolves around Henry Townsend’s family in antebellum Virginia. His father, Augustus, was a slave who bought his freedom. Later, he managed to buy his wife and his son. Henry, convinced that he can be just as good as the whites around him, becomes a slave owner and tries to build up a flourishing plantation. Unfortunately Henry dies very young and the plantation is left in the inexperienced hands of his wife.

This novel is particularly interesting in its construction. We follow the lives of several characters who are quickly introduced. The flash backs and the jumps into the future makes the narration unusually cut off but not hard to follow. The reader gets acquainted with the main characters rapidly and doesn’t lose the plot.

The main subject is the slavery and more particularly, black slave owners… ” It took Moses more than two weeks to come to understand that someone wasn’t fiddling with him and that indeed a black man, two shares darker than himself, owned him and any shadow he made. Sleeping in a cabin beside Henry in the first weeks after the sale, Moses had thought that is was already a strange world that made him a slave to a white man, but God had indeed set it twirling and twisting every which way when he put black people to owning their own kind. Was God even up there attending to business anymore? ” The novel doesn’t give the answer to the question I was asking myself through the whole book “How on Earth an ex slave can own slaves ? How can he put his own through the horror of slavery when he just left it ?” It makes the reader think about the way human beings look at their fellow men.

I’d give it an 8/10.


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