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The Known World: A Novel Paperback – May 13 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; Reprint edition (May 13 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060557559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060557553
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #95,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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The evening his master died he worked again well after he ended the day for the other adults, his own wife among them, and sent them back with hunger and tiredness to their cabins. Read the first page
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bobby-Ray on Jan. 27 2005
Format: Paperback
Much has already been said about the basic plot of this book, so I'd like to address the non-linear writing style...imagine yourself as a leaf tumbling down a stream, sometimes hurtling forward, yet frequently caught in little swirling eddies along the edges. If you relax and 'go with the flow' rather than expecting this book to read as you would wish, you will find it to be an astounding and seductive experience on several levels. The viewpoint of this book is equally fluid; through some magic, Jones has you seeing life through the eyes of whatever character he's currently focused upon. There are terrible, ugly, beautiful, sad, heartwarming things that happen constantly throughout this book and somehow, you are always identifying through the protagonist of the moment, whether this be a slave or a slave patroller, frightening as that might be. There is no melodrama here. Somehow, everything is just taken for granted, assumed...it is, after all, their known world. And, for a brief time, ours as well. We eventually come to take it for granted. We can look back with the smugness of time and condemn slavery and its consequential perverse social structurings. Yet a book like this makes one question our own 'known world,' the social structures and cultural practices we take for granted and assume we are powerless to change. I wonder what our descendents will find equally perverse here...probably our oil addiction which forces us to attempt to control countries half-way around the world rather than simply learning to make do with less here at home. Another great Amazon pick would be Jackson McCrae's THE CHILDREN'S CORNER which is not a book for children, but rather a collection of fantastic stories about being human.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 8 2010
Format: Paperback
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bess Creshvonich on June 28 2005
Format: Paperback
"The Known World" is a remarkable novel. I place it in the league of "The Color Purple", "My Fractured Life", and "The Kite Runner." The writing is crystal clear with swelling and spilling emotional conflict: black versus white, black versus black, man versus woman. Few writers can capture the blurred imaginary lines that cultures errect with such accuracy. "The Known World" is a an elite, must read. I also recommend "The Kite Runner", "My Fractured Life", "The Known World" and "1776."
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By Angela Mayhew on April 1 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You have to read this novel! The characters, style of writing, and historical accuracy make it difficult to put this book down.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. T. Roosevelt on July 17 2004
Format: Paperback
Many of the characters in this book are unlettered, and unaccustomed to the niceties of punctuation and grammar; but there's no excuse for the writer and editor to be likewise.
Consider: "The mule followed him, and after he had prepared the animal for the night and came out, Moses smelled the coming of rain." Why are people calling this beautiful writing? When you read it out loud, don't you trip over the change of tenses? (In fact, every page I tried failed the reading-aloud test.)
Or this:"The 1840 U.S. census contained an enormous amount of facts,..." Um, no, in standard English, that's 'number of facts' (or some such); or 'amount of information'.

A bit later: "Fern Elston had chosen not to follow her siblings and many of her cousins into a life of being white." The paragraph goes on to explain why this was a good choice. The next paragraph begins, "But it had never crossed Fern's mind to pass as white." Well, which is it? If the second is true, the first should not be there, and vice versa.
The plot is no tighter than the prose, meandering through time in both preview and flashback, as if there's no point in reading from page one to the end--as indeed there may not be. The material is potentially interesting, but it's so carelessly presented, I wouldn't bother.
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