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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This I know
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...
Published on Jan. 27 2005 by Bobby-Ray

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars reader beware
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...
Published on July 17 2004 by C. T. Roosevelt


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This I know, Jan. 27 2005
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read, May 8 2010
By 
Heather Pearson "Heather" (Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (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.

Plot spoiler
One of the most difficult passages for me to read was when Augustus was detained by the slave patrollers and sold back into slavery. The tears were rolling down my cheeks unchecked. It did help when a bit later in the story, Barnum, the only patroller who objected to the enslavement, confesses the events to the sherriff. Barnum knew that what they had done was wrong and he wanted to do the right thing. He called for a stronger law or some sort of "body" that could discern right and wrong to ensure that this didn't happen again.A moment of true insight.

This book provides many opportunities for discussion: interactions between the free and the enslaved blacks, the treatment of the free blacks by the white population, and the very act of slavery then and today.

Winner of the 2003 New York Times Best Book of the Year Award for Fiction
Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the 2005 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elite, June 28 2005
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (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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5.0 out of 5 stars The Known World, April 1 2013
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This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (Paperback)
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
1.0 out of 5 stars reader beware, July 17 2004
By 
C. T. Roosevelt "Any good books" (Cambridge, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Know thyself, June 7 2005
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (Paperback)
Likened to Jackson McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its themes of race, THE KNOWN WORLD did not initially pique my interest. Fortunately, both books deal with the subject in a new and exciting manner. Read on: Slavery is one of those topics that present day Mississippians may shy away from as a matter of principle. There is the ever-present refrain to "get beyond" race and tout the positive aspects of the New South, the mantra that is often used by both black and white Southerners. I'm not one who believes it, but I did have the crusty misconception when I began THE KNOWN WORLD that there wasn't much more I could learn on the subject of slavery and its effects, both then and now. However, Eudora Welty's photograph on the book's cover helped peak my interest and after the first chapter I didn't need any more encouragement to continue. THE KNOWN WORLD is an entirely surprising testament to why no one, black or white, should refuse to constantly revisit the roots of the here and now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do we really know?, July 31 2007
By 
maya j (Quail Crossing) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (Paperback)
The Known World is a literary masterpiece. In beginning the book, you wonder how hard it will be to read in the manner of mid-19th century country/slave vernacular, but in page after page, the language just flows, and there is no denying the language is painting a picture of who these people are. There are numerous characters, yet they are so vivid in their representation, it is impossible to get confused as to who did what. Some of the characters you love, and of course, others are just repugnant. As I read The Known World, I felt I could actually hear the singing in the field, smell the smells of the slave barracks, and see the humid, torrid heat of the southern countryside. It's not a typical story about slavery. Former slaves owning slaves is a part of our national footprint I don't think has been written about much. Now, thanks to Edward P. Jones, we possess a manuscript of an amazingly enlightened view of this old world phenomenon. In addition, Edward P. Jones' writing is so eloquent and fluent in the nature of "this world", you wonder if he could have actually lived it. It is a beautiful story that, although sad, is also compelling and makes you feel smug and small in the scheme of this "Known World".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Strength of Spirit, July 11 2005
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (Paperback)
"The Known World" is strong and heartbreaking at the same time. Set before the Civil War, the book is about a black slave owner. In addition to the drama and conflict that the premise sets us in, author Edward P. Jones shows an expertise in use of time and plot shift. It's hard to believe it's a debut novel. After reading "The Known World" you'll be inclined to put it in the same category of writing as "The Alchemist", "The Time Traveler's Wife", "My Fractured Life", and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of all its praise..., July 14 2004
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (Paperback)
Edward P. Jones' first novel "The Known World" is a landmark in American literature. I do not say that lightly. It has a difficult, yet entertaining and understandable writing style, handles its subject matter with historical accuracy and human relateability, and has some of the most genuine and authentic dialogue I have ever read. For once a contemporary American novel is worth the hype. The success of the book is largely due to how successfully it defies the typical novel structure. There is a thin central storyline here, acting as the nucleus of Jones' myriad of slave folk stories and dozens of characters wrapped around it. There are many names in the book, but Jones always informs and re-informs the reader of just who is who and their importance to the overall piece. Also, the book is so beautifully written you'll find it difficult to put down. This is definitely one that will stay with you long after you've finished it, and I don't think I'd be wrong if I said it's one of the best books of at least the last decade.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Justice Deserved!, July 14 2004
This review is from: The Known World: A Novel (Paperback)
Recommend for every Americans to read.
Touching the hearts of everyone, this novel describes the life in a county in America before the war ended the black slaves. This part of history is familiar especially with the US residents, who always claim they are the living for justice, they are the international police for the world, and they are the true followers of Jesus Christ!!!
Inside the America, there were a lot of abuses in races back before the black slaves were all freed. Similarly, there are still discrimination and mis-treat of people by the "whites" as of today.
Is there any compensation for the people whose ancestors were kidnapped from Africa and sold like goods in the markets? Do they deserved any justice and respect from our generations?
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The Known World: A Novel
The Known World: A Novel by Edward Jones (Paperback - May 13 2004)
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