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Any Known Blood

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,521 ratings  ·  138 reviews
Spanning five generations, sweeping across a century and a half of almost unknown history, this acclaimed and unexpectedly funny novel is the story of a man seeking himself in the mirror of his family's past. There were Canes in Canada before the United States erupted into civil war. Their roots are deep, their legacy is rich, but Langston Cane V knows little of his herita ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published December 16th 1998 by William Morrow (first published 1997)
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I thought I had already added this book to my shelves. I think it was one of the first books I read by Larry prior to signing on to Booming Ground (UBC), and mentoring with him for 4 months (ending Winter 2007, when The Book of Negroes was being released). In a way, I think this book may have been a lead-up to the latter, not that it is the same story, but in that it covers 150 years re: black experience both in the U.S. and Canada...Recommended.
What I liked most about Lawrence Hill’s novel “Any Known Blood” was perhaps the one thing I also disliked about it. While this may sound like an oxymoron, Hill’s use of time travel throughout the novel quickly became convoluted and difficult to follow. Despite this, the novel provides an adventure through the racial tensions of the past century and a half.

The story revolves around Langston Cane V, a somewhat angsty character who once worked as a government speechwriter in Toronto. The plot of th
If you've read Lawrence Hill's "Someone Knows My Name" you may be disappointed by this one. It involves a black Canadian who has decided to trace his family roots back to slavery. The story moves from his father, back to his great, great grandfather who was a slave. The problem is that the story does not move smoothly back and forth. Because all of them had the same name, Langston Cane, it's confusing. The first Langston Cane was thought to have taken part in John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. ...more
Joanne in Canada
With a simple, unadorned style, Canadian Lawrence Hill conjures up five generations of strong and resilient yet fallible black men, all named Langston Cane, deftly keeping them distinct with clear shifts between their stories. A highly recommended book by the author of "The Book of Negroes" (published as "Someone Knows My Name" is the States) and the brother of singer Dan Hill.
Nov 18, 2014 Ruthie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
I really loved Hill's Book of Negroes - Someone Knows My Name, in the USA, and this book is almost as good! I felt there were some story threads that could have been omitted as they added nothing to the story, and there was a lot of repetition, especially with the speechifying the father did, but otherwise it was an engrossing, entertaining and important read. Hill certainly creates vibrant and distinct characters, and he obviously did a lot of research. I loved learning about the history of Bla ...more
I read this book really quickly because I really liked the premise and the characters. I especially liked the introduction to the main character. Perhaps this is because I clearly recognized his world (Toronto! Civil service!). In terms of the parts of the book in which the author goes back in time to tell the stories of the main character's ancestors, I think that some of them were more engaging than others. I think the farther back in time one goes, the more distant the events are, and the har ...more
Shelly Sanders
After reading Any Known Blood for the second time, I am quite comfortable saying that author Lawrence Hill focuses more on character than plot. I would say the same for his highly acclaimed The Book of Negroes with characters so real you can see their faces and hear their voices. It is the beauty of his prose, his attention to the finest of details, that bring his characters to life, as seen in the Prologue of Any Known Blood.
"They watched their shadows, and, to see them better, stood slightly a
In the very beginning page there is a scene between two characters (I won't give out the scene so as not to ruin it for people whom haven't read this book) and it the result is very serious. A man's life is endangered because he is a black man with a white woman and in a period of time that could have the black man killed. However, this scene is never referenced to again. What ever happened to that black man and that white woman? Was he killed? How did he survive. Unfortunately a blank. The book ...more
This is another great Lawrence Hill book. (This one was written before his Book of Negros (in the US it is titled Someone Knows my Name).

It is a fictional family history. We see a man struggling to understand how he fits into an accomplished family through history. He seeks to learn more about his ancestors, particularly Langston Cane (the first). All the generations’ stories are interesting. It was a book I raced through reading.

At first it is a little difficult to keep all the generations stra
Friederike Knabe
"Any Known Blood" is the story of Langston Cane V and his journey of discovery through five generations of an African American Canadian family living since the 1850s in either the US and Canada. Lawrence Hill's own background provided the inspiration and depth for this multilayered family saga that he weaves like a rich tapestry of characters, places and events. The language is personal and direct, the protagonist's account of his quest interlaced with excerpts from his forebears' diaries or let ...more
This is a book that grows on you the deeper you get into it. For the beginning third, I was a bit confused as to where the true plot was leading. I think it would be helpful to know in advance that Lawrence Hill uses Langston Cane the fifth, the key narrator, to research and uncover the life stories of the previous four Langston Canes while, at the same time, allowing LC the 5 some time for self-discovery. LC the 5 is the thread that holds the other four narratives together.
The movement through
Instantly one of my top ten books ever! A man looking for his heritage. Interesting to me since it takes place in Oakville, Toronto and Baltimore. Insightful and sometimes irreverent. For example:

Quotes from Any Known Blood, by Lawrence Hill, 1997, Harper Collins.

On a Greyhound bus to Toronto in the late 1940’s, a black man meets a white woman, about fifty, with gray hair and blue eyes.

Quote: “You’re a deep sleeper.” She said.

“I was meditating.” he said, grinning.

“Sure,” she said. “Since when d
Dianne Kaucharik
So many reviews have already described the plot so I'll jump right to my critique. First of all, the book's prologue (and other scenes as well) seemed rather gratuitous and didn't have a later tie in...or did I miss that? Although Lawrence Hill's writing style is fluent and easy, I found the manner in which the story unfolded confusing at times. With 5 generations of black men having the same name of Langston Cane and many of them having relationships with white women, I had to refer regularly t ...more
Langston Cane V is a thirty-eight year old divorced man who sets on a journey of self-discovery by tracing his roots back for five generations. After losing his job for sabotaging a government official’s speech, Cane embarks on a quest to uncover his family’s history. What he finds in his past not only brings him pride to carry on the tradition of the family name, but it helps him to develop his own sense of self.

Langston begins his search with family documents from his aunt’s house and slowly p
This review was originally posted on my blog, The Baking Bookworm (

My Thoughts: I have to preface this review by letting you all know that I'm a big fan of Lawrence Hill after reading (and loving) his "Book of Negroes" (known in the USA as "Someone Knows My Name"). It was a fantastic book so I knew that Mr Hill had some mighty big shoes to fill in order to impress me. My verdict? Lawrence Hill continues to amaze me with another outstanding book. While I still fe
Spanning five generations, sweeping across a century and a half of almost unknown history, this acclaimed and unexpectedly funny novel is the story of a man seeking himself in the mirror of his family's past.

There were Canes in Canada before the United States erupted into civil war. Their roots are deep, their legacy is rich, but Langston Cane V knows little of his heritage. He is thirty-eight, divorced, and childless and has just been fired for sabotaging a government official's speech. The eld
Steven Langdon
"Any Known Blood" is a fine novel, spanning generations, diverse black perspectives and differing urban experiences (Toronto and Baltimore.) It has much more of an autobiographical flavour than the recent prize-winning "Book of Negroes" that Hill has also written. A wider set of vivid characters interact in this book -- Langston Cane V is trying to come to terms with his famous father's activist fame, Aunt Mill is wondering how to leave her prominent role in the church in Baltimore and return to ...more
This was an odd book to me. At times it was intriguing and even captivating, but it was very confusing to follow, as the story told of five generations of men, all named Langston Cane, and it didn't start with the oldest and go in chronological order, but rather jumped here and there and back and forth. It left me very often wondering which Langston Cane was currently being talked about. The book also included some very sexually explicit encounters and every mention of a baptist or episcopal min ...more
Dayle Gaetz
Oct 30, 2014 Dayle Gaetz added it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Dayle by: my daughter
Excellent writing, characters both past and present come alive on the pages with all their faults, loves, loyalties and disappointments. The narrator explores five generations of his paternal ancestors from the days of slavery in the USA, through escape to Oakville ON, where racism might have been less violent but was always present. Well worth reading
Sean Bailey
Any Known Blood was the second book by Lawrence Hill that I’ve read, but it was published 10 years before his more recognized book “The Book of Negroes”, in 1997. This book is different from The Book of Negroes, but Hill’s writing style is equally captivating. Set in Toronto/Oakvlle and Baltimore this book follows Langston Cane the fifth on his quest to find his family’s history and write a book about it. The book travels back through 5 generations of Cane’s (all named Langston) and tells their ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I liked it better than his later "Book of Negroes" but that is probably just a matter of taste. I enjoyed the historical connections but I liked meeting his characters, who are all very real in their various generations and eras. I recommend this book if you like historical novels.
I definitely prefer Lawrence Hill's "The Book of Negroes" over this novel. This story spans 5 generations of Langston Cane's and is told by Langston Cane the 5th. He goes on a quest to find information about his family to be able to write a novel. His journey takes him back and forth from Canada to the States and the story goes back to the era of slave trade.

The story was not told in chronological order of the past 4 Langston Canes, and so at times it was a bit confusing to know which generatio
Very good book. Perhaps a little confusing at times (five Langston Canes!) but it was very interesting to compare generations. Tere are some very memorable characters. If you liked The Book Of Negroes or Someone Knows My Name (as it's called outside of Canada) then you'll like this one too but one is not related to the other. If you haven't read BoN, read this one anyways and pick up BoN too while you're at it (I can't believe it hasen't been made into a movie yet)
Oh my..this is my second time reading this book..and it is still really enjoyable! Though there is much written on all the 'horrible-ness' that happens with racism and bigotry (and we all know it is always worse in life than in book words)..this book still feels good and happy. I think that that is just the way Lawrence Hill writes..very serious subject--yet even his non fiction reads with a somewhat gentle edge. That way of writing makes things 'stick in my head' much better..and longer!
Ruth Henault
5th generation of men with the same name, young black man peels back the layers of his family history - slavery is an ugly business - excellent book!

The writing flow of this book was captivating. The story or part history of the forefathers were touching., the slow unravelling of the each generation finding their partners was appealing.
I wish there was more to the story of Langston cane the second.

This book shows the determination of a few people who strive towards better education and better quality of life all through. Had they taken into self pity, their story would have been doomed at the very start.

Very proud and happy to know tha
The writing felt artificial and the plot wasn't even that good. I was expecting more.
Always love books that follow the characters from one generation to another
The history was interesting, but it was not as good as The Book of Negros.
Sage Whitworth
I think the only reason this book didn't live up to my expectations is because I secretly wanted another "Book of Negroes". Sorry Lawrence Hill.
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Lawrence Hill is a journalist and novelist.

His third novel, published as The Book of Negroes in Canada and Someone Knows My Name elsewhere, won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book and the 2007 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
More about Lawrence Hill...
Someone Knows My Name Some Great Thing Blood: The Stuff of Life Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning

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