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Any Known Blood

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,994 Ratings  ·  179 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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Community Reviews

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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.
Jan 14, 2014 Victoria rated it really liked it
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
I tried to read this after having loved The Book of Negroes, but the character development in this book just wasn't there and the entitled attitude of the father didn't help either. Maybe one day, I'll finish it. I got 100 pages in and dnf-ed.
Dec 09, 2011 Bobbi rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
May 02, 2011 Joanne-in-Canada rated it really liked it
Shelves: apl-book-club
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.
Read In Colour
Dec 08, 2014 Read In Colour rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books
Loved the story lines, loved the characters and loved the narration. At 15 1/2 hours, I thought it would take me at least a week or two to get through this, but it was so good that I listened at home, at work and on my commute.
Any Known Blood was my second read of the year. The story begins in Canada, where speech writer Langston Cane V pulls a hilarious stunt with the Prime Minister’s speech. It leads to the Prime Minister, and subsequently Langston, being “fired with cause.” After viewing the incident as a chance to start anew, he sets out to reconstruct the lives of his ancestors, particularly the four generations of Cane men that preceded him.

This is an intricate story that delves into the lives of the Canes’ pat
Oct 15, 2015 Ruthie rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-lit, 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
Deborah Stevenson
Dec 20, 2015 Deborah Stevenson rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. As an amateur genealogist it engaged me in family history and as a reader I cared about the Cane family of all generations.
Highly recommend.
Feb 14, 2016 ReadingMiss0 rated it liked it
ANY KNOWN BLOOD by Lawrence Hill was an entertaining read. The novel is told by Langston Cane the Fifth, a man who sees his life as a failure. Unlike the previous men of the same name, he hasn’t had a successful career, he has bounced around his whole life in terms of employment, he has a failed marriage and no children. He has always loved words and learning what he could about his family history. Langston the Fifth is bored of his life the way it is.

After losing his job, Langston decides it is
Apr 07, 2014 Mkb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2014 Lynn rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, canadian
In Any Known Blood, Langston Cane V self-sabotages his communications career by including info on a secret document in a speech he has written for a government minister. Jobless, divorced, and generally at loose ends, he heads to Baltimore to research his family history. The book then carries on detailing the lives of the Langston Canes that came before him. There's lots of interesting history in this book as Lawrence Hill delves into the black experience on both sides of the Canadian/US border. ...more
Robb Coulter
May 31, 2015 Robb Coulter rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
The progeny of a white mother and black father Langston Crane takes us on a journey of discovery from his home in Oakville Canada to find his family's roots in Baltimore. Its a great tale of discovery and shows us the complexities of race relations not only white versus black but also black versus black and black versus mulato. While not as exciting and engaging perhaps as a book of Negros, Lawrence Hill still has found a way to keep us interested while educating us in the world of inter racial ...more
3.5 stars

Langston Cane the Fifth – part-white from his mother’s side, and part-black from his father’s - has just been fired from his job, and is recently divorced. He doesn’t quite know what to do with himself, so he heads to Baltimore from Oakville, Ontario. Generations of his family have been moving between the cities (and countries) since his great-great-grandfather escaped slavery in the mid-1800s. Langston decides he’d like to learn more about his family’s history.

It was good. Lawrence Hi
Shelly Sanders
Sep 20, 2014 Shelly Sanders rated it liked it
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
May 10, 2014 Yasmin rated it liked it
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
Jun 04, 2012 Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-lit
"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
Sep 28, 2012 Martha☀ rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2011 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
The Baking Bookworm
Jan 29, 2013 The Baking Bookworm rated it it was amazing
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
Waheedah Bilal
Jun 05, 2015 Waheedah Bilal rated it it was amazing
Excellent story that follows five generations of an African-Canadian-American family in a compelling story, which travels artfully from 19th-century Virginia slave to the modern, predominantly white suburbs of Oakville, Ontario that was once a final stop on the Underground Railroad. Beautifully written, by the author of "Someone Knows My Name," wry and witty, it is an engrossing tale about one man’s attempt to understand his identity by unearthing and giving voice to those who came before him.
Nancy Gillies
Dec 10, 2015 Nancy Gillies rated it liked it
The thing that I liked best about this book was finding out more about the history of a place where I once lived (Oakville, Ontario). I was aware there was some connection to the slave trade but didn't know the extent. While it was interesting to follow Langston Cane V's uncovering of the story of his ancestors, I found a lot of the dialogue to be stilted and the manner of disclosing the family stories to be too contrived. I enjoyed The Book of Negroes much more than this book.
Aug 26, 2013 Leslie rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 19, 2011 Steven Langdon rated it really liked it
"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
Mar 08, 2011 Jamie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean Bailey
Jan 10, 2012 Sean Bailey rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 13, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This is a great book.

It follows the lives of five African-American men, all named Langston Cane, through the trials and tortures of their lives on both sides of the Canada-US border. Although a work of historical fiction, the characters are well developed enough to be round and interesting and the love stories are particularly touching.
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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...

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