Aberjhani's Reviews > The Known World

The Known World by Edward P. Jones
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Apr 22, 15

bookshelves: literature, fiction
Recommended for: Whoever enjoys a good novel.
Read in February, 2005


Edward P. Jones' Bold Vision of "The Known World"

This story would have been exciting enough based only on the fact that Edward P. Jones so boldly took the antebellum novel to a place it has never gone before; namely, to black slave-owner Henry Townsend's plantation in Manchester, Virginia. There, the "Known World" is wholly different from what one might expect. But this seemingly obviously absurd anomaly of U.S. history, wherein black masters owned black slaves, doesn’t stop with that rarely discussed fact. It is further illuminated by Jones' flights into the fantastic with observations of sentient lightning, children with the personalities of bitter grandparents, and, comically enough, freak chickens.

Mixed within this potent literary brew are some of the most original and dynamic characters, male and female, ever to step into the pages of American fiction. In fact, one of the more remarkable features of Jones’ amazing novel is his portrayal of how specific individuals sometimes managed to exploit the institution of slavery in order to indulge their own private needs, quirks, or agendas.

It's true that the alternating biblical density and epic expansiveness of details and events with which Jones builds his narrative can at times prove challenging. However, this same aesthetic ultimately delivers a triumphant satisfaction. Jones' Pulitzer--and any other awards received for this novel--was well earned and deserved.

by Author-Poet Aberjhani
author of "Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance" (Facts on File Library of American History)
and "The Wisdom Of W.E.B. Du Bois" (Wisdom Library)
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