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Washington Black

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  54,416 ratings  ·  6,278 reviews

A stunning new novel of slavery and freedom by the author of the Man Booker and Orange Prize shortlisted Half Blood Blues

When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, Washington Black - an eleven year-old field slave - finds himself selected as personal servant to one of these men. The eccentric Christopher 'Titch' W
Hardcover, 419 pages
Published August 2nd 2018 by Serpent's Tail
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Serah J Blain Sex, and the rape of enslaved girls, is alluded to, but no sex is explicitly described. There is a fair bit of violence--in particular, torture and mu…moreSex, and the rape of enslaved girls, is alluded to, but no sex is explicitly described. There is a fair bit of violence--in particular, torture and murder of enslaved people. There is also a graphically described suicide, and a public hanging. It is (rightly) unsettling at times. I would have let my daughter read this when she was twelve, but would definitely have wanted to have conversations with her about it. She's 16 now and I am highly encouraging her to read it, it's a wonderful book.(less)

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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  54,416 ratings  ·  6,278 reviews

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Petra Kiss
5 stars for part one of the book because it excited my interest.
4 stars for the generally, really wonderful writing.
3 stars for the second part of the book, good but elements were starting not to hang together.
2 stars for the third part because I was getting fed up with tell rather than show.
1 star for the sheer, dragging boredom of all the unlikely things that happen and the just as unlikely rationales, and having to wade my way through what now seems like turgid prose just to say "I finished t
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical, booker-18
Despite a cover that is currently winking at me with come-hither gold foiled clouds, this book was one mammoth slog from beginning to end. The most generous thing I can find to say is that it fairly "zips along" but to what purpose I am unsure.

Much focus has been placed on why a crime novel like Snap is on the Man Booker longlist but at the moment I am looking askance at this middling historical fiction / adventure tale. I am not adverse to historical fiction, Hilary Mantel being the master in m
Larry H
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars, rounded up.

"How was it possible, thought I, that we lived in such nightmare and all the while a world of men continued just over the horizon, men such as these, in ships moving in any direction the wind might lead them?"

George Washington ("Wash") Black is an 11-year-old slave growing up on a sugar plantation in Barbados in 1830. He has felt the cruelty of his master and his overseers, and seen the violence with which other slaves are treated. But when the master dies, there is little
Read By RodKelly
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm SHOCKED this is on the Man Booker Shortlist...
The book has an incredibly strong opening: the pacing and character development are pitch perfect, a real page-turner. However, about 150 pages in, the plot dissolves and morphs into one of those clunky YA narratives: this happens, then this happens, then this happens. We're told, not shown, and this endless chain of events leads NO WHERE. I'm pissed 🙃
Jessica Woodbury
I was curious about how people reviewed this book and it appears that the Goodreads consensus is "a historical adventure story that gets more boring as time passes" and I would like to say for the record that these reviews are all wrong.

Yes, technically I suppose you can classify this as an adventure story. There are journeys across several countries and continents, there are searches and escapes, there is a cast of eccentric characters. But I don't really care much for that kind of story, I do
Elyse  Walters
Audiobook narrated by Dion Graham.....( great raspy voice)

The language -words - sentences - dialogue - are beautiful, intense, suspenseful, with ranges of temperatures - smells - creatures - smiles - fierceness - wildness - anxiousness - desire - softness- gentleness- electrifying moments - harrowing scenes - present stillness - quietness - saucy entertaining - touching - astonishing - unsettling - genuinely felt ....( the fear, the feelings of bitterness, the will for violence - kill or be kill
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

My seventh book from the longlist is another choice that may have surprised people, and I found it a very enjoyable read. It gives the adventure story a modern twist by making its eponymous hero a slave born on a plantation in Barbados in the early 19th century.

The Faith Plantation's owner has died, leaving it in the hands of the sadistic and barbarous Erasmus Wilde, almost a caricature villain. Brought into the house as a waiter, Wash catches the eye of
This is the Man Booker title that I was the most trepidatious about picking up this year, not because I doubted its quality, but just because there is nothing about a nineteenth century Caribbean and North American-set historical fiction adventure tale that appeals to me. So with that said, I guess I did enjoy this more than I expected to... just not enough to really understand its inclusion on the Booker shortlist over more structurally innovative and intellectually stimulating titles.

This book
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Winner of the Giller Prize 2018
The Booker judges seem to be eager to add quite some material that is highly accessible and easily readable this year, but while the inclusion of Snap seemed outrageous to me, this is a defendable choice. Edugyan writes about slavery, racism, and identity, but in the form of an adventure novel, told chronologically and in the first person. While this makes for a rather conservative narrative strategy, the author clearly knows how to compose an engaging and compelli
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"A man who has belonged to another learns very early to observe a master's eyes; what I saw in this man's terrified me." Erasmus Wilde was the new master of Faith Plantation, Barbados. The year was 1830. George Washington Black "Wash" was a ten year old field slave who helped "clear the cane". Wash had no family but Big Kit, a field slave as well, nurtured him. Reading Wash's palm, she declared, "you will have a great big life, child..."

Erasmus Wilde, the eldest son of an adventurer, was left in
Eric Anderson
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When considering the immeasurable evil of slavery it’s difficult to fully fathom the ramifications it had amongst so many individuals' lives. Not only were people’s freedom and lives brutally curtailed, controlled and cut short, but their talent and potential was also squandered. Esi Edugyan evocatively portrays the life of George Washington Black or “Wash”, a character with the aptitude to be a great artist and scientist were he not born into slavery on a Barbados plantation in 1818. But she gr ...more
"I will only say that if I have acquired any wisdom from Big Kit, it is to live always with your eyes cast forward, to seek what will be, for the path behind can never be retaken."

But Fate wrapped eleven year old George Washington Black in a cloak of uncertainty from the day that he was born. What future lies ahead for a field slave in 1830 on a Barbados sugar plantation surrounded in life's drudgery and seeped in the fear of daily existence?

And yet Fate stepped in and chose Wash for a trek into
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has a fantasy appeal along the lines of an adventure by Jules Verne.
Sep 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting historicaal fiction about becoming and seeking identity during the times when the abolotionist movement started gaining more and more popuarity.
I especially enjoyed part one in which Wash, a young slave boy, is fortunate enough to become a servant to a man of many scientific interests, Christopher Wilde, and is able to transforms his life. The descriptions of life on Faith Plantation, its climate, harsh life and cruelty are truly well presented. The money made from sugar which in
I finished Edugyan's third novel today in a fog, reading the last hundred pages completely engrossed in the strangely unreal world and story Edugyan had created, about a former slave, physically damaged from years in captivity but involved in the science of creating an indoor aquarium in London—something never done before.

If at first—and I have seen such criticism—the story seemed a little derivative of Jules Verne with wondrous and far-flung adventures, Edugyan pulled it off. There were wondrou
Ron Charles
“Washington Black” — one of the most anticipated books of the year — should finally get American readers to wake up to this extraordinary novelist across our Northern border. Esi Edugyan, a Canadian writer whose parents immigrated from Ghana, inspired a chorus of international praise for her previous novel, “Half-Blood Blues,” but it never attracted the audience it deserved in the United States.

That should change now.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, “Washington Black” is an engrossing hybrid
Britta Böhler
An entertaining, easy read (despite the subject of the book).
Reading this book was bit like eating cotton candy: fluffy and sweet but it leaves you with a slight stomach ache and a craving for some 'real' food.

2.5* (rounded up)
Peter Boyle
I'm not sure I'd have read Washington Black if it hadn't been nominated for the Booker Prize. I just don't think it would have been on my radar. But when I examined the synopses of all the long-listed novels, it jumped right to the top of my list. Of all the books selected, it sounded like the most accessible and entertaining. And it is a fun read. It's a globe-trotting romp, a fast-paced historical adventure.

Our narrator is the eponymous George Washington Black, an eleven-year-old slave on a Ba
Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
4 stars! A spellbinding and unforgettable journey!

George Washington Black “Wash” is an eleven-year-old black boy who was born into slavery on a sugar plantation in Barbados in the early 1800’s. He knows no other life other than working the fields for endless hours, sleeping in dirt floor huts and trying his best to avoid being noticed. He is an orphan who was taken in by “Big Kit”, a well-respected elder slave, the only mother-like figure he has ever known. One day, Christopher “Titch” Wilde, th
“Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan defies basic novel genres. It’s historical in that it begins in the year 1830 in Barbados on a sugar plantation. Our protagonist, George Washington Black, aka Wash, is an eleven-year-old slave on the plantation. The master of the plantation has died, and his brother comes to take his place. Fear is rampant as new masters can sometimes be worse than previous masters, and all of them are deadly.

Wash gains the attention of a brother of the new Master. Christopher,
Paul Fulcher
Now shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2020

"I had already seen many deaths: I knew the nature of evil. It was white like a duppy , it drifted down out of a carriage one morning and into the heat of a frightened plantation with nothing in its eyes."

Edi Edugyan's Washington Black: A Novel was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker.

The narrator starts by plunging into his story midstream before taking a step back:

"But that is no beginning. Allow me to begin again, for the record.
Susan's Reviews
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This lyrically written novel is half horror story, half adventure yarn. The descriptions of abuse, torture and outright murder of the slaves on the Barbados sugar plantation that was home to young Washington Black gave me nightmares. My heart was sickened by the description of other human as being just like so much furniture, easily broken and disposed of. Just despicable.
Erasmus Wilde was a sadistic man, and we learn at the end of the story that this was a lifelong attribute. Poor Christopher -
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I tried very hard to like this novel, but after the Arctic visit, I started to lose interest in the story. Wash started to get on my nerves, and the number of coincidences that strung the story together was too much for me.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan comes out in the USA on September 18, but I received an eARC from the publisher through Netgalley. And since it is on the Man Booker Prize longlist, I read it early! I can tell the Booker judges are up for an adventure story this year. This story of a child enslaved in Barbados who ends up traveling the world thanks to a scientist/explorer/adventurer, and discovers his own artistic talents. He travels all over where we can see the plight of former slaves in differ ...more
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rich, charming, gruesome account of a slave's journey through the age of discovery. The prose is spare and seductive. ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Now shortlisted for the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award.

Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker which gives rise to a nice matched set of comparisons (additional ones now added below).

2017 Man Booker novel about an unresolved mystery and set in the English countryside: Reservoir 13. 2018 equivalent: Snap.

2017 Man Booker allegorical novel about slavery and institutionalised racism. Underground Railroad. 2018 equivalent: this book. (*)

Perhaps even more disappointingly this has made the short
Roman Clodia
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This is certainly very readable but I'm not convinced that the various elements really come together. The brutalities of plantation life for black slaves have been more fully depicted elsewhere, not least in The Underground Railroad and the classic Beloved. The second half is more like a Victorian adventure: think Jules Verne here, with balloons, ship voyages, and scientific experiments to construct aquariums.

By the end, themes of freedom, homecoming and reparations emerge with concerns about t
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs, audio
This is such an interesting story. Wash is a young slave boy in Barbados when he is taken under the wing of the plantation owner’s brother to help with his science experiments.
Edugyan does a fabulous job of painting time and place, whether it’s Barbados or the Arctic. We see the cavalier cruelty of the whites to the blacks, the fear that the slaves have for their personal safety. Titch is the exception when it comes to the whites, but even he displays a callous disregard for Wash once they reac
Jennifer Blankfein
With history, science and creativity, talented author Esi Edugyan tells the story of an 11 year old slave, in Barbados and his adventurous escape to freedom.  Washington Black, or Wash, brought up in the sugar cane fields, experienced more than his share of oppression, suffering and abuse.  When the slave master's brother, Titch, visits the plantation and asks for the boy to be loaned to him, an unusual friendship and reliance developed between the two.

Growing up among brutal violence, Wash foun
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Esi Edugyan has a Masters in Writing from Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Best New American Voices 2003, ed. Joyce Carol Oates, and Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing (2006).

Her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, was published internationally. It was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, was a More Book Lust se

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“You took me on because I was helpful in your political cause. Because I could aid in your experiments. Beyond that I was of no use to you, and so you abandoned me.” I struggled to get my breath. “I was nothing to you. You never saw me as equal. You were more concerned that slavery should be a moral stain upon white men than by the actual damage it wreaks on black men.” 14 likes
“We must all take on faith the stories of our birth, for though we are in them, we are not yet present.” 12 likes
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