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July 2020: Southern > [Poll Ballot] The Known World by Edward P. Jones - 4 stars

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Joy D | 4044 comments The Known World by Edward P. Jones - 4 stars - My Review

Set in antebellum Virginia, a former slave, Henry Townsend, owns fifty acres of land and thirty-three slaves. As the story opens, Townsend is dying. The novel chronicles his life, the lives of his family members, and the lives of people he encountered in the community.

The main characters are three-dimensional and feel like real people, with both admirable traits and flaws. Jones employs an omniscient narrator and non-linear storytelling. He weaves together overlapping stories of past and present events, such that the reader knows what happens to these people in the future before knowing what has happened to them in the book’s “present.” There are a great many characters in this book and the list of Dramatis Personae is helpful in keeping them all straight.

This novel is based on a lesser known historical fact. While it was not common, it did happen that some free blacks owned slaves. It lends a complexity to the slavery narrative – showing how people can be impacted by society’s strictures and how victims of exploitation could become perpetrators of the same system.

This is not a quick and easy read. It feels like being immersed in the life and times of Manchester County, Virginia, in the 1850s. It is an eloquently written condemnation of oppression in any form. This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004.


Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6094 comments Great review, Joy.


Joy D | 4044 comments Book Concierge wrote: "Great review, Joy."

Thank you, BC!


Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6094 comments I just started reading: Fraternity by Diane Brady ... about a Jesuit priest who recruited black male students to attend college in Massachusetts in mid-late '60s. In one memorable class US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as Edward P. Jones !


Joy D | 4044 comments Book Concierge wrote: "I just started reading: Fraternity by Diane Brady ... about a Jesuit priest who recruited black male students to attend college in Massachusetts in mid-late '60s. In one memorable class US Su..."
Very cool! I will check it out.


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