The Known World by Edward P. Jones


[Edit: Originally published November  19, 2016]

Set in the fictional Manchester County in Virginia, The Known World is the story of Henry Townsend, a Black man who owns slaves, and those slaves. One of the main characters the story follows is named Moses, but one of the beautiful things about the book is that it develops all it’s minor characters in such a way that they don’t feel like minor characters anymore. They all get their own backstory and a glimpse into the future. Of course there are characters that get more attention than others, but you can’t say that any of the characters in this book are underdeveloped. 

I found the structure a little confusing at first. The story is not told entirely chronologically. There is a major storyline that progresses chronologically, but in telling about the characters it often jumps around between the characters’ past present and future. It takes a bit of adjusting if you aren’t expecting the story to be told that way. In the end, however, I very much enjoyed the way that the book ended up flowing.

It’s kind of a heavy book, it’s about slavery. Not a book to pick up if you’re looking for something light-hearted. But also not a book that should be overlooked just because it deals with heavier subject matter. It’s an engaging read and beautifully written. The characters are some of the most beautiful complex and well developed I’ve read in a long time, you reach a level of attachment that leaves you devastated when something happens to them. 

Some warnings:

Death – human and animal.

Torture – this is a book about slavery, it features abuse and tortures that go in line with that.

Sex – There’s nothing super explicit, but it’s there.

You can get the book here.