Publisher: Harper Perennial
Length: 432 pages
About: Pre Civil-War Ex-Slave Owning Slaves
Style: 3rd person
Where: Virginia, US
Set in Manchester County, Virginia, 20 years before the Civil War began, Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in
Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold
the estate's order and chaos ensues.
Moses closed his eyes and bent down and took a pinch of the soil and ate it with no more thought than if it were a spot of cornbread. He worked the dirt around in his mouth and swallowed, leaning
his head back and opening his eyes in time to see the strip of sun fade to dark blue and then to nothing. He was the only man in the realm, slave or free, whoate dirt, but while the bondage women,
particularly the pregnant ones, ate it for some incomprehensible need, for that something that ash cakes and apples and fatback did not give their bodies, he ate it not only to discover the strengths
and weaknesses of the field, but because the eating of it tied him to the only thing in his small world that meant almost as much as his own life.
The first paragraph exquisitely connects, nearly 400 pages later, with the last. Against all the evidence to the contrary that American fiction has given us over the past quarter-century, The
Known World affirms that the novel does matter, that it can still speak to us as nothing else can.
The Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley 24th August 2003
Not so good:
There is sometimes a little too much mundane detail, slowing the pace, but the overlapping stories develop eventually into a moral epic, skilfully and sensitively constructed so as to test
everyone, black or white or 'pecan-coloured', slave or free, against the peculiar rules of that narrow world, by their own lights, not ours.
The Sunday Times, John Spurling, 22nd August 2004
About the author
Edward Paul Jones was born in 1951 and raised in Washington, D.C., and educated at both the College of the Holy Cross and the University of Virginia. In the spring and fall semesters of 2009,
Jones was a visiting professor of creative writing at the George Washington University. In fall 2010 he joined the English department faculty to teach creative