Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner

The Known World by Edward P. Jones


Publisher: Harper Perennial

Length: 432 pages

About: Pre Civil-War Ex-Slave Owning Slaves

Style: 3rd person

Where: Virginia, US

When: 1855-90s



Publisher’s synopsis:

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 writing.


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2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

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