This was Jones' first novel & it won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. It was also only his second published work, the first of which he did not publish until he was near forty. It is mainly the story of Henry Townsend, a wealthy slave owner in 1800's Virginia, who is a former slave himself. But it is also the story of every person you encounter in Manchester, Virginia. A complex & amazingly orchestrated novel, it sits on my shelf between Ken Kesey & Kurt Vonnegut. — Northshire Staff
From National Book Award-nominated author Edward P. Jones comes a debut novel of stunning emotional depth and unequaled literary power
Henry Townsend, a farmer, boot maker, and former slave, through the surprising twists and unforeseen turns of life in antebellum Virginia, becomes proprietor of his own plantation—as well his own slaves. When he dies, his widow Caldonia succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love under the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend household, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave “speculators” sell free black people into slavery, and rumors of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years.
An ambitious, courageous, luminously written masterwork, The Known World seamlessly weaves the lives of the freed and the enslaved—and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery. The Known World not only marks the return of an extraordinarily gifted writer, it heralds the publication of a remarkable contribution to the canon of American classic literature.
Edward P. Jones, the New York Times bestselling author, has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award for The Known World; he also received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2004. His first collection of stories, Lost in the City, won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was short listed for the National Book Award. His second collection, All Aunt Hagar’s Children, was a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award. He has been an instructor of fiction writing at a range of universities, including Princeton. He lives in Washington, D.C.