One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, The Known World is a daring and ambitious work by Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones.
The Known World tells the story of 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. Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all its moral complexities.
The bizarre world of American slavery has been the subject of much fiction, some of it uncommonly good, from Harriet Beecher Stowe to William Faulkner to Toni Morrison. This extraordinary novel -- the best new work of American fiction to cross my desk in years -- takes as its subject one of the most peculiar anomalies of that endlessly provocative and troubling subject: In the antebellum South, where whites systematically enslaved blacks, there were free blacks who themselves owned black slaves. Jonathan Yardley