BOOK REVIEW: The Known World – by Edward P. Jones

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Title: The Known World
Author: Edward P. Jones
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 14th 2003
Finished reading August 10th 2014
Pages: 388
Rating 3

“The hitter can never be the judge. Only the receiver of the blow can tell you how hard it was, whether it would kill a man or make a baby just yawn.”

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I first found this book when I was browsing for interesting historical fiction novels back in January. The story itself about a black farmer and former slave in the US of the 19th century sounded interesting and I decided to get a copy. After many months of collecting dust, I finally had the chance to read The Known World for the Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon. Unfortunately it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be… Don’t get me wrong, the story itself is definitely worth reading. It’s just that Edward P. Jones seemed to be wanting to include the stories of too many slaves and their owners, and the change in POV was confusing at some points. The fact that he wasn’t following a straight timeline didn’t help either, and it slowed down my reading considerately. If you don’t like keeping track of many characters and timelines, this book is definitely not for you. But if you like reading more about the situation of slaves and former slaves in the US before the Civil War, this one is still quite interesting.

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In The Known World, we mainly follow the story of Henry Townsend and his family. Henry is a black farmer and former slave who is now one of the few black slaveholders in the South. His former slave owner, William Robbins, has always favored him and helps him by selling him the first slave named Moses. Robbins is a very powerful man in Manchester County, and uses his influence to help him build and expand his farm. Henry’s parents don’t agree with his choice of owning slaves after all that took his father Augustus to finally buy them free. He doesn’t give in though, and when he dies at an unfortunate young age, he leaves his widow Caldonia in charge with quite a few slaves.

We read a lot about the years where Henry grows up being a slave of Robbins. His father bought himself free early in the story, but it took him years to buy his wife and son free as well. Henry worked close to Robbins during those years, and Robbins took a liking to the boy. Important to know about the slaveholder is that he has a black mistress and two children with the same woman. He is thus not the typical white slave owner and symphatises Henry in a way others might haven’t. When Augustus finally gets a chance to buy his son free, Henry keeps in touch with Robbins, and later starts his own farm close to the one he had worked as a slave. The Known World is also about the slaves Henry owns; different families all with their own problems. A few try to escape, others try to win over their owners. Caldonia doesn’t seem up to the task of holding the farm together when Henry dies, and the County has to jump in and intervene.

finalthoughts

 The Known World is an interesting book if you can ignore the multiple POV’s and the sometimes dense prose and suitable for those who enjoy historical fiction. It’s about the cruelty of the white officers, trying to make money out of selling free slaves, and violence used on innocent people. And it’s also about hope and a future without slavery… And the lives of those who still are slaves.

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Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon: Day 10,11 & 12

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Emily at Books & Cleverness is hosting a Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon in which I’m participating!. It’s all about finally reading those poor neglected books that have been collecting dust for six months or more…Below you can find my progress during days ten, eleven and twelve.

  • DAY 10: SUNDAY AUGUST 10TH
    # Book finished: Edward P. Jones – The Known World
    # Pages read: 103 (388/388; DONE!)
    I’m finally finished with The Known World! It was definitely a slow read and not one of my favorites… But I cannot deny the story idea itself was interesting and definitely kept me reading until the end. Review to follow soonish…
  • DAY 11: MONDAY AUGUST 11TH
    thenameofthewind# Book started: Patrick Rothfuss – The Name Of The Wind
    # Pages read: 80 (on page 80 out of 662)
    After a slow read, I decided to read The Name Of The Wind first. I was in the mood for some fantasy reading, and I’m definitely glad I choose this one, because I’m loving it. Even though I couldn’t read as much because of my eye working against me. Boo!
  • DAY 12: TUESDAY AUGUST 12TH
    # Book continued: Patrick Rothfuss – The Name Of The Wind
    # Pages read: 143 (on page 223 out of 662)
    Better eyesight means more reading, yay! I’m able to read more, and with me loving this book, I hope to finish it before the challenge ends… And maybe even squeeze in another book, who knows?

WWW Wednesdays #8 – August 13th

wwwwednesdays

Originally featured at Should Be Reading… WWW WEDNESDAYS is all about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

thenameofthewindI’m reading The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss as part of the Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon… I haven’t read as many pages as I would have wanted to… An eye infection is keeping me from reading for long periods at a time, boo! Until now I’m loving the story though, and I’m glad I finally picked up my copy of this one. I hope to finish The Name Of The Wind before the read-a-thon ends!

 

  • What did you recently finish reading?

Itheknownworld finished The Known World by Edward P. Jones a few days ago, but haven’t had the time to write a review yet. The idea of the book is interesting; a story about different slaves and their owners in the US of the 19th century. It was a slow read though and the many different POV’s made it confusing sometimes to keep reading and understanding the bigger picture. Not one of the best books I’ve read, but still worth it if you like the historical fiction genre.

 

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

mountainsIt’s probably going to be And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini… Although it depends on if I’m in the mood to read a ‘heavy’ book. I still have Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka on the read-a-thon list as well, which is a relatively short book, so depending on my readingspeed, I might choose the second one to see if I can finish another book before the challenge ends.

Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon: Day 7,8 & 9

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Emily at Books & Cleverness is hosting a Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon in which I’m participating!. It’s all about finally reading those poor neglected books that have been collecting dust for six months or more…Below you can find my progress during days seven, eight and nine.

  • DAY 7: THURSDAY AUGUST 7TH
    # Book continued: Edward P. Jones – The Known World 
    # Pages read: 60 (on page 124 out of 388)
    Boooo, not a lot of reading done today! I don’t know why, but I just don’t have a lot of spare time left for reading…

 

  • DAY 8: FRIDAY AUGUST 8TH
    # Book continued: Edward P. Jones – The Known World 
    # Pages read: 59 (on page 183 out of 388)
    Don’t get me wrong, this book is definitely interesting, but it takes a bit longer to finish it than normally. That and the fact that I have tons of non-reading stuff to do. 😦

 

  • DAY 9: SATURDAY AUGUST 9TH
    # Book continued: Edward P. Jones – The Known World 
    # Pages read: 102 (on page 285 out of 388)
    Argggh! I never seem to finish this one! A lot of short stories of the lives of various slaves, and although it’s interesting, it just takes me way longer to read than a normal novel. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I finish The Known World today…

Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon: Day 4,5 & 6

dusting-off-the-shelf-read-a-thon-graphic1

Emily at Books & Cleverness is hosting a Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon in which I’m participating!. It’s all about finally reading those poor neglected books that have been collecting dust for six months or more…Below you can find my progress during days four, five and six.

  • DAY 4: MONDAY AUGUST 4TH
    # Book finished: Stephen King – The Shining
    # Pages read: 91 (512/512; DONE!)
    flies# Book started: William Golding – Lord Of The Flies
    # Pages read: 40 (on page 40 out of 272)
    (Total pages read on Monday: 131)
    I was finally able to finish The Shining, yay! I ended up loving it, even though it is a very creepy story, and I definitely recommend it to horror fans. Very scary final scene at the Overlook!
  • DAY 5: TUESDAY AUGUST 5TH
    # Book continued: William Golding – Lord Of The Flies
    # Pages read: 182 (on page out 222 of 272)
    Oh dear, that’s a bunch of seriously messed up kids! Am I the only one having terrible Lost flashbacks when reading Lord Of The Flies? Jack and his crew are seriously disturbed! I cannot wait to see how it ends though…
  • DAY 6: WEDNESDAY AUGUST 6TH
    # Book finished: William Golding – Lord Of The Flies
    # Pages read: 50 (272/272; DONE!)
    theknownworld# Book started: Edward P. Jones – The Known World
    # Pages read: 64 (on page 64 out of 388)
    (Total pages read on Wednesday: 114)
    I finally decided to take some time to update It’s All About Books and write some reviews that were due, so I didn’t get as much reading done as I would have wanted… But at least I’m now reading my third book (and with this one I will be completing the three challenges, yay!)

WWW Wednesdays #7 – August 6th

wwwwednesdays

Originally featured at Should Be Reading… WWW WEDNESDAYS is all about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

theknownworldI just started The Known World by Edward P. Jones as part of the Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon… This one will fulfull the challenge of reading a book set in the past; it’s about a black farmer and former slave in the US. I cannot say much of it yet besides that it is nice to have a little time out of the horror genre.

 

 

  • What did you recently finish reading?

fliesI was able to finish Lord Of The Flies by William Golding today, and boy those were some screwed up kids! Definitely not what I was expecting of this classic… I’ve also finished The Shining by Stephen King, and both are part of the Dusting Off The Shelf Read-A-Thon. Reviews will be up before the weekend! (As well as the review of The Middle Passage by V.S. Naipaul I finished last week…)

 

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

mountainsIt’s probably going to be either And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini or The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss… It depends on my mood when I finish the book I’m currently reading. For now I cannot decide between the magical world of the Kingkiller chronicle and another surely mindblowing tale written by Hosseini… Any suggestions which I should read first?