Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Known World

The Known World was my "hard book" on my Fall Reading Challenge list. It's a Pulitzer Prize winning novel (which I tried to fit into conversation as much as possible: "Could you hand me my Pulitzer Prize winning novel, please?") examining a country during the years of slavery in our country. However, this book seemed to really tackle the tough moral issues of the time period, from those who were living them: White slave-owners, Whites who opposed slavery, Whites who tolerated slavery, slave owners who were Black, freed Blacks and slaves, both house and field. We all know what an awful injustice slavery is and wish that it had not been such an everyday part of our lives, especially in the South. But in reading this book, about humans as property, I was really struck at the true horror and thinking that has and will take years to completely correct.

This book is not depressing, but it does deal with a difficult subject. I found the first few chapters hard to get into. There was a large cast of characters, so it was difficult to keep up with all of them as the author jumped back and forth. The novel reads like a cross between some sort of historical narrative (this fictional county and population seems real) and a yarn that is told from year to year at family gatherings. Edward Jones patches the story together like a quilt. Not in a linear, chronological fashion, but by adding the pieces when the add the most beauty or function. For example, he will be recounting an event in a character's life, and the narrative will change saying, "Four years later when they found him dead, he still . . . . "

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

My Fall Reading Challenge list: finished 9, 3 in progress, 2 not started, and at least 6 completed that are not on the list.


Carrie said...

Hey Jennifer!

I decided it was high time to link you to my blog since I check what books you have to suggest all the time. =)

Thanks for another interesting suggestion this week.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that looks "hard" - like something I'd read in college with relish but now . . . I dunno. Congrats to you for tackling it.

Anonymous said...

Good for you for sticking with it and finishing this one! Being the fiction wimp that I sometimes am, I don't know if I would have been able to do it - like Dianne said, this one does sound hard. Great progress on your FiRC list!

Heather said...

I'll have to add it to my book list. Thanks for the review.

Traci said...

ooohhhh. I just may have to pick this book up!

And it reminded me that I need to do a a little update on my fall into reading...


Anonymous said...

This book sounds fascinating but a hard read for sure but I will definitely check it out. American History is part of my major in college and I have an emphasis in Civil War and Reconstruction so for me this is a must read.

Another excellent book on the topic is "A Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South by Kenneth M. Stampp" ( It is excellent but also a very hard read. The Peculiar Institution is non-fiction but flows nicely for the reader. Some of the photographs are hard to comprehend as they are so horrendous in their inhumanity towards man.

Thanks for sharing!