Washington Black: A novel (Hardcover)

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October 2018 Indie Next List


“Epic in scope, ranging from a brutal slave plantation in Barbados to scenes in the Arctic, antebellum America, and London, plus a thoughtful denouement in the Moroccan desert, Edugyan’s novel explores the complex relationship between slave and master, the hubris of good intentions, and the tense life of a runaway in constant flight with a Javert on his tail. What results is a compulsive page-turner blessed with effortless prose. Highly recommended.”
— Matthew Lage, Iowa Book, Iowa City, IA

Description


"Enthralling" --Boston Globe  "Extraordinary" --Seattle Times  "A rip-roaring tale" --Washington Post

FINALIST FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE, THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE, THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE

From the author of the award-winning international best seller Half-Blood Blues comes a dazzling adventure story, about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.


George Washington Black, or "Wash," an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is terrified to be chosen by his master's brother as his manservant. To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning--and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Christopher and Wash must abandon everything. What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic. What brings Christopher and Wash together will tear them apart, propelling Wash even further across the globe in search of his true self. From the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom?

About the Author


ESI EDUGYAN is author of the novels The Second Life of Samuel Tyne and Half-Blood Blues, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and the Orange Prize. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

Praise For…


“Perfectly executed . . . Soaring . . . More than a tale of human bondage, it’s also an enthralling meditation on the weight of freedom, wrapped in a rousing adventure story stretching to the ends of the earth.” Renée Graham, The Boston Globe 
 
“Terrifically exciting . . . An engrossing hybrid of 19th-century adventure and contemporary subtlety, a rip-roaring tale of peril imbued with our most persistent strife . . . Discover what the rest of the world already knows: Edugyan is a magical writer.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Riveting . . . [A] towering achievement . . . Edugyan is one of our sharpest and deepest writers of historical fiction.” —David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly

“A lush, exhilarating travelogue reminiscent of Jules Verne . . . Edugyan, like her hero, can paint an indelible scene.” —Laura Miller, The New Yorker

“Gripping . . . Astonishing . . . Washington Black’s presence in these pages is fierce and unsettling. His urge to live all he can is matched by his eloquence.” —Colm Toibin, The New York Times Book Review 

“A wonder of an adventure story, powered by the helium of fantasy, but also by the tender sensibility of its aspiring young hero, Wash Black . . . Much of the pleasure of reading Washington Black derives from Edugyan’s ingenious storytelling gifts, but her novel is more than just a buoyant bauble . . . Washington Black is an unconventional and often touching novel about the search for transcendence above categories.” Maureen Corrigan, NPR/Fresh Air

“As harrowing a portrayal of slavery as Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, but also a globe-trotting, page-turning adventure story. A historical epic with much to say about the present-day world.” —Justine Jordan, The Guardian

“Extraordinary . . . Edugyan is a marvelous writer.” Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

“Profoundly humane.” —Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Times (UK)

“A daring work of empathy and imagination, featuring a Barbados slave boy in the 1830s who flees barbaric cruelty in a hot-air balloon and embarks on a life of adventure that is wondrous, melancholy, and strange.” The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

"An astounding novel . . . It is impossible for the reader not to hang on to Wash’s every word.” —Holly Silva, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“A sparkling subversion of a high-stakes Victorian yarn, full of truths and startling marvels . . . Wash is a singular, dazzling narrator.”—Anita Felicelli, San Francisco Chronicle

“Masterful . . . Wondrous . . . Gripping . . . Edugyan’s depiction of this dark period is vivid and captivating. [She] is too subtle a novelist to belabour her story’s contemporary relevance, but, like the moral stain of human bondage, it is palpable all the same. At a time when blackness still invites unwarranted violence, young Wash’s hard lessons resonate.”The Economist

Washington Black is a rare creation. It is a work of unmistakable literary sensibility, written in prose that is fresh and beautiful, yet it retains a storyteller’s skill to shock and surprise.” —Amanda Craig, Daily Telegraph

“Exquisite.” —Boris Kachka, New York magazine

“A full-pelt adventure story featuring hot-air balloon crashes, blizzards in the Arctic, scientific discovery, knife fights in dark alleys, bounty hunters, and forbidden romance, it has the seemingly old-fashioned qualities of being gripping and plot-driven, as well as a novel of ideas . . . Surprisingly uplifting.”—Francesca Angelini, The Times (London)

“Magnificent . . . By placing a black slave at the heart and centre of this epic romp, by making Wash the explorer of lands, science and art, Edugyan reclaims long-lost terrain in this ambitious, headspinning work.” —Nilanjana Roy, Financial Times

“A gripping historical narrative exploring both the bounds of slavery and what it means to be truly free.” Vanity Fair

“Edugyan’s genius here is that she’s found an urgent, fresh way of writing the antebellum novel . . . A romping yarn, beautifully and evocatively written, the narrative spinning along at a glorious pace.” —Lucy Scholes, The National 

“Thrilling . . . Washington Black is a gripping tale, made vivid by Esi Edugyan’s gifts for language and character, and by the strength of her story . . . The reader feels honoured to have kept Wash company on his journeying: and moved to see him embark upon his true beginning.” —Erica Wagner, The New Statesman

“Terrific . . . A multi-faceted tale that travels across geography and history. In its rich details and finely tuned ear for language, the book creates a virtual world . . . Edugyan is a virtuosic writer . . . She satisfies the ultimate demand we make of novels: an intriguing examination of unanswerable, but essential, questions.”—Martha Anne Toll, The Millions

“Captivating . . . Edugyan’s fiction always stays strong, beautiful and beguiling.” —Arifa Akbar, The Observer (UK)

Washington Black is nothing short of a masterpiece. Esi Edugyan has a rare talent for turning over little known stones of history and giving her reader a new lens on the world, a new way of understanding subject matter we arrogantly think we know everything about. This book is an epic adventure and a heartfelt tale about love and morality and their many contradictions. I loved it.”—Attica Locke, author of Bluebird, Bluebird

“In her elegant, nuanced writing style, Edugyan unfolds Wash’s experiences as he realizes his freedom.” Joan Gaylord, Christian Science Monitor 

“An absorbing, lyrically arresting investigation of freedom in its many forms . . . [that] becomes an exuberant paean to the transformative powers of storytelling.”—Claire Allfree, Metro (UK)

“At the core of this novel, with its searing, supple prose and superb characters, is a visceral depiction of the abomination of slavery. Yet, as importantly, it explores an unlikely friendship, the limits to understanding another’s suffering, the violence lurking in humans, and the glories of adventure in a world full of wonders.” The Daily Mail

“A vibrant, poignant tale of a man’s search for selfhood in a world where some see him as less than whole . . . Remarkable.” Library Journal (starred)

“Wonderful . . . Eloquent . . . Brilliant . . . Wash and Titch are so alive as to be unforgettable . . . This important novel from the author of the superb Half-Blood Blues belongs in every library.” Booklist (starred)

“Edugyan’s magnificent third novel again demonstrates her range and gifts . . . Framing the story with rich evocations of the era’s science and the world it studies, Edugyan mines the tensions between individual goodwill and systemic oppression, belonging and exclusion, wonder and terror, and human and natural order . . . Crafted in supple, nuanced prose, Edugyan’s novel is both searing and beautiful.” Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed)

“High adventure fraught with cliffhanger twists marks this runaway-slave narrative, which leaps, sails, and soars from Caribbean cane fields to the fringes of the frozen Arctic and across a whole ocean . . . One of the most unconventional escapes from slavery ever chronicled . . . Edugyan displays as much ingenuity and resourcefulness as her main characters in spinning this yarn, and the reader’s expectations are upended almost as often as her hero’s. A thoughtful, boldly imagined ripsnorter that broadens inventive possibilities for the antebellum novel.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A thrilling page-turner . . . also a lyrical contemplation of captivity and freedom, and the scars that stay with us for life.” —Marsha Lederman, Globe & Mail

“A powerful story about slavery . . . The first section of the book, set on the plantation, is a scintillating tour de force . . . A novel worthy of its subject.” Kathy O’Shaughnessy, Literary Review

“Irresistible . . . Tightly paced . . . A gripping adventure and an atmospheric portrayal of 1830s society.” Daily Express
 
“A cinematic epic of slavery and freedom, it’s also a tale of high adventure and scientific endeavor . . . Both engaging and deeply affecting.” —Barb Carey, Toronto Star

“Extraordinary . . . A richly entertaining read.” —Nick Rennison, BBC History Magazine

“Excellent . . . Devastating . . . Unforgettable . . . In a story that is escapist, as well as poignant and political, Edugyan enjoys taking her readers where they are least expecting to go . . . Like the best historical fiction, it shines a light on the present as well as the past.” —Joanne Hayden, Irish Independent

Washington Black is an intimate portrait of slavery at its most genocidal and of the limitations of kindness in an unjust system. The book’s hero is a gifted scientist and artist fighting to live a fully human life in a world that insists on seeing him either as livestock or as an object of pity. Along the way, there are balloon rides through storms at sea, vignettes of frontier life in nineteenth century Canada, scenes of polar exploration, and the establishment of the world’s first aquarium. Washington Black is a brilliantly absorbing picaresque; a book that combines the unflinching depiction of violence with a lyrical, hallucinatory beauty.” —Sandra Newman, author of The Country of Ice Cream Star


Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780525521426
ISBN-10: 0525521429
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: September 18th, 2018
Pages: 352
Language: English