Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Known World - Mapping a Different Time

The Known WorldThe Known World by Edward P. Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found a copy of this book in the apartment in Rome where my husband and I are staying for a week, after touring other parts of Italy (Florence, Siena, Venice, Orvieto). I wouldn't have even started reading it except that we both came down with colds and needed to 'stay put' for a day or two -- WHAT a fantastic book! Of course, it's a Pulitzer Prize winner, but I had never heard of it. Jones' historical/magical-realism about the fictional Manchester County in Virginia, is a masterpiece of engaging characters, subtle language, fancy and fact. I just saw a quote from Hemingway that said something like a writer's object is not just to tell someone a story, but make the reader feel as if he or she had actually lived the story -- and that's just what Jones' book does. The characters of his black people -- slaves and free -- are enticing and very real, very human; the white folks just the same: good, bad, religious, sacriligious. The fact that there were free black people, former slaves, who went on to own land and then their own slaves is a troubling and astounding theme of the book, and very well presented from many sides of the question. Jones plays with time and events, shifting from present to future to past but seamlessly and effortlessly (it would appear). A remarkable book, worthy of time and thoughtfulness as you read it. So glad it serendipitously appeared to engage me during my 'downtime' in Rome. Now it's off to St. Peter's!

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