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Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2018 MAN BOOKER PRIZE
FROM THE MAN BOOKER AND ORANGE PRIZE SHORTLISTED AUTHOR OF HALF BLOOD BLUES
'A masterpiece' Attica Locke
'High adventure fraught with cliffhanger twists mark this runaway-slave narrative, which leaps, sails, and soars ... broadens inventive possibilities for the antebellum novel' Kirkus starred review
When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, Washington Black - an eleven year-old field slave - finds himself selected as personal servant to one of these men. The eccentric Christopher 'Titch' Wilde is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist, whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him.
Titch's idealistic plans are soon shattered and Washington finds himself in mortal danger. They escape the island together, but then then Titch disappears and Washington must make his way alone, following the promise of freedom further than he ever dreamed possible.
From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy wastes of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness and mystery of life. Inspired by a true story, Washington Black is the extraordinary tale of a world destroyed and made whole again.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
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 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 and moved to have kept Wash company on his journeying -- Erica Wagner * New Statesman * Strong, beautiful and beguiling. -- Arifa Akbar * Observer * 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. -- Elizabeth Buchan * Daily Mail * A story suggestive of Jules Verne, Mark Twain and Mary Shelley ... a strange, engaging tale -- Jeffrey Burke * Mail on Sunday * An extraordinary, picturesque tale... A richly entertaining read * BBC History * 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 19th 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 Washington Black is a profoundly humane story about false idols, the fickleness of fortune and whether a slave, once freed, can ever truly be free. * The Times * Edugyan displays as much ingenuity and resourcefulness as her main characters ... A thoughtful, boldly imagined book that broadens inventive possibilities for the antebellum novel * starred Kirkus review * Edugyan's magnificent third novel again demonstrates her range and gifts... Crafted in supple, nuanced prose, Edugyan's novel is both searing and beautiful. * Publishers Weekly * The story is memorable not only in its voice but also in its evocation of the horrors of slavery; and it is brilliant, too, in its construction of character. Wash and Titch are so alive as to be unforgettable, as is the story of their tangled relationship. This important novel from the author of the superb Half-Blood Blues belongs in every library. * Booklist * 2018's answer to Dickens ... the joy of Edugyan's book lies in its ambition and humanity. It feels like a 19th century classic, but one that wants to explore the ill effects of those times and still find some sense of hope at the end of it all. -- Francesca Brown * Emerald Street * Magnificent and strikingly visual prose * Financial Times * The beauty here lies in Edugyan's language, which is precise, vivid, always concerned with word craft and captivating for it... Edugyan's fiction always stays strong, beautiful and beguiling * The Observer * Washington Black is a gripping adventure and an atmospheric portrayal of 1830s society at both the fringes of the world and the heart of the British Empire -- John Boyne * Daily Express * Excellent ... Edugyan can write beautifully ... In places, the novel is devastating, precisely because she is never gratuitous or sentimental ... In a story that is escapist, as well as poignant and political, Edugyan enjoys taking her readers where they are least expecting to go. * Irish Independent * a pacey yet thoughtful exploration of freedom, and our moral compulsion to act * Spectator * An enthralling meditation on the weight of freedom, wrapped in a rousing adventure story stretching to the ends of the earth... beautiful and affecting * Boston Globe * A powerful, twisting work of historical fiction ... Edugyan is a marvelous writer * Seattle Times * elegant and nuanced * Christian Science Monitor *