Washington Black
February 2, 2019 8:05 AM - by Esi Edugyan - Subscribe

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. (Opening line from Kirkus Review, one of many publications to list Esi Edugyan's novel among the best fiction of 2018). Booker Prize shortlisted nominee.

Goodreads with a longer blurb:
Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.

When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.

He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.

From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again--and asks the question, what is true freedom?
Washington Post review
posted by filthy light thief (3 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed this book, but then initial brutality was hard to stomach. If you're just starting this, the really harsh cruelty ends early in the book, for the most part.

But given the time period, right at the cusp of the abolition movement, there's tension throughout, and it's all done so well. The voice of Wash, the narrator, is fantastic and vivid. Here's an excerpt from Ron Charles' review for the Washington Post:
“There could be no belonging for a creature such as myself, anywhere,” Wash says, “a black boy with a scientific turn of mind and a talent on canvas, running, always running, from the dimmest of shadows.” But that’s hardly the final word in this thoughtful and terrifically exciting adventure. Discover what the rest of the world already knows: Edugyan is a magical writer.
I couldn't agree more.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:11 AM on February 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

(Up next/later from me for the Tournament of Books club: America Is Not the Heart, by Elaine Castillo -- 15% in, and it's great.)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:12 AM on February 2, 2019

I’m finding it almost lyrical, even in the squalor and brutality. It’s terrifically compelling.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:37 PM on May 8, 2020

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