Washington Black (Paperback)
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
• TOP TEN BOOK OF THE YEAR: New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, Entertainment Weekly, Slate
• ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Boston Globe, NPR, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Economist, Bustle
• WINNER OF THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
• FINALIST FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE, THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE, THE ROGERS WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE
"Enthralling" --Boston Globe "Extraordinary" --Seattle Times "A rip-roaring tale" --Washington Post
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 the author of the novels The Second Life of Samuel Tyne and Half-Blood Blues, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and 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.
“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 (UK)
“Washington Black is deserving of its place [on the Man Booker Prize longlist]. It’s a box of treats that manages to work history, science, and politics together under the guise of a high-stakes, steampunk adventure . . . For all its cinematic capers—there are snowstorms, identical twins, and searches for lost fathers—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.”—Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Times (London)
“Washington Black is as harrowing a portrayal of slavery as Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, but it also becomes a globe-trotting, page-turning adventure story. A historical epic with much to say about the present-day world.” —The Guardian
“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
“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, The Daily Mail
“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)
"Washington Black paints an unflinching portrait of American slavery before tracing one boy's arduous, globe-trootting journey to freedom."—EW
“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)
—Natasha Walter, The Guardian
“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)
“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