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Washington Black

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,592 Ratings  ·  306 Reviews
From the author of the award-winning international best seller Half-Blood Blues comes a dazzling new novel, about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.

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 hi
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published August 2nd 2018)
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Petra X
5 stars for part one of the book because it excited my interest.
4 stars for the generally, really wonderful writing.
3 stars for the second part of the book, good but elements were starting not to hang together.
2 stars for the third part because I was getting fed up with tell rather than show.
1 star for the sheer, dragging boredom of all the unlikely things that happen and the just as unlikely rationales, and having to wade my way through what now seems like turgid prose just to say "I finished t
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

My seventh book from the longlist is another choice that may have surprised people, and I found it a very enjoyable read. It gives the adventure story a modern twist by making its eponymous hero a slave born on a plantation in Barbados in the early 19th century.

The Faith Plantation's owner has died, leaving it in the hands of the sadistic and barbarous Erasmus Wilde, almost a caricature villain. Brought into the house as a waiter, Wash catches the eye of
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"A man who has belonged to another learns very early to observe a master's eyes; what I saw in this man's terrified me." Erasmus Wilde was the new master of Faith Plantation, Barbados. The year was 1830. George Washington Black "Wash" was a ten year old field slave who helped "clear the cane". Wash had no family but Big Kit, a field slave as well, nurtured him. Reading Wash's palm, she declared, "you will have a great big life, child..."

Erasmus Wilde, the eldest son of an adventurer, was left in
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018
The Booker judges seem to be eager to add quite some material that is highly accessible and easily readable this year, but while the inclusion of Snap seemed outrageous to me, this is a defendable choice. Edugyan writes about slavery, racism, and identity, but in the form of an adventure novel, told chronologically and in the first person. While this makes for a rather conservative narrative strategy, the author clearly knows how to compose an engaging an
Despite a cover that is currently winking at me with come-hither gold foiled clouds, this book was one mammoth slog from beginning to end. The most generous thing I can find to say is that it fairly "zips along" but to what purpose I am unsure.

Much focus has been placed on why a crime novel like Snap is on the Man Booker longlist but at the moment I am looking askance at this middling historical fiction / adventure tale. I am not adverse to historical fiction, Hilary Mantel being the master in m
Ron Charles
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Washington Black” — one of the most anticipated books of the year — should finally get American readers to wake up to this extraordinary novelist across our Northern border. Esi Edugyan, a Canadian writer whose parents immigrated from Ghana, inspired a chorus of international praise for her previous novel, “Half-Blood Blues,” but it never attracted the audience it deserved in the United States.

That should change now.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, “Washington Black” is an engrossing hybrid
This is the Man Booker title that I was the most trepidatious about picking up this year, not because I doubted its quality, but just because there is nothing about a nineteenth century Caribbean and North American-set historical fiction adventure tale that appeals to me. So with that said, I guess I did enjoy this more than I expected to... just not enough to really understand its inclusion on the Booker shortlist over more structurally innovative and intellectually stimulating titles.

This book
Eric Anderson
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When considering the immeasurable evil of slavery it’s difficult to fully fathom the ramifications it had amongst so many individuals' lives. Not only were people’s freedom and lives brutally curtailed, controlled and cut short, but their talent and potential was also squandered. Esi Edugyan evocatively portrays the life of George Washington Black or “Wash”, a character with the aptitude to be a great artist and scientist were he not born into slavery on a Barbados plantation in 1818. But she gr ...more
Gumble's Yard
Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker which gives rise to a nice matched set of comparisons (additional ones now added below).

2017 Man Booker novel about an unresolved mystery and set in the English countryside: Reservoir 13. 2018 equivalent: Snap.

2017 Man Booker allegorical novel about slavery and institutionalised racism. Underground Railroad. 2018 equivalent: this book. (*)

Perhaps even more disappointingly this has made the shortlist whereas Underground Railroad did not.

Now I have to say that
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan comes out in the USA on September 18, but I received an eARC from the publisher through Netgalley. And since it is on the Man Booker Prize longlist, I read it early! I can tell the Booker judges are up for an adventure story this year. This story of a child enslaved in Barbados who ends up traveling the world thanks to a scientist/explorer/adventurer, and discovers his own artistic talents. He travels all over where we can see the plight of former slaves in differ ...more
Peter Boyle
I'm not sure I'd have read Washington Black if it hadn't been nominated for the Booker Prize. I just don't think it would have been on my radar. But when I examined the synopses of all the long-listed novels, it jumped right to the top of my list. Of all the books selected, it sounded like the most accessible and entertaining. And it is a fun read. It's a globe-trotting romp, a fast-paced historical adventure.

Our narrator is the eponymous George Washington Black, an eleven-year-old slave on a Ba
Paul Fulcher
"I had already seen many deaths: I knew the nature of evil. It was white like a duppy , it drifted down out of a carriage one morning and into the heat of a frightened plantation with nothing in its eyes."

Edi Edugyan's Washington Black: A Novel has been shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker.

The narrator starts by plunging into his story midstream before taking a step back:

"But that is no beginning. Allow me to begin again, for the record. I have walked this earth for eighteen years. I am a Freema
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Washington Black is an unusual hybrid of a book – an adventure-fraught, adrenaline-pumping tale that also incorporates the horrors of slavery, the joys of scientific discovery, and a coming of age journey. Yet, it all works.

Briefly, a look at the plot: a 12-year-old slave named George Washington Black (nicknamed Wash) , by a streak of fortune, falls under the protection of the cruel owner’s brother, Christopher (Titch) Wilde, who is far more enlightened with a scientific bend. After a nail-bitin
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: publisher, reviewed
".....freedom seemed a thing I might live in, like a coat, a warmth I could draw around myself as some armour against the world." If you are George Washington (Wash) Black, freedom may just leave you adrift in the world. This book takes Wash from 1830 to 1836, from the age of 12 to 18. It starts on a sugar plantation on the island of Barbados and ends in Marrakesh. I was expecting another story about the horrors of slavery, but then it surprised me and went off in other directions. It had plenty ...more
Roman Clodia
This is certainly very readable but I'm not convinced that the various elements really come together. The brutalities of plantation life for black slaves have been more fully depicted elsewhere, not least in The Underground Railroad and the classic Beloved. The second half is more like a Victorian adventure: think Jules Verne here, with balloons, ship voyages, and scientific experiments to construct aquariums.

By the end, themes of freedom, homecoming and reparations emerge with concerns about t
The Man Booker Prize goes retro!

I have spent much of the past 2-3 years reading novels that are non-linear, multi-narrator, stream-of-consciousness and other buzz words. It seems that the 2018 Man Booker judging panel have at least partly (I haven’t read Milkman or The Long Take yet, for example) turned away from that and gone for accessibility. Even The Overstory from Richard Powers is his most readable book.

Washington Black is a good book. It is immensely readable. It is a straightforward firs
Britta Böhler
An entertaining, easy read (despite the subject of the book).
Reading this book was bit like eating cotton candy: fluffy and sweet but it leaves you with a slight stomach ache and a craving for some 'real' food.

2.5* (rounded up)
Katie Lumsden
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe 4.5. I really enjoyed this book - a great and compelling historical novel, with vivid detail, great writing and excellent characterisation. The ending left me wanting something else, perhaps a little more closure, but I think that's just personal preference. I would certainly recommend it.
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4-4.5 stars.

What a compelling read. A worthy addition to this year’s Booker longlist, and one I’m not sure I would have been aware of otherwise - the best part of literary prizes such as the Booker!

Washington Black is an exciting mix of historical and literary fiction, sort of like a Victorian steampunk bildungsroman set in 1830s West Indies and beyond. Safe to say, I haven’t read anything quite like it.

The book starts out at Faith Plantation in Barbados. The eponymous Washington Black, or Wash
♥ Sandi ❣
3.25 stars Thank you to Penguin's First To Read program and Patrick Crean Editions for allowing me to read and review this digital ARC. To publish August 28. 2018.

Washington Black - George Washington Black - Wash - was born a slave. He was first mentored and protected by Kit on the Faith Plantation in Barbados. Plantation owner Erasmus Wilde, a vile heartless man, soon let his brother Christopher temporarily take Wash as a personal assistant. Christopher, aka Titch, a man of science, taught Wash
Sep 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maybe-later, dnf
DNF about 20%. It's very tight and polished and well done, but I see no need to carry on with it.
Ova - Excuse My Reading
My first "did not finish" from Booker Long list. The writing is good quality, neat and clean tone of voice, but unfortunately after 15% it didn't pull me in. This is a story-heavy book, but I didn't feel attached to the plot to learn what was going to happen to Washington Black. I felt like it's lacking originality as we have read many similar books before.
So unfortunately this didn't work for me.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it liked it
"Washington Black" is a fantastical adventure story that gives a nod to several serious themes but does not explore them in any detail. The image which struck me halfway through was that of the Reflecting Pool that lies between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall: A glittering expanse of water which invites introspection and appears to contain substantial edifices but is, in fact, only ankle-deep.

It becomes clear almost immediately that the reader needs to aband
Anita Pomerantz
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lo and behold, a Man Booker nominee that doesn't rely on an original structure, but rather on a great combination of strong storytelling, beautifully rendered prose, and a central character that a reader can really care for and about. This book actually really reminds me of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, except it doesn't go off the rails at the end. But I saw parallels with the young male narrator at the center of the story dealing with tremendous loss and leaning on relative strangers combined ...more
Anne ✨
Shortlisted for Man Booker 2018 prize

I was drawn to this book because 1) it's on the Man Booker Prize shortlist 2) it's written by a Canadian author, and 3) the blurb mentioned globe-trotting adventure in interesting locations: 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?

The story is told through the eye
(3.75) Sugar Money meets The North Water meets The Underground Railroad meets Gould’s Book of Fish. (Or something like that, anyway.) This is a good ol’-fashioned adventure story about a slave who gets the chance to leave his Barbados sugar plantation behind when he becomes an assistant to an abolitionist inventor, Christopher “Titch” Wilde. Wash discovers a talent for drawing and a love for marine life and pursues these joint interests in the disparate places where life takes him, including Nov ...more
Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize

“Freedom is a word with different meanings to different people.”

This is a structurally classic, fairytale-esque type of historical novel! The almost too feel-good second half of the book doesn’t quite match the darker, growing-up-in-slavery beginnings of this coming of age story, but I imagine this was intentionally done.

Edugyan’s prose is elegant, richly detailed, and nuanced, particularly in the way she interweaves history and geography with the them
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: To lovers of Jules Vernes
Shelves: 2018-big-books
Check out my video review:
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I am really on the fence about this one. I really liked her writing style and thought there were some beautiful scenes, but the story overall was a bit too fantastical and I sometimes felt like I was reading a YA novel. I would have liked a better ending as well. It was very easy to read and had an interesting setting and great descriptions, but the story felt unfinished. 3.5⭐ ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel takes a 19th century tale of adventure and scientific discovery, and places at its centre a runaway slave named George Washington Black – Wash for short. Wash’s mentor/master is Christopher Wilde, AKA Titch, a gentleman scientist trying to build a hydrogen-powered balloon (referred to as his ‘Cloud-cutter’ in a lovely bit of nomenclature).

The complicated relationship between Wash and Titch is the book’s beating heart. Titch is a complex character, he abhors slavery, yet his family’s
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Esi Edugyan has a Masters in Writing from Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Best New American Voices 2003, ed. Joyce Carol Oates, and Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing (2006).

Her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, was published internationally. It was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, was a More Book Lust se
“The sexton studied me; again he clicked his tongue twice. “The boy, yes,” he said in his soft voice. “I do not much care for childhood. It is a state of terrible vulnerability, and is therefore unnatural and incompatible with human life. Everyone will cut you, strike you, cheat you, everyone will offer you suffering when goodness should reign. And because children can do nothing for themselves, they need good advocates, good parents. But a good parent is as rare as snow in summer, I am afraid. Well.” He smiled sadly. “It is possible I have some prejudices in this respect.” “You are an orphan yourself, are you” 0 likes
“They never returned. Only the old were left. And they began to die off. Those who did not die left the village by other means. In the end there was only one widow left, a dressmaker, and she began to sew the visages of those who had vanished. She hand-stitched the bodies and the clothes; she perfected the faces. Each and every doll was a precise replica of someone who once lived there.” 0 likes
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