The Known World begins with the death, at the age of 31, of Henry Townsend, a black farmer in Manchester County, the largest county in antebellum Virginia. Among the property bequeathed to his widow are 13 women, 11 men and 9 children – for Henry, once a slave, was an owner of slaves himself… Edward P. Jones has created a richly imagined novel, in which a multitude of moral contradictions are revealed and explored.

…Jones loops backwards and forward from the day of Henry’s death, in prose that is generally measured and restrained, but with passages of intense lyricism and outbursts of casual savagery. Vividly conceived and profoundly humane, The Known World is a remarkable re-creation of a world we might have thought we already knew.