Washington Black

Washington Black

Book - 2018
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* 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

"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?
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.
Edition: First United States edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780525521426
Branch Call Number: EDUGYAN
Characteristics: 333 pages ; 25 cm


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From Library Staff

List - Conjure Women
LPL_ShirleyB Apr 22, 2020

Library Director Brad Allen wrote a persuasive feature-length recommendation of this book. A 19th century airship (steampunk) adventure! Edugyan is Canadian with Ghanaian heritage. Awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Published in 2018

eBook & eAudiobk formats available. Library Director Brad Allen wrote a persuasive feature-length recommendation of this book. A 19th century airship (steampunk) adventure! Edugyan is Canadian with Ghanaian heritage. Awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Published in 2018

LPL_DirectorBrad Oct 30, 2018

The hype on this book has been strong. (Its currently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.) The descriptions of the book caught my interest. Finally got a copy and could not put this book down. There is everything to like about this book. It's a tremendous adventure story at the very least. At i... Read More »

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Feb 01, 2021

Great book, much better than his other one The Second life of..."

Jan 05, 2021

Maria recommended

Dec 16, 2020

Even though this was a page turner there was something not quite right about it. Washington finds a troubling freedom, has unbelievable adventures, is haunted by abandonment, falls in love, enjoys painting and sketching, is fascinated with the sea, is involved in creative invention; but there's a bit too much description both of the environment and of feelings/perception. Just kind of a sad feel to the story. The actual hard cover book is easy to hold and the large print nice. Decide for yourself, you may not be able to put it down once you begin.

Dec 11, 2020

One of my favorites I've read this year. Edugyan used a lot of 19th C vernacular - some readers may find difficult yet I appreciated the effort and style; helped maintain setting and tone of the story. Loved her descriptions of characters' personalities, physical attributes, and dialogue.

One can read this as a simple historic novel, but it's more than that. Beginning on a Barbados' plantation, Washington's story is a story of race. So if you cannot handle that, this is not for you. The discussions of science and fanciful instruments blend the genre just a bit and left me wondering where the story was headed.

So in parts III and IV Wash catches and observes an octopus. Did anyone else read that as a metaphor for Wash? Intelligent creature which can camouflage itself for protection, defense, attractiveness, etc. I felt this symbolized his youth once Titch nurtured his artistic talent. Wash used his talents to gain education and escape from Titch. But as he matures and meets Tana the question is posed that maybe Titch had exploited Wash. Either way, Wash 'adapts' to his environment and those around him in his art, his labors, his scientific observations in order to allow people to see value in him. As a black man, former slave, with facial scars, Wash is constantly guarded and feels he must prove his worth to others.

I will keep an eye out for what Esi Edugyan writes in the future - lovely writing style and very creative.

Nov 17, 2020

A wonderful book, very well written. I loved it from cover to cover.

Sep 21, 2020

I liked this book. The author writes well. The story could've been a bit more exciting as you were lead to believe that the boy would be taken on many more adventures in the balloon. But I liked it.

Sep 13, 2020

historical fiction--bookriot list of 50 best historical fiction https://bookriot.com/best-historical-fiction-books/

Aug 23, 2020

There are brutal details of life on the slave plantation at the beginning of the book. Wash's life does get better, but be warned that the start of it makes for tough reading.

Aug 06, 2020

A great story of an eight year old slave boy from Barbados growing into manhood. He encounters prejudice, fear, betrayal, scorn, tragedies and rejection, along with a God given talent, direction by welling meaning people, a scientific mind, travel and excitement. The author does an excellent job of describing G.W. ( Wash) Black's feeling and emotions throughout his life's adventures. Easy read and hard to put down. Reason for not a 5 star rating was the abrupt ending.

0Charlie Jul 14, 2020

I'm not quite sure how to describe this work. I was carried along with the adventures of the main character, Wash, a young black slave on a plantation in the Barbados in the early 1800's. He ends up travelling across the globe and I was fascinated with the historic details of Barbados, early Canada, the Far North, Britain, the Middle East. The driving force behind most of these adventures is his relationship with Titch, a well-to-do white Brit and scientist, who takes Wash under his wing and helps him to discover his potential. My problem is I'm not sure how the story ends. After the concrete tales of travel and exploration, the final "wrap-up" becomes so intangible that it is a bit of a slap in the face when the story just ends. Certainly worth the read but I guess I'm not deep enough to understand the finale.

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Aug 23, 2020

I had been warned by Mister Ibel that snow was white, and cold. But it was not white: it held all the colours of the spectrum. It was blue and green and yellow and teal; there were delicate pink tintings in some of the cliffs as we passed. As the light shifted in the sky, so too did the snow around us deepen, find new hues, the way an ocean is never blue but some constantly changing colour.

Aug 23, 2020

Though a child, I did not picture a monster – he was no creature all teeth, all vicious blue eyes behind mangled wire spectacles; his voice was not slow and reptilian, his hands not huge black claws. I knew the nature of evil; I knew its benign, easy face. He would be a man, simply.

Aug 23, 2020

It was a wonder to me that a world of cruelty and hardship existed, even now, only some miles away. How was it possible, thought I, that we lived in such nightmare and all the while a world of men continued just over the horizon . . .

Aug 23, 2020

She seemed neither preoccupied nor uneasy; her silence was marked by a held-in rage that I have only now, several years later, come to understand as the suppression of will. For she was a ferociously intelligent woman, and it strained her to have to conceal it. She sometimes spoke as no slave should speak; the scar on her face was some testament to this.

Sep 12, 2018

I carried that nail like a shard of darkness in my fist. I carried it like a secret, like a crack through which some impossible future might be glimpsed. I carried it like a key.


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Apr 06, 2019

Too brutal, too disturbing - not bedtime reading.

Sep 12, 2018

Born into slavery on Faith Plantation in Bardbados, George Washington Black has never known any other life. When his master dies, the slaves expect the estate to be broken up and sold off, but instead two brother arrive, nephews of the old owner. Erasmus Wilde proves to be a cruel man who drives his slaves harder than the old owner ever did. But his brother, Christopher “Titch” Wilde, is a man of science, and while the other slaves on Faith are doomed to a harder lot, Wash is selected to help Titch with his experiments, and his seemingly impossible dream to launch an airship called the Cloud Cutter. However, being selected as Titch’s assistant will come at a price Wash could never have expected, and their strange, uneven relationship will change the course of Wash’s life forever, for better and for worse.


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Aug 23, 2020

Violence: violence and suicide


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