Washington Black

Washington Black

A Novel

Book - 2018
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Jul 07, 2019

The 2 stars are for the first, excellent 100 pages or so. We are introduced to our title character and narrator, an 11-year old slave on a Barbados plantation. The pacing, character development, and horrible tension are pitch-perfect. However, things go very downhill for the next 3/4 of the book. It becomes all tell and no show, and all from a narrator who becomes increasingly (and almost laughably) unbelievable -- and not in some unreliable narrator way, but in a poorly-conceived way. The coincidences and twists of fate are ridiculous. I found myself often saying "Wait... what??" And especially disappointing after the strong beginning and the very often beautiful writing. Sorry for the lack of details but the very idea of trying to explain the far-flying plot exhausts me.

My daughter tells me that I read this book with an expression that was "mostly confused but kind of pissed off too." Bingo.

Jun 30, 2019

Never before have I both loved and loathed a book, yet here I find myself; conflicted and confused. The majority of this novel is a treat but the ending goes out - not with a bang - but with a "meh".

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Jun 11, 2019

An interesting read...ultimately, it felt like the relationships between George Washington Black and Christopher Wilde was an allegory of the systemic relationship between "blackness" and "whiteness."

Jun 01, 2019

The book is a very entertaining read that held my attention, but I don’t understand the hype. The plot relies on too many convenient and contrived encounters to move the story along. The first half of the book on the plantation and early travels is the strongest; the last third is a travelogue that ends opaquely.

May 29, 2019

Tuesday Feb 25 Meeting

May 13, 2019

Easy to read, popular fiction, like a movie but a book, limited vocabulary, almost all-male cast. Entertaining, like a Reader's Digest story, but longer. Not literary fiction, more suited to children than adults.

May 04, 2019

different kind of book, got caught up in story, well written of course. recommend

Apr 21, 2019

The strange quest of a young black man through many lands as he attempts to survive and find meaning in his life. The story is sometimes shockingly brutal. Wash is deeply touched by several people in his life, until he finally comes upon the man who started him on the journey of his life! Set in the 1830 during the slave trade , which was abolished in England but not in America! Richly told with unforgettable characters.

Apr 01, 2019

This is a fascinating combination of the old and the new. It is a historical novel that roams around the Americas and England in the nineteenth century - sure we have a lot of excellent novels that do that. This novel's narrator is a man enslaved in Barbados who becomes an assistant to a white balloonist. Race relations then are of course a factor in the events and characterization in the novel. They are never preached about or singled out. They do not have to be - they are a part of the cards culture and society deal to the characters in the novel. This is Esi Edugyan's second novel. her first about jazz, Nazi Germany, and other things, I have just started. In "Washington Black", she weaves fascinating description that has just enough details to keep the reader involved and wanting to read ahead. Profound emotions we all experience, are described precisely: "I understood, in that terrible moment, the terrible bottomless nature of the open world, when one belongs nowhere, and to no one." Wash's drive to re-unite with his white mentor reaches a conclusion that seems inevitable, but leaves the reader with questions as well as some answers.

Mar 15, 2019

NYT 10 Best 2018

Mar 13, 2019

A wonderful novel. My first by this author, but it reminded me of Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes.

Mar 04, 2019


ArapahoeAnnaL Feb 19, 2019

One of the New York Times' 10 best of 2018, this stunning historical novel is fabulous from the point of view of the writing (gorgeously descriptive), the characters (poignant), and plot (journey of a boy from brutal slavery to freedom, love, intellectual adventure).

Feb 06, 2019

This title begs for a sequel. What happened to the little guy who expected nothing but ended up living and learning big?
Anymore family legacy attached ?

Jan 24, 2019

why enslavement, why freedom, why abandonment, why love - why me?
one of the best novels about enslavement that I have read
I also recommend The Polished Hoe by Austin Clark
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Jan 23, 2019

Jan 2019: Same author as the Second Life of Samual Tyne, which I couldn't finish because of the foreboding and evil atmosphere created by the author.
Washington Black, a young slave w/no family is brutalized and then, taken into the slave master's brother's home as "ballast" for his flying machine. In the course of preparing to fly, W learns about sea life and hones drawing skills. A series of adventures, in the Arctic, Nova Scotia and, finally London, leaves him in a somewhat-supportive environment, w a quirky partner (who he can't marry because she's white), fleeing from a vicious bounty hunter and working to build a dream, a oceanarium. And, searching for the brother, who abandons him in the Arctic.
Compelling writing; the hero's uncertainty, despair and rootlessness never leaves him while he continues to plow thru his life.

Jan 16, 2019

I’m usually interested in picking up novels by contemporary Canadian authors, so after all the noise that ensued the release of Esi Edugyan’s last book I was intrigued.
The first part started really well and I enjoyed reading about Wash (short for Washington Black) and the chance he was given to escape his miserable existence as a slave boy and develop his great talents.
However, the more the story progressed, the more illogical and implausible the plot development turned out to be. A lot of incredible events happened simply because the plot needed them to happen and the un(timely) demise or survival of some of the characters didn’t help to make the storyline more believable. At some point I had the feeling I was reading ‘the fantastical adventures of Washington Black’ – something I definitely didn’t expect when I picked the book. I started to lose interest in the whole thing since the author, for me, wasn’t sure where all this was going, or what her main character really wanted and what drove and motivated him.
To finish on a positive note, I liked Edugyan’s writing quite a lot and might give one of her other books a try at some point.

Jan 14, 2019

A gripping story of a young slave boy born on a Barbados sugar plantation. George Washington Black was "mothered" by a woman named Big Kit, but treated him poorly yet seemed to love him. By strange circumstance, he is taken under wing by Christopher Wilde, called Titch, the younger brother of the plantation owner. Titch is obsessed with science and a form of hot air balloon. When Wash, as he is called sees the suicide of a friend of the Wilde's, Titch decides he and Wash need to leave. From here the adventures begin taking them to American, on to the Arctic, then Nova Scotia, and finally to England.

The story is a bit of a stretch in places, yet totally believable which is due to the skill of the writer. Told from Wash's point of view, the reader begins to understand the hopeless situation that he was in as well as others in slavery, indeed the entire Black race.

It is in the Arctic that Titch seemingly leaves Wash stranded with Titch's dying father and a strange mute named Peter House. Wash cannot understand and is heartbroken at the loss of Titch and spends almost the rest of his life searching for him while he himself is running from a slave hunter and his own past.

This is a well written, interesting, and engaging novel. I had to reread the ending and still am not quite sure, but still a very enjoyable book.

Jan 05, 2019

Obama's List

Jan 03, 2019

An interesting, unusual and smoothly flowing read!

Dec 29, 2018

On Barack Obama's Top Books of 2018

Dec 23, 2018

Beautifully written story of slavery in the Caribbean islands. A young talented slave is recruited to work for the brother of the owner of the plantation. It is discovered that he has artistic talent, and after a series of problems, the brother escapes taking the slave with him in a hot air balloon. They endure a series of interesting experiences, several close calls with death. I found the writing very compelling. I highly recommend this book. It was on the New York Times list of the best books of the 2018 calendar year. It was one of five novels selected for that honor.

Dec 22, 2018

Tale of a boy's rescue from the horrors of slavery and his eventual growth into a prodigy of sorts. Very well written. I highly reccommend it.

Dec 21, 2018

One of the best books I've read ever...there is depth to the characters, the story is wide-ranging and the sense of place is compelling. Highly recommended. "Washington Black" has won the Giller Prize for 2018 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize of the same year.

Dec 18, 2018

A very engaging read and her best book yet.

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