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  • Washington Black

  • Written by: Esi Edugyan
  • Narrated by: Dion Graham
  • Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (885 ratings)

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Washington Black

Written by: Esi Edugyan
Narrated by: Dion Graham
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Publisher's Summary

A dazzling, original novel of slavery and freedom, from the author of the international best seller Half-Blood Blues

Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize

When two English brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation, they bring with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black - an 11-year-old field slave - is horrified to find himself chosen to live in the quarters of one of these men. But the man is not as Washington expects him to be. His new master is the eccentric Christopher Wilde - naturalist, explorer, inventor and abolitionist - whose obsession to perfect a winged flying machine disturbs all who know him. Washington is initiated into a world of wonder: a world where the night sea is set alight with fields of jellyfish, where a simple cloth canopy can propel 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 one fateful night, Washington is left to the mercy of his new masters. Christopher Wilde must choose between family ties and young Washington's life. What follows is a flight along the eastern coast of America, as the men attempt to elude the bounty that has been placed on Washington's head. Their journey opens them up to the extraordinary: to a dark encounter with a necropsicist, a scholar of the flesh; to a voyage aboard a vessel captained by a hunter of a different kind; to a glimpse through an unexpected portal into the Underground Railroad. This is a novel of fraught bonds and betrayal. What brings Wilde and Washington together ultimately tears them apart, leaving Washington to seek his true self in a world that denies his very existence.

From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy plains of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness of life. This inventive, electrifying novel asks, What is freedom? And can a life salvaged from the ashes ever be made whole?

©2018 Ides of March, Inc. (P)2018 Penguin Random House

Hear the Author Read an Excerpt

At Between the Pages: An Evening with the Scotiabank Giller Prize in Toronto on November 4, 2018, author Esi Edugyan read an excerpt from her novel Washington Black.
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Featured Article: Must-Listen Audiobooks by Outstanding Black Authors

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What listeners say about Washington Black

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Well written and engaging

I found the book to be well-written and engaging. The narration was outstanding. However I felt that at times it meandered and had no direction.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A sweeping Audioplay

Washington Black is a mercurial Bildungsroman about the emancipation of a young black boy, first from the bondage of slavery, then from the bondage of his past.

The talented Dion Graham infuses Esi Edugyan’s prose with a performance both tender and raw. He pulls you in like a riptide, dragging you through the bumps of the uneven first half of the novel to the gripping second half.

Much like Wash, the readers never quite find the payoff that they are expecting. There are times when the story loose to the point of sagging, and moments that grip the reader with such ferocious tension that you are left begging for a release. This is aggravated by the contrast between the novel’s first and second halves.

When combined they make for a stirring story that grows in complexity as it’s protagonist strives to define himself beyond the labels thrust upon him by circumstances beyond his control.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Beautifully written


A story about the talents and natural brilliance people are born with and how these can be destroyed or nurtured. It also reveals the natural cruelly some are born with. This is not a novel I would have chosen on my own but so glad I experienced it and highly recommend.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Rich and Engaging

We are familiar with many slave and post-slave stories, but this is a unique and compelling one. It is literally and figuratively the long journey of a black man and a white man, each struggling to overcome his past and find belonging in his present. This book features a creative and colorful way with words and a plot line that moves along such that I was always anxious to listen to the next chapter.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • PWL
  • 2019-08-16

Five Stars All the Way

A brilliant book and a brilliant narrator; the story is engrossing, proving just what a great writer Esi Edugyan is. On a side note, it took me several tries to ‘get into’ “Half-Blood Blues” (and how happy I am that I kept going back!) but with “Washington Black”, Edugyan had me at the first paragraph and kept me listening intently until the final sentence.
The Nova Scotia scenes reminded me somewhat of “Book of Negroes” and I felt I learned as much from “WB” as I did from Larry Hill’s masterpiece. Brava, Esi Edugyan and, I would listen to Dion Graham read the phone book, if anyone used a phone book anymore!

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing narration

Great story, all of Edugyan's books are amazing, but the narrator really adds another depth to the experience.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • B
  • 2023-04-25

Amazing story , masterful narration

The account of an extraordinary life, tied to another. Beautiful written, and the narration is superb. Emotional, in all the right ways. I'm so glad I got to listen to this book.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant storytelling and narration

Esi Edugyan is an amazing writer. I loved “Half-blood Blues” and hew new novel - “Washington Black “ - is just as well-written. She creates characters that are complex and believable. And the story is engrossing, so much so that I had difficulty putting the book down (rather to stop listening!).
The narration was excellent! Dion Graham does a wonderful job of distinguishing characters and capturing the mood and energy of the story. My one critique is that sometimes the narration was too low in volume.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful story.

A mesmerizing and powerful story. Beautiful narration. The tale of a boy born in slavery and his struggles.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Beyond amazing

I almost passed by this book on Audible because several reviewers spoke about a disappointing ending. Instead the ending was beautiful, poignant and perfect, rounding out an amazing journey with the exquisitely detailed observation that characterized every page of this brilliant work.
I listened to every word, every twist of the winding travelogue with amazement that someone who grew up in the blandness of my current home city could conjure up so vivid a tale from another world in another time. I felt the reality of Washington’s world more vividly than if I had been there myself. I couldn’t imagine being able to bring such a world alive from so great a distance, whether it were Barbados, Arctic Canada, Nova Scotia or north Africa. I would rate this, along with Shantaram, as my greatest novels.

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