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Washington Black

Written by: Esi Edugyan
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (544 ratings)

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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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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Awesome!

The characters and story are alive , compelling and sweeping. An amazing experience. A tad of love, science and depravation as the world is struggling to mature. Timeless.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A stretch

I know this is a celebrated book and I wanted to love it. The adventures of a slave from boy to man is appealing. I will say I found the plot meandering and I didn’t understood the ending and I feel that there was a whole lot of cobbling bits together for it to make sense. Worst of all the accents of the performer are poorly done—the Scottish accent being virtually unrecognizable and at such a critical moment in the story! I wish audiobook producers would hire better directors. The performers and the listeners would benefit.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Perfect book for someone who spends a lot of time on the road

A beautifully written love story between a teacher and his pupil. Love of the highest and purest nature.
A long journey that takes the listener to many corners of the world - from blazing heat to blistering cold. On the journey the listener gets to know and better understand the dysfunctional characters

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great Read!

Didn't put it down. Highly recommend. If you like historical drama you'll love this novel.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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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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Intense, beautiful, with darkness

This story was captivating and left me feeling so incredibly naive about the reality, hardships and intimate trials of individuals living through slavery. The narrator was excellent, and the character development was rich and vivid.

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Beautifully Narrated

This book reads like a classic. I loved watching Washington grow throughout his epic journey.

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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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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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  • Buyer1
  • 2019-07-08

Just wow

This is a phenomenal book. The prose is beautiful and brought to life by the preformance. Esi Edugyan is clearly one of Canada's great writers. I expect Washington Black will be considered a classic.

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  • Ellen
  • 2018-12-25

Superb!

Tremendous literary feat, Brilliantly written and original, This book is a compellingly readable tour de force. Loved every minute of it and the narrator was outstanding!

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  • suekitty13
  • 2018-12-09

Just as good as you have heard!

This book deserves every award and accolade it has received. It is astonishing in it's vividness and emotional impact. Although it follows the life of one man from his childhood as a slave to his adulthood in London and beyond, Washington's adventures around the world are a truly epic story. I don't think I can say anything that hasn't already been said. It really is as great as you have heard.

The narrator, Dion Graham, gives a performance that is just as award worthy as Washington's tale. He gives so much emotion to the story and hearing how his voice changes as Wash ages is just incredible. Each of the characters has a distinct voice and sounds absolutely natural. I would swear this is a multi cast recording and not just one man!

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  • Rco to
  • 2018-12-08

Good overall but bad attempts at accents

Overall, I liked this story and the narrator has a pleasant voice. One thing I found distracting though is his attempt to mimic accents of different characters. Accents for individual characters (including the 1st person narrator) seemed to be “on” sometimes and then sometimes gone. Accents for some characters is just weird, like the “unmistakable” Scotsman, Willard, sounds like he’s got a very faint brogue hiding behind what I guess is the residual habit of attempting a Bahamian accent for the main character. The Dutch accents for the Haas’ are pretty badly done too. Would have been better to just narrate in a consistent voice vs. sometimes using accents, sometimes not, and doing them poorly. Narrator also seems to bring in a very emotional tone in a few suitable places...but not in others where it could be merited. So, sometimes you get the “Jules Verne” kind of energy that I think is intended, but there’s fewer peaks of excitement or wonder in the voice than I think the story deserves to bring it fully to life. Worth a listen, but pay attention to the content and use your own imagination for the accents and ebb and flow of adventure.

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  • Alyse
  • 2018-11-19

Competent but far from outstanding

I’m hard pressed to understand why this novel has been the subject of lead reviews in prominent publications. The characters, the setting and the ostensible subject initially captured my interest, which soon waned however. The character development is shallow, the plot is weak, and the writing is bloated. The narration is excellent, the single high point.