This historical novel takes place in antebellum Virginia, just a few short years before the Civil War. Although it addresses the well known issues of the day it also focuses in on the one issue many of us may know little about. It speaks to that small group of free African-Americans who owned slaves.
The main character, Henry Townsend is a black plantation and slave owner. His free parents who bought him his freedom never owned slaves themselves and made their living by woodmaking. Henry on the other hand, who was raised during several of his teen years by his former master William Robbins, sees the benefit of owning slaves because how this "property" would bring him prestige in Manchester County. The novel is populated with what seems like a cast of thousands but each individual is intricately entwined with one another fullfilling a vision Jones is trying to explore.
This novel is not for everyone. It uses several literary techniques that is certainly not mainsteam reading and there are those who would even argue that Jones' way of writing is stilted, awkward and uneven. Yet he won the Pulitzer. Why?
There is depth to this novel regarding race relations and some chracterizations that are fully realized. It may not flow (some would say it's not even a novel but a bunch if vignettes) but there are some passages that are truly deserving of your time.
Next month, my blogs will center on Women's History Month!