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In Esi Edugyan’s Novel ‘Washington Black,’ a Slave Escapes by Hot-Air Balloon

(This book was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018. For the rest of the list, click here.)

  • By Colm Toibin
  • The New York Times

By Esi Edugyan
334 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $26.95

When the novel “Washington Black” opens, it is 1830 and the young George Washington Black, who narrates his own story, is a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation called Faith, protected, or at least watched over, by an older woman, Big Kit.

As a new master takes charge, the fear is palpable.

The accounts of murders and punishments and random cruelties are chilling and unsparing.

Big Kit can see no way…

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