Favored by many to win this year’s Man Booker, Washington Black (Knopf, $26.95), the third novel by Canadian writer Esi Edugyan, will be sure to please the person on your gift list who loves magical realism and historical fiction. The novel opens by bluntly posing the question of what it means to be free, a question ingeniously and powerfully explored through the life of the eponymous Washington Black. Washington is an eleven-year-old slave on a Barbados sugar plantation when he’s selected by the plantation master’s brother to assist with perfecting his new invention, the “Cloud-cutter.” A flying machine, the cutter allows Washington to drift off to several different countries. The plot keeps pace with the adventures, and Edugyan’s tale deftly interweaves themes of friendship and betrayal while brilliantly evoking the world of the early nineteenth century.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan