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The Prophets

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781529405699

Price: £18.99

ON SALE: 5th January 2021

Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Historical Fiction

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‘This visionary and deeply evocative debut carves a radiant love story out of the bleakest of landscapes.’ Waterstones – Best Books to Look Out For in 2021

‘An Outstanding novel’ Guardian
‘A lyrical, poetic novel’ Independent

Epic in its scale’ Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
‘A rare marvel’ Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Magisterial’ Courttia Newland, author of A River Called Time
A spellbinding debut’ COSMO
‘Ambitious and intense’ Vanity Fair

In this blinding debut, Robert Jones Jr. blends the lyricism of Toni Morrison with the vivid prose of Zora Neale Hurston to characterise the forceful, enduring bond of love, and what happens when brutality threatens the purest form of serenity.

The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love – away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs – where they can be alone together.

But, Amos – a fellow slave – has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul’s gospel, he betrays them.

The culminating pages of The Prophets summon a choral voice of those who have suffered in silence, with blistering humanity, as the day of reckoning arrives at the Halifax plantation. Love, in all its permutations, is the discovery at the heart of Robert Jones Jr’s breathtaking debut, The Prophets.


'In The Prophets, Robert Jones, Jr.'s lens is at once epic and microscopic, equally capable of evoking historical crises and interpersonal ones. Painfully harsh and painfully tender, this inventive, kaleidoscopic love story is a marvel' Helen Phillips, author of The Need
'What a rare marvel this book is. The Prophets fashions an epic so rich in erudition, wisdom, clarity and power, so full of hard-earned yet too-brief joys, that it reaffirms for me literature's place as both balm and scalpel for the mind and soul. You can feel the decades of thinking embedded not only in these sentences but in how they question and build a world shamefully amputated from textbooks. Rarely is a book this finely wrought, the lives and histories it holds so tenderly felt, and rendered unforgettably true' - Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
'I've loved the writing of Robert Jones, Jr., for years, and The Prophets is an absolute triumph, a symphonic evocation of the heights and depths of pain, joy, and love' R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
'The Prophets is easily the most superb tutorial in writing and loving I have ever read. I'm convinced Morrison, Baldwin, and Bambara sat around sipping wine one night, talking about the day we'd read an offering like The Prophets. Robert Jones, Jr. is a once-in-a-generation cultural worker whose art thankfully will be imitated for generations' Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir
I read this novel and heard ancestral voices. When I quoted passages aloud to my friends, they were stunned because they heard them too. Jones Jr's carefully researched novel is meticulous in detail and grand in scope. It weaves a thread of emotional truth that stitches together patchwork, myriad characters and makes them whole. In a powerful reinvention of a familiar narrative, The Prophets mines unfamiliar depths. A painful, necessary, and heartwarming tale of survival amidst horrific circumstances. Brilliance.
Courttia Newland
How devastating and glorious this is. Epic in its scale, intimate in its force, and lyrical in its beauty. The Prophets shakes right down to the bone what the American novel is, should do, and can be. That shuffling sound you hear is Morrison, Baldwin, and Angelou whooping and hollering both in pride, and wonder
Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
The Prophets is indeed an outstanding novel, delivering tender, close-up intimacy, but also a great sweep of history
The Guardian
A spellbinding debut narrated by a variety of characters tells the story of the forbidden union between Samuel and Isaiah, two enslaved young men on a plantation in America's Deep South and the desire to forge connections. Vividly drawn, Jones Jr. skilfully rewrites the existence of Black queer people in recent history
A polyphonic novel
Vanity Fair
The writing is beautifully evocative - a book you'll be thinking about long after you've finished it.
Good Housekeeping
The Prophets is a lyrical, poetic novel, one that, despite its harrowing scenes, leaves you with some sense of humanity.
I am challenged by The Prophets. I am provoked, shaken and moved
Peggy Riley
Epic in its scope, the novel portrays a black history that connects African ancestors, nature, spiritualism, sex, love and shared trauma - an ambitious and intense mix.
Grimsby Telegraph
[E]ach lyrical, densely detailed paragraph is itself a transfixing journey.
Daily Mail
Epic in its scope, the novel portrays a black history that connects African ancestors, nature, spiritualism, sex, love and shared trauma - an ambitious and intense mix.
The i
This (...) is a novel wedded to its period but also of our times, exploring the pressing questions that have plagued America since its founding. It manages to be many things at once, stirring both the heart and the intellect in an exploration of human desire and depravity. A trenchant study of character, it is refreshing in its portrayal of the daily negotiations of humanity under slavery (...). Black queer love is at its most radical here. (...). Through it, the human demands to be seen. It becomes, in this magnificent novel, synonymous with freedom.
carries a powerful emotional resonance
The Scotsman
There are stabs of real beauty in his descriptions, a sense of building tragedy that draws you in, and characters you want to live with for a good while after you've turned the last page.
The Times
This is a dark and poignant story that lives in the experience of slavery, and gives voice to people, even more marginalised, stigmatised and abused than their contemporaries. Jones Jr is a vivid and beguiling storyteller and the empathy he feels for his characters is unsentimental. A raw and powerful read.
NB Magazine
Dark, moving and powerful
Attitude Magazine
[a] poetic and powerful debut
'The prose is so powerful and heavy that, when I was reading it, I just kept having moments where I had tears in my eyes' Candice Braithwaite, Good Housekeeping
From start to finish, Robert Jones Jr. delivers nothing short of magic in this hauntingly powerful debut. I truly believe the ancestors are rejoicing in rhapsody at this labour of love. These are the histories I want to read.
Layla Saad