The Underground Railroad

  • by Colson Whitehead
  • Narrated by Bahni Turpin
  • 10 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

National Book Award Winner 2016
Amazon.Com Number One Book of the Year 2016
Number One New York Times Best Seller
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.
In Whitehead's razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated boxcar pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world.
As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.

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What the Critics Say

"Whitehead is on a roll: the reviews have been sublime." (The Guardian)
"Luminous, furious, wildly inventive." (The Observer)
"Hands down one of the best, if not the best, book I've read this year." (Stylist)
"Dazzling." (New York Review of Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Disappointingly & underwhelming slave tale

I wanted to love this but I couldn't. The premise of the story is set in the southern US slave states and the life of Cora who runs away from slavery. I enjoyed some of the plantation descriptions which detail her life and little touches like her trying to keep a small patch of land to grow vegetables. But overall I felt her character didn't really grow and develop. It was a slow, boring listen once she had run and, at times, I didn't understand what was happening. It definitely has potential with some well written passages and a subtlety that hints at some of the worse aspects -like how doctors see the women to stop them reproducing, but it just lacks forward movement. I don't want lots of action and adventure but this was lots of the same thing over and over. Sadly I can't recommend.
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- Suzy "Love books both fiction & non-fiction, but fairly new to audio books. Other interests inc country music, walking, heritage and travel."

All they hype is justified

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes I would but not all. Some delicate souls will be put off by some of the graphic content.


What did you like best about this story?

I felt the author didn't cheat history. The content felt authentic. The cruelty was authentic. This book is so apt for the times we live in.


Which character – as performed by Bahni Turpin – was your favourite?

All of them .


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The massacre neare the end


Any additional comments?

In my opinion this is a really good book and really worth your time. Ditch xfactor/dancing with the stars and tune into some real quality.

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- ReadingFan "Ciaran Hurst"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-10-2016
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio UK