Summary

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2017
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.
©2016 Colson Whitehead (P)2016 Little Brown Book Group
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Critic reviews

"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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Regular price: £19.99

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By bookylady on 13-06-17

A spellbinding, heartbreaking tale of slavery.

I always know when I have read a truly great book - I am bereft at its end and want to tell everyone about it. This was such a book. One of my top five reads of 2017, so far.

Beautifully written, well-paced, great plot and characters. The lives and fate of slaves and runaways have always made for shocking reading and this novel is no exception . But the clever concept and depiction of the Underground Railroad gave this novel it's unique edge and kept me wondering if Cora, the main character, would ever reach the Free States.

Excellent and sympathetic narration.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Virginia Hendry on 09-09-17

Strangely Disappointing

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

This book could have been improved with editing it down and sticking more to how slaves really escaped. I had little patience with the idea that the "Underground Railroad", as the slave escape network was dubbed, was an actual railroad under the ground.

I had read a review saying this was better than the factual "12 Years a Slave", but I would absolutely disagree.

No doubt the writer blended a lot of good research on the topic with his artistic license about the railroad and the fictional stories of the characters, but I found the artistic license annoying and the characters could have been better developed.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The most interesting aspect for me were the weekly "festivals" with lynchings the main character witnessed while holed up in an attic on her way north - simply because I had no idea that sort of thing went on for general consumption.

The least interesting: the concept of the Underground Railroad being a real railroad.

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

Cora.

Did The Underground Railroad inspire you to do anything?

No.

Any additional comments?

If you want your writing to sing... edit it down and tighten it up.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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