Review: The Underground Railroad by Colton Whitehead


Source: Library
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Series: –
 Hardcover, 306 Pages
 Historical Fiction/Alternate History 
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
Rating: 4/5

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all slaves, but Cora is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is coming into womanhood; even greater pain awaits. Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her of the Underground Railroad and they plot their escape. Like Gulliver, Cora encounters different worlds on each leg of her journey.

Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors of black life in pre-Civil War America. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

The Underground Railroad is a book that I discovered on Litsy this past month and fit one of the challenges from the Read Harder Challenge from Book Riot so I decided to dive in.

This is my first Colton Whitehead book and I have to say I’m very impressed. The writing is beautiful and I think the more alternate moments in this were well done and really showed the extremes oft the time period. The fact that the Railroad takes on the physical manifestation of a a true railroad, hidden deep under the earth, really highlight the interconnection of the Railroad as well as the dangers to those operating it and how much work is involved in keeping the railroad running. We see the tireless work of those who maintain it and see the heaviness of the mystery of those who create and built it. The fact that time is spend describing the uncertainty and the terror involved with the escape, and less on the journey itself, brings in a more personal account to the story. We see Cora deal with the darkness of not knowing where she will end up and the fast paced escape that happens almost blindly in her terror. I think this book focuses more on the feelings involved during this time period and less on the physical true-ness of the acts. In some ways it does feel like it might diminish the amount of work involved in the Railroad and with those who fought to escape, but I feel that the heaviness of the emotion provided makes up for it.

The Underground Railroad is very much an account from a slave woman named Cora, as she grows tired of her bonds and makes her escape. It takes place in several places and we get to see the horrors and wonders of each new place that Cora visits. I really liked Cora, but I would have loved her more if this story had taken place through her eyes instead of 3rd person. This is a emotion heavy book, but having that ‘from a distance’ look sort of dampens the ability to connect with her.

I’m very happy I took a chance on this one. It’s hard to read at times but I definitely recommend it.

4 stars



This entry was posted in Book Reviews (2016) and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Review: The Underground Railroad by Colton Whitehead

  1. Andrea Stoeckel says:

    I recommended this to our local library

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