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The Underground Railroad

A Novel

by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead X
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 320 pages

    Jan 2018, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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There are currently 5 reader reviews for The Underground Railroad
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

Gripping and Intense: It Is Impossible to Read This Book and Not Be Profoundly Moved
The best way to describe this remarkable book by Colson Whitehead is: gripping and intense. The plot is so gripping that it will keep you turning the pages long past your bedtime, and it's so intense that if you do dare read it before sleeping, the vivid descriptions of what was routinely done to runaway slaves will haunt your nightmares.

There is a reason this book won both the 2017 Pulitzer Prize and the 2016 National Book Award.

This is an imaginative retelling of the underground railroad in which there really is a railroad—tracks, a locomotive, passenger car, and an engineer. But this isn't an express from Mississippi to Massachusetts. It is built deep underground in fits and starts so slaves who are lucky enough to board still must be daring enough to travel over land as well. This is the story of Caesar, Cora, and Lovey, who escape from the Georgia cotton plantation on which they are enslaved. Their story is utterly engrossing, albeit brutal, viciously cruel, and at times inhuman. And even though the real underground railroad had no actual train tracks as it does in this novel, this is a heartbreakingly authentic depiction of what it meant to seek freedom—both for the courageous slaves who ran and the equally courageous white abolitionists who aided them.

This is one of those rare books that will live inside me forever. It is impossible to read it and not be profoundly moved.
Fransisco monarrez

i think good
The book was really good; just should have gave more detail.

I enjoy historical fiction and thought this book was great! The fact that the author made you think the railway was actually underground was a nice twist to the concept of 'underground'.
Power Reviewer
Sandi W.

Unconventional slant
An escape through the underground railroad. We may have read many novels in relation to this historical event, but none like Colson Whiteheads version.
During this pre-civil war saga, our protagonist Cora is determined to escape her owner and make it north to freedom. This will take more than one attempt and clearing numerous obstacles out of her way. She learns that she is very naive and true freedom is very hard to come by. With the help of both Caesar, a bound slave on the run, and Royal, a free black man, Cora slips the chains of the notorious slave catcher, Ridgeway. Always compared to her mother, the only slave to gain her freedom through escape into the swamp, Cora endures many hardships as she struggles to find freedom. With the help of Whiteheads unconventional underground railroad this story takes a novel twist.
Well researched, smooth writing, both likeable and despicable characters move this story right along. A small turn of magical realism slants this story in a novel way.
Power Reviewer
Becky H

Just not very good
My big problem with this book is: it doesn’t know what it is. Is it historical fiction? Yes, and no. Is it science fiction? Yes, and no. Is it alternative universe/history? Yes, and no. I had the uncomfortable feeling all while reading it that I was being played by the author. And that is not a comfortable -- or desirable -- feeling.

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD tells the story of Cora, a plantation slave, and her desire for freedom. In this book, the underground railroad is just that – underground. Many interlocking tunnels with a variety of engines and baggage/passenger cars traverse this railroad. Apparently no one hears or notices these steam engines or the building of the tunnels. The slavery portion of the story is purely antebellum south and rings true. The rest of the story – not so much.

The first half of the book found me wondering why I kept reading. The last half, I just wanted to know how Cora fared in this awkward world. I can’t recommend this book.
2 of 5 stars
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