From prize-winning, bestselling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
     In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
     Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates 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 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.
September 13, 2016  |  320 pages
(Read from Dec 29, 2016 to Dec 30, 2016)
Grade: B    (switch to numeric scale)
L/E Ratio: 90% Literature, 10% Entertainment
Tags:
Writing Quality:
Low High
Originality:
Low High

Addictiveness:
Low High
Movie Potential:
Low High

Re-readability:
Low High
Sequel Potential:
Low High
Comment:
The dark horrors of the South are brought to light by Whitehead, who depicts the slave struggle in a harsh yet elegant manner. Unfortunately the novel, powerful as it might be, feels unfinished or perhaps edited down too much. Whitehead clearly wants to experiment with historical fantasy, but the conceit of a real train carrying slaves northward never makes much of an impact on the plot. It does work as a metaphor though, giving the author a mechanism to comment on America, past and present.