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review 2017-05-12 05:42
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

Every so often, BookTube host the Diverseathon and I try to participate whenever I get a chance. However, this last time, I could not participate for life got in the way. But I still wanted to read the group book club pick which is The Underground Railroad. Yes, I'm getting to it extremely late but I finally read it and I'm so glad I did!


The book takes place during the 1800s in America when slavery was rampant. It follows a slave named Cora and her journey to escape from her slave owner through the legendary Underground Railroad. Only in this version of America, the Underground Railroad is an actual physical railroad running through the underground of the American continent. The story is moving, breathtaking, painful, and horrifying. It was a difficult read but I loved reading about it.


I want to start out by saying Colson Whitehead has one of the most beautifully, intelligent writing styles. I am in awe with how rich he paints the scene for the reader. I haven't read such a gorgeous writing style since Catherynne M. Valente so it pleases me greatly to see Whitehead has a similar style. He did a lot of research into the time period, using the same language that people used back in the 1800s. Sometimes I even had to look up some phrases because I am not familiar with such terminology and any book that has me looking up info so I can learn and better understand a story is a great book. And his story hurt me in many ways. It's not easy reading about the atrocities that took place during America's slavery period. Whitehead does not shy away from describing every dark, twisted, sick abuse. It shocks the reader. It educates the reader. It sets out what it must in order to tell the stories and the horrors many black people had to face. The racism, the hatred, the discrimination just because of the color of their skin. He tells his story through the main character, Cora.


Cora is strong, brave, sassy, and hard-working. We follow her from when she is a child to adulthood. And her life is a difficult one. From being born a slave, from being abused by her slave owners and fellow slaves, to running away to trying to find freedom. Her tale is a gruesome one... but not without hope.


I won't speak anymore about the story or the other characters. This is a book you must experience for yourself. It's such a beautifully written story, taking the reader on a terrible journey many black people had no choice but to take. It shows you the horrible nature in which black people had to live through. How racism defined everything the did or did not do. The story is harrowing and depressing, much like any story about slavery is. But with the way Whitehead writes it, you appreciate how well-crafted a story like this came to be.


I highly recommend you read this book. If you want to read a literary masterpiece about an actually existing Underground Railroad, then give this a read. Keep in mind that there is sexual abuse, rape, murder, body mutilation, body dismemberment, racism, and horrifying imagery. If you are not comfortable reading about those subjects, please refrain from reading this book. Otherwise, I think you should read this book. To enjoy the writing. To educate yourself. To never forget the atrocities that took place in America. It's a fantastic read and I'm looking forward to reading more from Colson Whitehead.

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review 2017-05-05 16:26
"The Underground Railroad", by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead

This is a moving and wildly inventive tale that shines a light on a very dark period of American history and tells how networks of black and white helped slaves escape to freedom decades before the Civil War.

The story chronicles the life of a teenage slave named Cora as she flees the Georgia plantation risking everything. Traveling Cora tried to elude bounty hunters, informers and lynch mobs with the help of a few railroad workers who were willing to risk their lives.

The novel jumps around in time and space and is quite fractured with interludes portraying other characters such as her friend Caesar and Ridgeway, the bounty hunter. The narrative is plain yet smoothly conveys the horrors of slavery: fear, humiliation, brutality and the loss of dignity. The author never flinches in portraying the worst of the slaves’ experiences even salting words with a racist undertone (nigger). The characters use the language of the period: examples: pickaninny and buck. I must admit it took some time to get used to this.

“The Underground Railroad” is an uneven book with great passages and some no so believable (railroad and tunnel scenes). It is great when it tells the story yet loses spunk when the imagination seems to be in over-drive. Although we have compelling snapshots of the life during that time, it missed the mark emotionally with a characterization that is simply underdeveloped…they seemed such a bunch of blah players…. This is a good book but I admit to have read far better and more captivating novels on slavery in America.

Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Synopsis from the Pulitzer Prices site:

“For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

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review 2017-03-14 14:46
DNF@ 11%
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead

I'm just not feeling this one. I've been struggling getting into it, but the disjointed sentence structure and lack of any connection to the characters doesn't help. And apparently Whitehead decided to make the Underground Railroad an actual railroad that exists underground. Um...what?


These reviews explain my feelings on this book pretty well:






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review 2017-02-07 17:21
The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death - Colson Whitehead

You have probably heard of Whitehead from his book 'The Underground Railroad.' That book didn't interest me but I had heard amusing bits about this book of his (which is non-fiction). It sounded funny and interesting so I thought, why not?


Whitehead is sent by Grantland to cover the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Even though he has never played before. So the book details his training, the world of poker, the people who play poker and what it's like trying to balance this project with raising his child.


It sounded interesting. It was supposedly really funny.


I'm not sure what book I read. I've never cared for books by journalists but this was just not interesting at all. It read a bit like a great big inside joke (if you know Whitehead, if you're familiar with the world of poker then this all makes sense sort of deal). Very little was interesting. I'll admit to not knowing much about poker (played for fun as a kid and occasionally play video versions for fun) but I just didn't understand the hype.


Quite a few reviewers said the writing was good but I disagree. Again, it may be because I'm not familiar with the world of poker but his descriptions of the people, the places, the game, etc. all made my eyes want to fall out of my head. The only bits that were even remotely interesting are the places where he talks about his daughter and the balance of trying to be a good parent in the midst of also trying to do his job and participate in this huge event.


As you can guess this was a no go for me. Doesn't make me want to try his 'Underground' either but hopefully either/both of those books are for someone else. Library if you're interested. Might be a good gift for the poker aficionado(s) if your life. 

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review 2017-01-31 00:00
Zone One: A Novel
Zone One: A Novel - Colson Whitehead 2.5 Stars.

What a rough go. This was 259 pages of literal hell for me. Is it the prose that I disliked so much or is it just my deep dislike of the concept of zombies that made this read lengthy and just plain awful? We will never know. But I will not count his writings out just yet. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and maybe his other writings will be more my speed.
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