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text 2017-08-19 02:04
The Reading Quest
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan,Carolyn Nowak
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Nature Abhors a Vacuum (The Aielund Saga) - Stephen L. Nowland

I totally missed the official signup for this, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway.

 

The Reading Quest

 

I found it on Habitica, actually (apparently I am weak and will do anything for XP, including actual adulting), and it seemed very neat. Currently I am three and a half books in, working on the Rogue path, and quite enjoying the fact that I am working off a vague plan for my reading. We will see how long that lasts, since I am weak and easily distracted by random books, but the quest for experience points may keep me on my chosen path.

 

I'm going to need to do some major cleaning around here, since I may have gotten distracted from Booklikes for a bit.

 

Has anyone else seen this? Anyone manage to sign up in a timely manner and thus be eligible for prizes? Anyone else just going to do it anyway?

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review 2017-08-19 02:04
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead

I wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did.

 

My first sign of trouble was the much vaunted "the underground railroad is an actual railroad!" scene (I'm assuming that is not a spoiler since it is blatantly stated in every single synopsis, though it might have been a better scene if it wasn't?). It smacked of magical realism. Generally, I want to smack magical realism, so I should probably not be surprised that this didn't work for me, but I was still hoping to get some sense of awe from it. I didn't.

 

Overall, that was my real problem with the book: I didn't feel awe. I didn't feel much of anything. I've had more visceral reactions to textbooks about this time period. One of the "main" characters disappears partway through the book and it's somehow no big deal.

 

Our main character, Cora, has basically no emotional response to anything that happens throughout the novel. Some extremely horrific stuff happens throughout the novel. It is a novel about slavery. It is a novel about the racism that was common at the time period even of people who were not slave owners. There are murder and executions and beatings and horrible things happening. Cora remains alarmingly aloof from it all.

 

I'm almost inclined to think that this is somehow an intentional choice, that she is there to serve as author mouthpiece throughout. She has occasional bizarre knowledge (at one point she casually mentions how difficult life is in Ireland at the time period) and while she makes excellent points on several occasions, she makes narrator-style points comparing white life to slavery life aloud to moderately racist people, who never seem to respond. It feels like she's talking to the readers instead of the characters she's interacting with.

 

Maybe that is all more magical realism--I'll be completely honest and admit I don't get the genre at all--but it didn't work for me. I wanted to be right there with her in this brutal time period, and not only was I not there, she didn't seem to be there most of the time. Everything remained clinical throughout, and with a story like this, set in a time period where everything was horrifying, I was hoping for more.

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review 2017-08-14 22:16
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

I found this to be a painful read especially at this time.  Cora's journey from slavery to escaping it and being recaptured is told through her eyes, with short vignettes through the eyes of others whose lives intersected hers.  I do not understand why there is so much hate based on skin color.  While I hesitated to pick it up, once I did I was compelled to finish it.  The words are powerful as are the actions of many on the question of slavery and life after slavery.

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review 2017-08-10 17:57
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

A special thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Cora and Caesar are slaves on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Like all of the slaves, she is treated horrifically, but even more so because she is also an outcast among her people. Things are only going to get worse for Cora as she is approaching womanhood and is drawing unwanted attention from her owner.

Caesar, recently arrived from Virginia, tells Cora about the Underground Railroad. She initially refuses Caesar's idea to escape, but then her situation becomes more dire, and the two decide to leave the plantation and head to the north.

The narrative follows Cora's journey—at each stop she is met with a different world. She is also hunted by Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, and must navigate her way to liberation. At times, this structure didn't work because the reader gets bumped around from place-to-place and between past and present.

I wanted more from the supporting cast of characters, Whitehead does them a disservice by not developing them to their full potential. Caesar is also underdeveloped, and at times, Cora. There is a definite disconnect—would this book have been better in the first-person? Whitehead certainly did his research, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe the research took over the plot? The idea of an underground railroad was genius, but this component/concept was not fully explored.

This book was hard for me to rate, and at times, to read. There was a lot of disturbing subject matter, and while this is a fictitious story, there were many Cora's and Caesars, and this story is important to tell. I don't doubt that this novel will be the topic of many Book Clubs.

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review 2017-06-19 15:54
Definitely Due A Pulitzer Prize
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead

I did not read this because it was a Pulitzer Prize winning book, I read it because it was a book club read for a library near us and I was curious. I grew up in Newport, Kentucky, also known as Northern Kentucky. Northern Kentucky has a lot of homes that were part of the Underground Railroad. My parents would point out the houses that were part of the RailRoad and I paid attention. They were grand homes that had secret rooms or how secret hiding places in walls or on the roofs. When I was in high school some of the houses started showing signs in front that identified them as part of the railroad. So seeing this book I was interested. 

 

It follows one girl from her grandmother's capture in Africa to her mother's escaping and then her own escape, following her through the Railroad and all the problems that happen along the way. 

 

I do recommend this book, but it is graphic in the violence, but that cannot be helped as slaves were poorly treated, but it is very interesting. 

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