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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:

 

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1709610537?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

 

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1696038487?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

 

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review 2017-02-09 16:55
Well, Cliffnotes has no worries
Summary and Analysis of The Underground Railroad: Based on the Book - Worth Books
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

I honestly believe that many students today do not realize how easy in some ways they have it. When I was in school, we just had Cliffnotes. Today, there are Cliffnotes, Sparknotes, Monkeynotes, Charles River Editors Guides and so on. Worth Books (a Division of Open Road Media) offers “Smart Summaries” of various titles is the latest group to offer such books.

Like many other summery and analysis books, Worth Books makes it clear that this is a supplement to the book, in this case The Underground Railroad, and not a replacement for actually reading the book. In terms of summery, this is well done, functioning more as a summery as opposed to spoiler filled plot synopsis. There is a summery section as well as a major character section, and these two things work together.

The weakest part is the analysis section. It’s not bad, and in a general way, it is good. The strongest points are the context section, which notes the publication history and events in both the publishing world and “real” world. The sections using quotes from the novel and explaining references are good. The reference section, however, does leave out a bit in terms of historical events that Whitehead did draw are. The left-out thing that most disturbed was the total lack of mention of Octavia Butler. True, Butler’s Kindred can be classified as science fiction, but it is an important fictional book about slavery. To not even mention in the further reading section or a brief rundown of other slavery novels is an oversight. Additionally, there is a definite link between Butler and Whitehead. This does not lessen either work, but if an author is going to make a justified comparison to The Diary of Anne Frank, Butler should be mentioned as well.

It might be helpful as a starting point for discussions at a book club where conversation is hard to start.
 
 
 

 

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review 2016-10-26 01:31
Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead


I would like to thank Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.

 

I have to say, I was really looking forwards to this book but the writing style just wasn't working for me. I found myself putting the book down and not being drawn to pick it up again. I did go back to it several times hoping that it was just a matter of time before the story drew me in, but I found that what I was reading just wasn't sinking in and it just wasn't holding my interest.

 

Obviously, because I didn't finish the book I'm unable to review it in its entirety, but I feel that I need to at least explain why it wasn't working for me. The storyline jumped back and forth between the main plot and backstory quite a bit so I really struggled to keep everything and everyone in the right order. Had I been invested in the characters I don't think this would have been as much of a problem, but I wasn't able to connect to the characters either. I couldn't build a mental image of them, nor was I able to connect with them on an emotional level. I felt like I was watching them from a distance.

 

The writing style just didn't work for me. I found it to be distant and impersonal, it didn't pull me in or engage me in the way I wanted it to. I was being told a story rather than experiencing the story, and there were too many distractions veering me away from the main storyline.

 

Many of my friends enjoyed it and highly recommended it so I'm not going to write it off completely. It may just not be the book for me at this moment in time so I will give it another try at a later date.

 

 

Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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