ebookclassics

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

undergroundrailroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is about Cora, a young girl who escapes with another slave named Caesar the horrors of living on a plantation in Georgia. With the help of the Underground Railroad and several of its volunteers, Cora and Caesar escape to South Carolina. However, close on their heels is Ridgeway, a slave catcher who failed to track down Cora’s mother after her escape from the same plantation, and who is even more determined to bring Cora back to her owner.

My thoughts …

* MAY CONTAINS SPOILERS

SOMEONE KNOWS MY NAME

In my #Readathon post, I mentioned it was difficult for me not to compare Cora to Aminata, the central character from Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. Both women suffer terribly, but Aminata is such a dynamic character, so wise and strong. As much as I wanted Cora to survive her ordeal, I found she lacked any significant characteristics.

THE SUBPLOT HAS LEFT THE STATION

Shortly after Cora and Caesar escape, my interest in the story started to lag until it is revealed there may be some nefarious activities taking place in their new South Carolina home involving secret medical procedures on the black population. I became really excited. This was new! This was something different! But this plot went absolutely nowhere and then died.

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

The actual Underground Railroad only has a minor role in this book. The title gave me the impression I might learn a lot more about the famous network, but the white abolitionists helping Cora and Caesar only know enough about the network to help slaves at their particular station. I was disappointed and felt like this was a wasted opportunity to explore the rich and fascinating history of a network that saved thousands of lives.

AWARD WORTHY?

As you probably know, The Underground Railroad is nominated for the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal, is an Oprah Book Club pick and a New York Times bestseller. The bookish world has really been falling at the feet of this book with adoration. While the story was satisfactory and historically meaningful, I can’t say I agree that the book deserves the glowing accolades. It was just okay.

3 Stars

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10 comments on “The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

  1. Brian Joseph
    November 6, 2016

    I a have heard a lot about this books. most of what I heard is mixed at best.

    Your commentary makes me think that it has a lot of undeveloped ideas. This is too bad as the concept sounds good.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      November 10, 2016

      People are really raving about this book, but I feel the actual history of Underground Railroad was not explored. It makes me question the book’s accolades. Is the book media putting it on a pedestal because they feel they have to?

      Like

  2. Naomi
    November 6, 2016

    I was under the impression this book was a guaranteed good read. I love hearing an alternative opinion. Now I don’t feel like I need to rush out and read it. Thank you!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      November 10, 2016

      I feel very comfortable saying you don’t need to rush out and read this book. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Naomi
        November 10, 2016

        Never hurts to cross books off the list. 😉

        Like

  3. TJ @ MyBookStrings
    November 7, 2016

    I returned this book to the library unread, when I saw that you liked The Book of Negroes much better. Lawrence’s book is still very much in my mind, and so I will wait a while until I read The Underground Railroad.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      November 10, 2016

      The Book of Negroes was a great story with a great character, so I’m not surprised it’s still on your mind. The book is still on my mind too.

      Like

  4. buriedinprint
    November 10, 2016

    You’re not alone in having expected more of a traditional underground railroad story, but there are already so many other novels which tell that story (or parts of it, at least) that I’m glad he didn’t take the conventional route. Unfortunately I started reading this on the last day of my library loan period and I just couldn’t finish (dumb of me, I know – of course it wouldn’t be renewable!), so my own verdict is suspended for now. Too bad you didn’t enjoy it more!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      November 10, 2016

      You’re being too hard on yourself. It’s hard beating that two-week-not-renewable loan deadline. The Underground Railroad had its moments of brilliance, but nothing spectacular.

      Like

    • Lily
      February 27, 2017

      Using arrow keys is OK but you really should be able to use mouse too. It's frustrating having to scroll through lots of things you should just be able to click on. Controls should appear when you move the mouse; you sh&ndluo#39;t have to click to see them

      Like

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This entry was posted on November 5, 2016 by in Reviews and tagged , .

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