Hannah's Reviews > The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
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really liked it
bookshelves: literary-fiction

It took me forever to read this book - it is brilliant, don't get me wrong, but so exhausting in the terror it depicts. Colson Whitehead uses a very matter-of-fact way to talk about the horrors of slavery (and there were plenty) that makes what happens somehow all the more horrific. It is mesmerising in its cruelty and devastating it its matter-of-factness about the atrocities of slavery.

In this book, the Underground Railroad is just that: a system of railroads underground that help slaves escape. We follow Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, on her escape from it and through many different states, each different from the one before but all somehow horrible. Even in the more progressive states you can feel the hatred and the imagined superiority of the white majority. Everything that happens is painfully believable and all the more horrific for it.

Every second chapters deals with a different character; I enjoyed these interludes a lot, as they read like short stories with all the punch that genre can have while also being part of the greater whole of the novel. The chapter focussing on Cora's mum broke my heart, even more than it had already been broken. I found this device very effective and brilliantly executed.

This is an important book and one that deserves all the accolades it got, but it is also not without its flaws. Cora is a rather flat character even though she is at the core of this novel. I never got a sense for who she is as a person, but then again, this was probably intentional, rendering this girl's story universal. The importance isn't that these things happened to her, but that slavery happened to millions of people, many of which have been forgotten.
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Reading Progress

April 26, 2016 – Shelved
April 26, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
September 1, 2017 – Started Reading
September 3, 2017 –
page 125
34.15% "This book is killing me. (As I knew it would.) It is mesmerising in its cruelty and devastating it its matter-of-factness about the atrocities of slavery."
October 14, 2017 – Finished Reading
October 21, 2017 – Shelved as: literary-fiction

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Miriam (new) - added it

Miriam Smith Look forward to your review, I have this too to read. 😊


Diane S ☔ Good review, Hannah.


Hannah Thank you, Diane!


message 4: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Ansbro A great review, as always, Hannah!


Hannah Thank you so much, Kevin!


message 6: by Esil (new) - added it

Esil Great review, Hannah. I have this one and should get to it.


Hannah Thank you, Esil! It really is worth reading, if horrifying.


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