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The Underground Railroad: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017 Paperback – 26 April 2017
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An engrossing and harrowing novel ― Sunday Times
[A] brutal, vital, devastating novel...This is a luminous, furious, wildly inventive tale that not only shines a bright light on one of the darkest periods of history, but also opens up thrilling new vistas for the form of the novel itself -- Alex Preston ― Observer
This thrilling tale of escape from a deep south plantation takes in terror, beauty and the history of human tragedy..This uncanny novel never attempts to deliver a message - instead it tells one of the most compelling stories I have ever read. Cora's strong, graceful hands touch on the greatest tragedies of our history ― Cynthia Bond, Guardian
It's so good it's hard to praise it without whipping out the cliches: it's an elegant, devastating powerhouse of a book, following a young black woman all over America as she tries to escape the horrors of slavery. When it was published with Oprah's imprimatur, in August, it was universally acclaimed. It deserved it -- Michelle Dean ― Guardian
One of the best, if not the best, book I've read this year . . . Whitehead never exploits his subject matter, and in fact it's the sparseness of the novel that makes it such a punch in the gut -- Sarah Shaffi ― Stylist
My book of the year by some distance...It's a profound and important novel, but more than anything it's an absurdly good read, gripping you in its tightly wound plot, astonishing you with its leaps of imagination. If Whitehead doesn't win every prize going next year, I'll appear on Saturday Review in my underpants -- Alex Preston ― Observer, Best Fiction of 2016
Whitehead is a superb storyteller . . . [he] brilliantly intertwines his allegory with history . . . writing at the peak of his game . . . Whitehead's achievement is truly remarkable: by giving the Underground Railroad a new mythology, he has found a way of confronting other myths, older and persistent, about the United States. His book cannot have enough readers ― Telegraph
It is an extraordinary novel, a rich, confident work that will deservedly win - on the basis of literary merit as well as moral purpose . . . History and human experience as well as an artist's obligation to tell the truth have shaped a virtuoso novel that should be read by every American as well as readers across the world. And it will be, it should be -- Eileen Battersby ― Irish Times
An utterly transporting piece of storytelling -- Alex Heminsley ― The Pool
Bestselling author Colson Whitehead's novel is a searing indictment of slavery with a detailed inventory of man's inhumanity to man - and Cora's flight is a harrowing and shocking trip for the reader ― Daily Mail
A stunning, brutal and hugely imaginative book. It's a favourite of both Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. It is painful history re-imagined in a powerful and brilliant way ― Emerald St
Recommended by none other than Obama AND Oprah, The Underground Railroad arrives deserving every last drop of hype that's come its way . . . There are many twists and turns in Cora's long, treacherous journey towards freedom and while The Underground Railroad is at times brutal and disturbing, it's also hopeful and an addictive, compulsive read. After reading it, a corner of your heart will always belong to Cora. An instant classic -- Sarra Manning ― Red
Reaches the marrow of your bones, settles in and stays forever . . . a tour de force -- Oprah Winfrey
This bravura novel reimagines that same network as a real subterranean railway, upon which a girl named Cora flees the slave-catcher Ridgeway. Throughout, horrific experiences are rendered in lapidary prose, but it's Cora's daring that provides the story's redemptive oomph ― Mail on Sunday
Inventive and hard-hitting ― Metro
It is a bold way of reimagining the slave experience and, in the capable hands of Whitehead, succeeds triumphantly ― Mail on Sunday
Brutal, tender, thrilling and audacious -- Naomi Alderman ― Guardian
An enchanting tale . . . full of vivid images, learned allusions and astute observations . . . The most important and acclaimed American novel of the past year ― London Review of Books
I stayed up way too late to finish this... It will be haunting me in the best way ― Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
A fantastical picaresque through the dark side of American history ― Daily Telegraph
Thrilling and unsentimental ― Scotsman
The Underground Railroad is a noble descendant of the great narratives of slavery, and among the very finest of its novels -- Wesley Stace ― Times Literary Supplement
An audaciously imagined and profoundly moving novel -- Eithne Farry ― Express
Stunning and unsentimental . . . required reading -- Jenny Niven ― Herald
A charged and important novel that pushed at the boundaries of fiction -- Justine Jordan ― Guardian, Best Books of 2016
Leaves the reader with a devastating understanding of the terrible human costs of slavery . . . with echoes of Toni Morrison's Beloved, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and with brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift . . . Colson Whitehead has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present -- Michiko Kakutani ― New York Times
The Underground Railroad isn't the modern slave narrative it first appears to be. It is something grander and more piercing, a dazzling antebellum anti-myth...Whitehead's prose is quick as a runaway's footsteps ― New York Review of Books
A book that resonates with deep emotional timbre. The Underground Railroad reanimates the slave narrative, disrupts our settled sense of the past and stretches the ligaments of history right into our own era . . . The story charges along with incredible power . . . The canon of essential novels about America's peculiar institution just grew by one -- Ron Charles ― Washington Post
[The Underground Railroad] is really good - good, in fact, in just about every way a novel can be good . . . a grave and fully realized masterpiece, a weird blend of history and fantasy that will have critics rightfully making comparisons to Toni Morrison and Gabriel García-Márquez ― Boston Globe
This book should be required reading in classrooms across the country alongside Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. If this isn't Colson Whitehead's masterpiece, it's definitely the best book of the year and maybe the most important work of the decade ― Chicago Tribune
Masterful, urgent . . . one of the finest novels written about our country's still unabsolved original sin -- Charles Finch ― USA Today
The Underground Railroad has serious ambition, especially within the tradition of literary satire . . . With deadpan virtuosity and muted audacity, Whitehead integrates the historical details of slavery with the present ― Los Angeles Review of Books
Whitehead is a fantastic novelist, one of the best in America today. (Certainly better than Franzen.)... Oprah is right: The Underground Railroad is Whitehead's best book yet... This is the rare critically acclaimed bestseller that deserves every ounce of its adoration, and more. The hype is real. You can believe Oprah, and its scores of other fans, including some guy who took The Underground Railroad on summer vacation and can't stop talking about its "terrific... powerful" portraiture of race in America. That fan's name is Barack Obama ― Seattle Times
Magnetizing and wrenching . . . Each stop Cora makes along the Underground Railroad reveals another shocking and malignant symptom of a country riven by catastrophic conflicts, a poisonous moral crisis, and diabolical violence. Each galvanizing scene blazes with terror and indictment as Whitehead tracks the consequences of the old American imperative to seize, enslave, and profit . . . Hard-driving, lasersharp, artistically superlative, and deeply compassionate, Whitehead's unforgettable odyssey adds a clarion new facet to the literature of racial tyranny and liberation ― Booklist
Startlingly original . . . Whitehead continues the African-American artists' inquiry into race mythology and history with rousing authority and razor-sharp ingenuity; he is now assuredly a writer of the first rank ― Kirkus
In powerful, precise prose, at once spellbinding and ferocious, the book follows Cora's incredible journey north, step by step . . . the story is literature at its finest and history at its most barbaric. Would that this novel were required reading for every American citizen ― Publishers Weekly
Colson Whitehead's staggering, haunted new novel . . . [is] a book that is fully expected to win all the awards this year - Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize, National Book Award, etc - and it deserves every last one ― Chapter 16
Hard-driving, laser-sharp, artistically superlative, and deeply compassionate, Whitehead's unforgettable odyssey adds a clarion new facet to the literature of racial tyranny and liberation ― Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence, shortlist announcement
- Publisher : Fleet; 1st edition (26 April 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0708898408
- ISBN-13 : 978-0708898406
- Dimensions : 12.7 x 2.6 x 19.6 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 5,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Whilst the novel does have literary pretensions, the story ultimately becomes an edge-of-the seat page turning thriller. I can understand why some reviewers found the initial chapters difficult but the book evolves into something that is hugely descriptive and with a sense of danger and menace which permeates the novel like nothing else I have ever read. Whilst the whole concept of an actual underground railway is an elaborate twist on the name given to a network dedicated to rescuing escaped slaves, there is a lot of historical research which has gone in to this book as well as references to later incidents such as the notorious Tuskegee Experiment.
The book is often uncomfortable and there is an underlying and understandable resentment of the racist nature of America and the battles it's black population had to overcome to assert themselves. This is a novel that does not withhold it's punches yet offers up a mirror to American society today. I would have to say that the novel is like a tapestry where the various elements eventually coalesce and you are taken on a journey which is often fascinating, repellent and rewarding depending upon which chapter you are reading. The villains in the piece are repugnant and menacing. Ridgeway is one of the most believable villains I have encountered in a book. Not all the white characters are bad and it is nice to see that things are so nuanced. The detestable Homer is scary because his motives are never really explained. Not sure why a macabre black boy should work for a slave catcher.
I am usually quite negative about American literature. In the past I have been disappointed by writers such as Scot F Fitzgerald who are deemed to represent the "American experience." As a rule, I avoid American writers due to these feelings. Having said this, I would have to say that this book represents exactly how I feel about America. The white characters are especially well drawn in this novel and this appertains to both the liberal characters and racists described within this book. Even those who appear to have good intentions transpire to be misguided.
At the end of the day, what sells this book for me is the fact that you want to talk about it and tell everyone how good it is after you have finished it. It really sticks in your mind, If it has a flaw, it is that there is a sense of foreboding throughout the book which makes you rush through the pages. This means that you sometimes miss the beauty in the language. Deemed a "science fiction " novel, this is somewhat of a miscasting as I feel this is a book that everyone needs to read. This would make a terrific film but I would urge anyone who loves books to pick this novel up and give it a try before it hits the big screen. Thoroughly recommended.
The narrative of Cora's escape across five states becomes a sombre and nuanced exploration of the toxic effect of slavery, especially plantation slavery, on the whole of American society, with figures like Martin and Homer serving to illustrate the diversity of human responses to the enveloping nightmare.
I had a mixed reaction to the magic realism of the railroad and to a lesser extent the South Carolina sequence. It was daring on Whitehead's part, because he ran the risk of destroying his book's credibility. I can understand why some readers abandoned the novel at that point. But on balance I thought it worked, adding an invigorating extra dimension.
The only flaw was the rather muted ending, which lacked the self confidence and panache of the rest of the novel.
The writing is lyrical and poetic and crafted with care and a real sense of artistry. The story is utterly compelling and takes a real grip early on and never lets it's tightness ease. The characters are crafted with care and loving attention and their stories draw massive emotional responses. It's hard to fathom the evil and totality of the Slavery Experience, it's savagery and ruthlessness and the way it pock marked itself so deeply into the culture of The South-and beyond. It's impact reasonates today causing a torrent of complex problems & challenges for modern day America.
This is a bleak read but it also inspires as the central characters try to retain their dignity and Hope in a period of unrelenting primeval savagery.
The pace of the book is fierce and you root for the Slaves. There are one or two moments of exhilaration amidst the despair and murderous culture.
Parts of the book ride a rocky road in trying to stretch the debate between the protagonists and for me the weakest section is in the interchange between the Slave Catcher ,Ridgeway, and Cara. That part just doesn't work.
But it's a rare moment in an otherwise superlative read. This is a simply magnificent book which is beautifully written, imaginatively constructed and powerfully realised.
Highly recommended and one of my Books of the Decade.
366 pages, split into 12 chapters, the titles of which show the progression to The North.
Disappointingly, I found this book to be really hard going. There is no doubt that it is a worthy subject and it is well written but I found it very difficult to connect with anything at all in the novel.
It almost feels shameful to not want to read about the terrors of slavery but it seemed that the author was writing for literary praise without concentrating on engaging with the average reader.
The parallel world was a bit odd and gave the novel a disjointed impression which did not flow well at all. I'm sure there was something deep going on but it passed me by and I won;t recommend this book to anyone else.
This period in American history is unfamiliar to me and I needed more context to be able to place the characters. Here we are thrown into a situation and expected to work everything out which lessened the powerful effect of the story.
Slavery was and is totally awful and it is a story of cruelty for economic gain and the result of seeing people as less than human - this being the basis of appalling racism. There were a few episodes that capture the horror and brutality of it and I fearful of being seen as someone who trivialises it but in a strange way the book does that.
Cora just like Dick Barton was save at the last moment when somehow a saviour or saviours turned up. This made it certain that she would ride off into the sunset. Those who died brutal deaths and who remain as a scar on the people who used slavery so casually got lost in this book.