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The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson…

The Underground Railroad: A Novel (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Colson Whitehead (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,004454905 (4.04)1 / 748
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Their first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels.… (more)
Title:The Underground Railroad: A Novel
Authors:Colson Whitehead (Author)
Info:Anchor (2016), Edition: Reprint, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

Work Information

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

Recently added bytomhed, lunalarry, Irina79, JoeB1934, private library, ReganW, ZilmaPeBotelho, miss.information
  1. 90
    Beloved by Toni Morrison (shaunie)
    shaunie: Morrison's masterpiece is a clear influence on Whitehead's book, and his is one of the very few I've read which bears comparison with it. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's also a masterpiece, a stunningly good read!
  2. 60
    Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Both books use a magical means of transportation to illuminate the plight of refugees (runaway slaves in one and immigrants in the other.)
  3. 30
    The Known World by Edward P. Jones (lottpoet)
  4. 30
    The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (g33kgrrl)
    g33kgrrl: Two amazing authors, two different literary approaches to the underground railroad, two stories, one terrible time in US history.
  5. 30
    Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (chwiggy)
  6. 20
    Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters (elenchus)
    elenchus: That popular culture phenomenon of the uncanny twins, two works appearing together yet unrelated in authorship, production, inspiration. Why do they appear together? In this case, each is compelling enough to read based on their own, but for me irresistable now they've shown up onstage at the same time. Ben Winters's Underground Airlines a bizarro underground railroad, updated (for reasons left implicit) for air travel; Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad making the escape trail a concrete reality. Each also addresses our world, in between stations.… (more)
  7. 20
    Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both describe the brutalities of slavery.
  8. 10
    Roots by Alex Haley (charlie68)
  9. 12
    The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Disturbing Alternate Histories of America.
  10. 01
    Steal Away Home: One Woman's Epic Flight to Freedom - And Her Long Road Back to the South by Karolyn Smardz Frost (figsfromthistle)
  11. 06
    Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (charlie68)
    charlie68: A classic not a pc one but from a southern viewpoint.

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Group TopicMessagesLast Message 
 Monthly Author Reads: April 2020: Colson Whitehead31 unread / 31sweetiegherkin, August 2020

» See also 748 mentions

English (429)  Spanish (5)  French (4)  German (4)  Catalan (3)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Latvian (1)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (452)
Showing 1-5 of 429 (next | show all)
The Underground Railroad is a powerful story mainly well told. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I didn't enjoy reading it, mostly due to the violence inherent in telling any true or fictional story of slavery. The appallingly brutal conditions of slave life are laid stark and bare, and it made for difficult reading. I was somewhat disappointed in the way that the alternate history - an actual underground rail line - was handled, and had expected more of it, given the novel's title. I can see why the novel won the National Book Award, as its call for abolition and fair treatment of people with black skin is almost as necessary in the 21st century as it was in the early decades of American history, but I was not a fan of the book. ( )
  ahef1963 | May 9, 2024 |
Great writing, interesting story, a little too abstract for me but still. ( )
  RaynaPolsky | Apr 23, 2024 |
An intriguing and frequently horrifying look at the experience of slavery in the United States prior to the Civil War, from the point of view of the slaves, with an interesting fantastical spin. In reality, “The Underground Railroad” was a metaphor for the chain of sympathisers and safe houses who conveyed escaped slaves from the South to the northern states. In this book, that metaphor is imagined as reality — literal underground rail lines and steam engines carrying escapees north.

Though this award-winning book is definitely well worth reading, at the end I wasn’t entirely sure what this fantastical premise adds to the human story of the slaves and the appalling treatment they had to endure. It made me wonder, in fact, how much of the story was based in actual fact and what was part of a dystopian historical fantasy. I’m tempted to say most of it is based on solid, sordid fact, but without doing more research I don’t know.

Certainly on its own terms, the novel is heartbreaking as we follow the fortunes of Cora and Caesar attempting to escape from a plantation in Georgia. The chapters are interleaved with actual historical advertisements placed by slave-owners seeking the recovery of their escaped ‘property’. And there’s nothing more chilling than the way the slave-hunter Ridgeway continually and casually refers to an escaped slave as “it” rather than “he” or “she”, the same way as one might refer to an escaped horse. ( )
  davidrgrigg | Mar 23, 2024 |
An interesting, brutal and heart breaking book. I’ve seen some other reviews that call Cora unlikable or cold. Just don’t get it. She survives , and somehow, despite rape and torture, still cares if a child trusts her and rejoices in an almanac. Be prepared for a difficult journey, it is not sugar coated, but it is worth it ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
Extraordinary, horrifying and compelling and necessary. Thinking about the sort of sub-genre of works that this feels part of or adjacent to, books like Confessions of the Fox (fiction) and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (nonfiction) that address directly the tangled relationship of history, the inherently political nature of documentation or lack thereof, and the task of telling true and necessary stories. ( )
  localgayangel | Mar 5, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 429 (next | show all)
Der Roman des afroamerikanischen Autors Colson Whitehead über die Sklaverei in den USA des 19. Jahrhunderts kommt in deutscher Übersetzung nun gerade recht, um auf den heutigen Rassismus zu verweisen.

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Whitehead, Colsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
塔, 円城Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chauvin, SergeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
由依, 谷崎Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Munday, OliverCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Testa, MartinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turpin, BahniNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vries, Willemijn deNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed



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The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.
. . . for justice may be slow and invisible, but it always renders its true verdict in the end.
‘I’m what botanists call a hybrid,’ he said the first time Cora heard him speak. ‘A mixture of two different families. In flowers, such a concoction pleases the eye. When that amalgamation takes its shape in flesh and blood, some take great offense. In this room we recognize it for what it is -- a new beauty come into the world, and it is in bloom all around us.’
Georgina said the children make of it what they can. What they don't understand today, they might tomorrow. 'The Declaration is like a map. You trust that it's right, but you only know by going out and testing it yourself.'
In another country they would have been criminals, but this was America.
She didn’t understand the words, most of them at any rate, but created equal was not lost on her. The white men who wrote it didn’t understand it either, if all men did not truly mean all men. Not if they snatched away what belonged to other people, whether it was something you could hold in your hand, like dirt, or something you could not, like freedom.
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Wikipedia in English


Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Their first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels.

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Book description
Haiku summary
A rail running north
Cora must decide how far
Her true freedom lies.
Deep and dark below
Parallel lines to freedom
That don't make you free

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