The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad 1

Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

by Colson Whitehead

Paperback Publication Date: 09/08/2016

4/5 Rating 1 Reviews

'This book to my breath away.' – Oprah Winfrey

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia.

Life is hellish for all the slaves, but Cora is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is coming into womanhood; even greater pain awaits. Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, and they plot their escape. Matters do not go as planned Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her but they manage to find a station and head north.

In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is not a metaphor - a secret network of tracks and tunnels has been built beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, where both find work in a city that at first seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens and Ridgeway, the relentless slave-catcher sent to find her, arrives in town. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing journey, state-by-state, seeking true freedom.

Like Gulliver, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey - Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in states in the pre-Civil War era. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage, and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Contemporary fiction
Publication Date:
Little, Brown Book Group Limited
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):
Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and one collection of essays, The Colossus of New York.

A Pulitzer Prize winner and a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, he lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

4 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • Powerful Reading

    by on

    Fantastic realism, when properly harnessed, has the remarkable power to make the most incomprehensible elements of our world tangible enough for readers to properly grapple with. The Underground Railroad is a shining example of this phenomenon in action.

    Colson Whitehead captures the real history of pre-abolition America and uses a literal subterranean railroad as an engine to power its narrative, giving voices to the little-known victims of our past. This is edge-of-your-seat reading with much of the novel immersed in a trans-American cat and mouse chase with a slave catcher pulled straight from Cormac McCarthy's novels. Peppered throughout is a series of insights into the ideological war in society between the popular powers that sought to justify and protect slavery, and the individuals who dared to oppose it.

    This is a very good book and it's landed at a time when the western world, particularly America, seems to be re-evaluating everything and asking how on earth we got to here. The Underground Railroad is begging to be read.