The Underground Railroad (Paperback)Colson Whitehead (author)
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A nightmarish evocation of the moral torpor and unthinking brutality of the Antebellum South, Whitehead’s narrative thunders along with the relentless pull and desperate motion of the titular subterranean boxcar system that transported slaves across the United States. Furious, wise and unbearably poignant, The Underground Railroad stands as Whitehead’s supreme achievement.
Waterstones Fiction Book of the Month for July (2017)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2017
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017
If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America. It was a joke, then, from the start. There was only darkness outside the windows on her journeys, and only ever would be darkness.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.
In Whitehead's razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels.
Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Number of pages: 400
Weight: 320 g
Dimensions: 198 x 126 x 26 mm
'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.' - The Observer
'It has invaded both my sleeping and waking thoughts ... Each character feels alive with a singular humanity ... Whitehead is on a roll, the reviews have been sublime' - Bim Adewunmi, The Guardian
'An engrossing and harrowing novel' - The Sunday Times
'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, The 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, The 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 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
'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' - The Telegraph
'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' - The Daily Mail
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