Review of The Underground Railroad by Colton Whitehead

After Goodreads declared The Underground Railroad by Colton Whitehead the Best Book of 2016, I quickly rushed out to purchase it and bumped it up to the top of my ever-growing fall reading list. This novel is about Cora, a slave on a deep southern plantation who is a bit of an outsider since her mother Mabel’s infamous escape. Her and Cesar, a newer slave on the plantation, decide to escape their own personal hells and take the Underground Railroad to freedom. However, within this novel the Underground Railroad is not the network of brave individuals who housed and moved slaves to freedom that we are accustomed to, but rather it is an actual underground network of railways that was supposedly built by freed slaves and other abolitionists.

Despite my excitement about reading this book, I honestly couldn’t get past the first hundred pages. While I appreciated the realistic way in which Whitehead depicted the atrocities of slavery, his overall writing style failed to captivate me. I found the structure to be quite disjointed and difficult to follow. It seemed as though right when the action started, Whitehead would cut to a flashback or begin telling a portion of the story from a completely new perspective. The lacking character development not only made these transitions in perspective more challenging to follow but also made it difficult for me to empathize with them, despite the tremendous hardships Cora, Cesar, and the rest of the slaves on the Randall plantation were experiencing.

To be quite honest, I was very disappointed in myself for not being able to enjoy this novel. As someone who loves historical fiction, especially about this particular era in our history, I was truly devastated that I was unmoved by this novel. I am very curious to see how you guys felt about this novel so let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

2 out of 5 stars 


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