The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Historical Fiction, 306 pages, published in 2016

After being convinced to leave her plantation and slavery by a new arrival, Cora begin her journey on the actual Underground Railroad, a system of underground tunnels and trains with real conductors.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: slavery, sexual assault, murder, abuse

I was anticipated this book due to the high praise, but unfortunately, something didn’t just work for me.

This book starts with Cora’s life on her plantation in Georgia. The opening bits of this book were quite brutal, but it wasn’t overdone, just realistic.

I definitely thought that the Underground Railroad element would be expanded on, because whenever I see anyone talk about this book, they mention that the book features an actual railroad that is underground. The book didn’t really go into it, the fact that it was underground was kind of just accepted as fact.

I did appreciate what I learned about slaves trying to escape to freedom. Cora goes to see a doctor, who suggests that she get hysterectomy, even though she is young and had not had any children yet. This was offered as optional, but strongly suggested, disguising a nationwide eugenics movement. There were so many stages to Cora journey, so it wasn’t like she was just going to hop on the Underground Railroad the first time and immediately end up in freedom.

The part of this book that I did not really vibe with was the timeline and perspective shifts. Cora is mostly the main character being followed, but occasionally, it will shift to someone else. It also takes place over a fairly linear timeline, but sometimes it hops around. I also felt like I didn’t get to spend enough time with Cora to really want to read more about her specifically.

I appreciate what I got out of this book, but I didn’t love the story itself.

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