The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Hi everyone. I’m Rincey and this is
Rincey Reads. Today I’m going to be doing a book
review on the Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This is probably
one of the biggest releases of the year. If you hadn’t heard already, Oprah picked it as her next book club
pick. She moved up the publication date like more than a month. So soon as like
that whole hullabaloo happen I picked up the book immediately. I was alraedy planning
on reading it but that will be just really solidified it for me. In this story you
are following the slave named Cora who is working on this plantation in Georgia.
She is you know not only a slave on this plantation, but she is sort of an outcast
from all the other slaves on the plantation. She is sort of infamous on
this plantation because her mother ran away and left her behind and was one of
the only slaves to run away from this plantation and actually like stay away.
Like no one knows what has happened to Cora’s mother but they just assume that
she’s made it somewhere up north, possibly Canada. Cora’s a little bit bitter
about the fact that, you know, her mother left her behind. And then one day Cora
is approached by this new slave named Caesar and he basically tells her about
this thing called the Underground Railroad and suggest that they run away together. He wants her to come along with because
he thinks she might be some sort of like good luck charms since her mother was
one of the only slaves to be able to get away. And in this story that underground
railroad is a literal railroad. So there are like actual train cars running
underground with actual conductors, the stops are different peoples houses. And
so this story just follows Cora and Caesar as they run away from this plantation.
And about how they are just constantly seeking freedom. This book was so fantastic. I gave it a
4 out of 5 stars, I’ll tell you that right off the bat. I really, really enjoyed it. It’s super brutal and heartbreaking and
honest and just so well done. Colson Whitehead’s writing is just so on point in
this book. I have never read any Colson Whitehead book, I should say that. So I
don’t know if his writing it always like this. But there’s something about the way this
book is written that’s so masterfully done. His writing style in this book is
slightly detached. I’ve seen people describe it as being almost clinical, which is definitely true. But I think
that’s done with a purpose. I feel like that reflects sort of the detatched
nature that Cora has throughout this story, being a slave, dealing with
extremely difficult and brutal situations. I feel like Cora herself
is sort of detached from the things happening around her and the writing
reflects that. I think that the detached style also provides a way for the reader
to deal with the extremely violent things that happen in this book. There’s no sugarcoating the violence in
this. This isn’t a book that’s violent like A Brief History of Seven Killings
was violent. There’s less violence in this book than there is in that book, so
that also helps as well. But I feel like the violence almost comes out of nowhere.
There’s no warning, there’s no sort of like leading up to it. There was like points
in this book where I was reading what was happening and I could see sort of
like the tensions rising a little bit, but then all of a sudden someone would
get like killed and you’re just like, “holy cow, did that actually just happened?”
I would have to like go back and re-read passages because it happened so fast and
it happened so quick and it was so immediate that I thought that I had missed
something but really that’s just the way that white people treated slaves in
those days. They didn’t really wait around for explanations or anything. As
soon as they were irritated with them they would turn to violence. This book
also does a really great job of discussing the ideas of freedom and what
that really meant for any of these slaves or any black person living in the
United States. Cora spends basically this entire book on the run, terrified that
she’s going to get captured by the slave hunters and be taken back to
Georgia. And so she’s constantly questioning whether or not she’s free
because she’s always hiding. There’s multiple times in this book where she’s
had to like hide her identity, physically hide herself, and the sacrifices that she
has to make in order to seek any sort of non-slave lifestyle is just so intense
and so extreme. Just as soon as Cora thinks she can let her guard down or the
reader feels like that they can let their guard down, Colson Whitehead finds a new way to sort
of bring in tension, bring in conflict. I felt like I was
constantly on the edge of my seat trying to see how Cora’s story was going to turn
out. Because there is no way to predict it because her life was just a roller coaster. It just keeps going back and forth, back
and forth and it just never lets the reader go. Another thing that I really
liked about this book is that there are chapters interspersed in here from other
characters’ point of views. So you get to see the point of view of like a slave
hunter, you get to see the point of view of Caesar, you get to see the point of
view of like the wife of one of the people who agrees to sort of hide Cora
in their house. And these chapters are like significantly long. So basically the
way is like there’s like a chunk or section about Cora’s life and there’s like
a one really quick chapter from the point of view of a character that you
had just been reading about or had been a part of Cora’s life in that previous
chapter. Then you read another chunk and then you get another character’s point
of view. And I really enjoyed that because it just provided sort of another
angle to this whole world. It sort of provided you as the reader some different
point of views of why someone would be a slave hunter, why someone would not want
to help out these slaves or why someone would want to help out the slaves, what
are the different things sort of driving these different characters and I really,
really enjoyed that. So yeah, in the end, like I said, I gave it a
4 out of 5 stars, really highly recommend it. I think the only reason why
it wasn’t a 5 out of 5 star book for me was because of the detached nature of
the writing. So I don’t know if that’s going to affect other people’s reading
of this book, but oh, so good, totally highly recommend it. Definitely worth
picking up. It’s a pretty quick read. It took me a little bit of time to read, but
that’s just because the Olympics were happening and I kept getting distracted. And it’ll definitely be in my like top books of the year, I already know that. So yeah those are my quick thoughts on The
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. If you’ve read this book, feel free to
leave a comment down below letting me know what you guys out of it. Or if
you have any questions about the book feel free to leave that down in the
comment section as well. Or if you’ve read any other Colson Whitehead, definitely
recommend me some of his other books. I know that all of his books are extremely
different from one another so I’m not completely sure which one to go with next. There’s another one called zone
something that can’t remember off the top of my head exactly that deals with
like zombies I’ve heard of and it just seems intriguing. It’s one that
I’ve heard recommended a lot of times when it comes to Colson Whitehead. So I
definitely am interested in reading more of his books now for sure. So yeah, that’s all
I have for now and thanks for watching.

15 thoughts on “The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

  1. I've loved Colson Whitehead since I read The Colossus of New York! I'm glad you loved it. I can't wait to read it!

  2. Can’t wait to sink my teeth into this one! I’d planned to get to it in late September but now I’m worried about it getting overhyped before I manage to read it! I know Colson is going to be in my neck of the woods in November so I’m excited for that too!

  3. Great review. If you're thinking about reading more Colson Whitehead, while Zone One is really wonderful, I might recommend The Intuitionist instead. It's perhaps a bit closer to this – both with some vague magical realism/alternative history at work and having a Black female protagonist. Also, Zone One being a zombie novel definitely has some violence, so a break from that might be another reason to try The Intuitionist instead.

  4. +rincey reads I don't get caught up in mainstream hype, but I must say I have heard nothing but great things about this book. I've already put it on my TBR list thanks to your review as well as others. Great review and thanks for the recommendation 🙂

  5. I love that you review without giving away too much of the plot! I always get scared of spoilers. So happy you enjoyed this book and can't wait to purchase this. Have you thought about reading Underground Airlines by Ben Winters? I want to buy both to read as a theme.

  6. I saw that you were reading "A Brief History of Seven Killings" by Marlon James and since you like this book I'm wondering if you've read "The Book of the Nightwomen" by Marlon James which is a Jamaican slave narrative and is so amazing!

  7. This book sounds fantastic. I haven't read anything by Colson Whitehead yet either, but I'm pretty sure I will start with this book and I'm hoping to get to it soon!

  8. Im halfway through this book! It has all my attention! In a couple weeks Colson Whitehead is coming to the book festival here in Boston!

  9. Finally finished this and found it to be fantastic. I saw your review prior to starting it and wanted to come back to say that I pretty much agreed with your summation. I'm a fan of his writing and would suggest John Henry Days and the Intuitionist. Zone One has it's moments but it isn't one of my personal favorites.

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