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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2017

National Book Award Winner 2016

Amazon.Com Number One Book of the Year 2016

Number One New York Times Best Seller

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 boxcar 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.

©2016 Colson Whitehead (P)2016 Little Brown Book Group

Critic Reviews

"Whitehead is on a roll: the reviews have been sublime." (The Guardian)
"Luminous, furious, wildly inventive." (The Observer)
"Hands down one of the best, if not the best, book I've read this year." (Stylist)
"Dazzling." (New York Review of Books)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • bookylady
  • 06-13-17

A spellbinding, heartbreaking tale of slavery.

I always know when I have read a truly great book - I am bereft at its end and want to tell everyone about it. This was such a book. One of my top five reads of 2017, so far.

Beautifully written, well-paced, great plot and characters. The lives and fate of slaves and runaways have always made for shocking reading and this novel is no exception . But the clever concept and depiction of the Underground Railroad gave this novel it's unique edge and kept me wondering if Cora, the main character, would ever reach the Free States.

Excellent and sympathetic narration.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • ReadingFan
  • 03-01-17

All they hype is justified

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes I would but not all. Some delicate souls will be put off by some of the graphic content.

What did you like best about this story?

I felt the author didn't cheat history. The content felt authentic. The cruelty was authentic. This book is so apt for the times we live in.

Which character – as performed by Bahni Turpin – was your favourite?

All of them .

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The massacre neare the end

Any additional comments?

In my opinion this is a really good book and really worth your time. Ditch xfactor/dancing with the stars and tune into some real quality.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • avagardro
  • 01-19-17

cora captivated me.

Captivating story. I became so involved with Cora I could feel her next to me.
occasionally I felt the voice sounded a little robotic which was no fault of the narrator. perhaps the recording.
highly recommended nevertheless.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Suswati
  • 01-03-17

Powerful, epic, a real look into inhumanity

Listening to this is obviously a struggle, the content of slavery is not something that can be trivialised so be warned.

While Colson Whitehead did not get into much character building, the focus on the underground railroad itself is detailed and descriptive. The protagonist Cora serves as a good barometer in understanding the level of horror that many African Americans faced hence the writer does not seem to concentrate on creating emotive backgrounds for each character.

Nevertheless, the terrifying incidents leave the listener empathising with the characters as it reflects the lack of safety and constant fear they had to face. It is a rollercoaster listen, starting off slow but still horrifying, culminating in more and more terrible situations. The performer is a little stagnant at times probably because it reads more as a factual piece than autobiographical.

A 21st century tribute to the generations who have suffered.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mel
  • 12-27-16

Gritty and Bleak

great performance and a great story, but its not a light listen! the main character Cora is likeable and you really get drawn in to her story and want her to succeed. there are twists and turns in the story but the gritty realism keeps you grounded.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Virginia Hendry
  • 09-09-17

Strangely Disappointing

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

This book could have been improved with editing it down and sticking more to how slaves really escaped. I had little patience with the idea that the "Underground Railroad", as the slave escape network was dubbed, was an actual railroad under the ground.

I had read a review saying this was better than the factual "12 Years a Slave", but I would absolutely disagree.

No doubt the writer blended a lot of good research on the topic with his artistic license about the railroad and the fictional stories of the characters, but I found the artistic license annoying and the characters could have been better developed.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The most interesting aspect for me were the weekly "festivals" with lynchings the main character witnessed while holed up in an attic on her way north - simply because I had no idea that sort of thing went on for general consumption.

The least interesting: the concept of the Underground Railroad being a real railroad.

Which character – as performed by Bahni Turpin – was your favourite?

Cora.

Did The Underground Railroad inspire you to do anything?

No.

Any additional comments?

If you want your writing to sing... edit it down and tighten it up.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jenny
  • 07-24-17

Great book, great writing.

Good book. Energetic, upsetting and beautifully written. It had its redemptive moments, but it's a grim subject all told.

Recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Antonio Konitsiotis
  • 02-03-17

Powerful storytelling

incredible acting and an amazing and heart wrenching story means this is a must. Especially poignant with the rampant bigotry and racism some factions of politics want to spread in the world.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-09-17

A wonderfully rich tale & incredibly moving.

Well worth a credit! A moving re-imagining of a hugely historically significant period - fictional yet starkly truthful at the same time.

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  • LydiaBardsley
  • 11-21-17

Great story, good performance overall

Fantastic story, bitterly cruel in places. Good performance overall, but the one area that let it down a bit was the male voices were all fairly similar, and the Irish accents were not great. But I doubt I could do better myself to be fair. Overall I really enjoyed the story and would definitely recommend to others.

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  • Jack Rabl
  • 02-05-17

Incredibly moving

Whitehead has written a powerful story, and it is vividly narrated by Bahni Turpin. Highly recommended to

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-21-17

Great research from the author

The theme is not one of my favourites but I decided to give it a try given the awards the book got in 2016.

My favourite phrase is on chapter 91- very strong statement and sadly true, and it continues to happen to this day in many parts of the World.

Whilst the story is nothing new to me, it serves as the conductor to show the amazing research that the author had to do to be so specific and detailed, narrating the events and the facts that this book shows about this part of the United States history. Very interesting and confronting. Congratulations to the author for the incredible investigative work.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Emma
  • 09-11-17

Couldn't get into it

I could not really get into this book. There was not anything particularly wrong with it, i just got bored and distracted.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kate Louise Webster
  • 06-27-17

Audio adds an extra dimension

Loved it! So glad I got this book. Cora's journey is heart breaking and terrifying but she is a fighter and you can stop listening until you know what her fate is.

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  • Cally
  • 05-12-17

Boring

The story had so much potential, but it was written so blandly and with such unnuccesary articulation i could only make it 2 hours in before giving up.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful