Review of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

March 21, 2018

the underground railroad colson whiteheadThis book made me come to my mind the following quote: it is easier breaking atoms than prejudices. This quote was said by Albert Einstein many years ago, but matches perfectly with the sharp meaning of this novel titled The Underground Railroad. The author is Colson Whitehead, namely the winner of Pulitzer prize and National Book Award 2017. His novel has been the only book to win these prizes during the past twenty years. If you are a new author,  I  guess you are wondering: why my colleague has won these prizes and I didn’t? The reply is in my book review. Read it, whether you are a book lover or an aspiring novelist.

The novel tells about the story of a black woman, Cora, enslaved in the cotton farms in the US, during the XIX century. Cora was born on this plantation and is a black slave like her parents, siblings and friends. They endure inhuman job conditions and inhuman treatments by their masters. If they try escaping, they are severely punished or, rather, hanged on the trees like a warning for other slaves. Yes, this is the appalling literary description of the age of black slavery in the US, the same US that Mr. Donald Trump wants to make great again. Unfortunately, in the past centuries, the US was not so great, like the rest of the world, anyway, because the human freedom has been always compromised by unfair governments and foolish ideas of racism.

In this novel, the author describes all happened to the black people enslaved in the cotton farms in 1800s. He has been so talented with his writing that as soon as you read the book is as if you were there, along with the main character and her unlucky companions. But, Cora, the black girl, who dreams her freedom, does not surrender and seeks for the help of a black guy to undertake a compelling journey through an underground railway which leads people to the North America states, where slavery is about to be abolished. During the escape to reach the underground railroad, Cora is chased by cruel slave hunters who are ready to kill all those who help black people to flee.

Aboard the train, Cora also lives a gripping  journey to South Carolina, where black people can work as free workers, but this stop before reaching the North is only an illusion, because black people are treated worse than in the cotton farms! I must admit that Colson has been great to describe all this, because he did not only a great literary work, but also an outstanding historical tale of the history of America and of  the world and gave us an unforgettable testify about what slavery and racism mean. During history, Mankind endured Nazism, the Holocaust, but also slavery. It is not so different from what’s happening these years in Italy, also.

Every day, suffering and desperate people, migrants from Africa, land to the Sicilian coast to seek for a better fortune and for a job, but, often, they end up to work in the plantations, exploited by merciless farmers and often I wonder: today, compared to the story written by Colson Whitehead, what’s changed? Nothing has changed so far! Racism always lives in the heart of many people. Thanks to the brilliant literary invention of an underground railroad, this black American author revived us the history about the abolitionist network who helped slaves escape in the history of the United States.

But, not only, with this novel, the author offered a politically aware and shocking witness about the eternal brutality of racism and at the same time gave life to a passionate fast paced tale that, for its twists, is better than a western movie by Quentin Tarantino.

I can still hear the breath of Cora in the basement of the house of a couple of white abolitionists, where she spies, powerless, the hanging of other black people captured by slave hunters. I read the Italian edition of the book, translated by Martina Testa. I read a scream against slavery and prejudice, I read a masterpiece destined to become a great, classic of literature.

For this, my rating is absolutely five stars. And you had better read this novel. If you already read it, feel free to leave your opinion in the comment field. If you haven’t read it, yet, buy the edition of your Country here or click the Amazon link below.

Title: The Undeground Railroad

Author: Colson Whitehead

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 336

Publisher: Anchor

Bookstore:  Amazon

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