The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, abridged by Sara Davies and read by Clarke Peters, re-imagines the Underground Railroad as a literal railroad with trains, conductors, and stationmasters. Clarke Peters does a good job of narrating this abridged version of Whitehead’s book, which in the BBC version focuses on Cora, an escaped slave from Georgia who is later wanted for murder.
At first, Cora is reluctant to run north, and much of it might be because of her mother, who left and never returned. She may be hoping that her mother would come back for her, but soon she had little choice but to run. The railroad at first seems like the solution, as does the first stop in the South Carolina, but soon the reality of that state’s laws and experiments sets in. Each state has its own culture and its own way of doing things, say the railroad workers, and that is true but not in the hopeful way that readers would want.
Whitehead has created a new way to view the Underground Railroad and slavery, as well as discrimination and racism. As a child, I remember hearing about the railroad in our town and I wondered how the slaves got onto the trains without being caught — that was until I learned it was not a literal railroad. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, abridged by Sara Davies and read by Clarke Peters, is a unique look at a part of this nation’s history that continues to throw its shadow over our freedoms and progress. (I’ll likely be reading my hardcover later in the year as well.)
About the Author:
Colson Whitehead is the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. He also has written a book of essays about his home town, The Colossus of New York, and a non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker called The Noble Hustle. A recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship, I live in New York City.
The Underground Railroad, his latest book, is an Oprah’s Book Club pick and National Book Award winner. Visit his website.