In the lead up to the announcement of the winner of our first Glass Bell award, we're going to be talking a bit about why we enjoyed each book on the short list. Today we'll be talking about The Underground Railroad:
The Underground Railroad was one of my favourite books from last year, and is deserving of all the praise it has already, and continues to, receive. The twist of making the Underground Railroad an actual train, rather than a set of secret routes is, I admit, what initially piqued my interest in the book, but once I got into it, I discovered it was so much more. The novel tells the story of a slave in the American South, along with the pain, suffering, and desperation that life entailed, feelings often made all the worse by the occasional flashes of joy and hope. It is, at times, a harrowing novel, but is poignantly told, and an important story.
Growing up in the USA, I was taught about slavery and the Underground Railroad multiple times, but many of the classes were, unfortunately, light on anything except a clinical overview of the history. Colson Whitehead has written a novel which brings the human element of the history to the surface, its ugliness plain for all to see. Each chapter is separated by a real bill, posted in pursuit of a runaway slave - there is no mistaking this for fiction. Many before me have sung the praises of The Underground Railroad, and I can but echo their sentiments. This is a powerful, evocative novel, and one that is so very important.