The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If I'm honest, I kind of feel guilty writing this review, because the truth of it is: I don't understand the hype that is surrounding this from readers and the buzz from the publishing industry. FYI, this is my first book by this author so perhaps I didn't have a feel for what I could truly expect, though I think that it's fun trying out new authors, dipping your feet in and out there. I liked this novel, but I didn't love it; maybe because of the greatly high expectations that have been placed upon me or that I've read books that deal with slavery in a more individual-personal situation- way. (Kindred anyone?)
At the beginning, I feel like it was resolved too quickly at about 40% in-therefore making the slow start discouraging-, but then when it started to pick up the pace it felt too predictable. I like me a suspenseful edge-of-my-seat type of book especially with these subjects lines, but I guess that I was led wrong and this wasn't what the author intended it to be. It lacked emotion to me, or maybe I just lacked emotion whilst reading it; because usually if a book can make me cry means that it moved something within me. This book just didn't make me cry, didn't make me feel scared, even when I knew that it was supposed to. I was supposed to empathize with the MC, and a small part of me did but I don't feel like that was enough to give a 4 stars.
And if I would have to pinpoint the exact reason, I think that's because I never felt like I actually knew Cora all that well. Sure, the author did a good job or writing her backstory and pastlife, but then when she /traveled/ a lot of the book seemed so monotonous and almost like a log of daily tasks at the various places she was. I mean, if I was looking down upon this location, I don't think that Cora would stand out, that I would recognize her or notice her to be a different individual. But maybe that's just me misinterpreting what this book is supposed to be about.
Cora really seemed like a paper-cutout, or a stereotypical slave women to me, other than that similarity with her mother nothing really rang as unique to me. I'm sure that with some more editing, the author can develop this cut-out of a narrator, which is the reason that I might be inclined to frown upon this book. I would beg to disagree that this is a character-driven novel, I believe that I was thirsty enough to call it a plot-driven novel.
I originally picked it up because I have resolved to push myself to read some more diverse picks this year. And it surely did that for me, check mark off my list of reading resolutions. The author's writing was mediocre, I kept on coming back and trying hard to see why everyone loved this author or the way that he writes. I don't honestly know if there was a veil placed on my eyes, because I feel alone in the crowd of the public reviewer who gave is like 3 stars after reading it.
*Thank you to DoubleDay Books and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of my honest opinion/review.*
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