Colson Whitehead takes on The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead, The Underground RailroadColson Whitehead swirls up the dregs of the antebellum South of the United States for his sixth novel, The Underground Railroad. Re-imagining it with a lone runaway slave as its fleeing heroine, it looks set to solidify the concept of will power in the face of overwhelming odds, while also reiterating the errors of the past and their consequences for us today.

Release date

The historical novel’s release date has been confirmed for the 3rd November 2016 and it’ll be available in hardback and ebook formats, but there no word on whether or not it’ll be coming out in audiobook form as of et. It weighs in at a fairly substantial 320 pages and 550 grams, so it’s on the heftier side of the hardback spectrum.


This is Cora’s story of escape from the slavery of a plantation in the heart of the deep South. For her, the forced labour, lack of freedom and brutal existence is all the more difficult because she’s also an outcast among her fellow African slaves; a situation made even more pressing as she approaches womanhood, making things tougher than ever before.

With such a bleak existence she sees escape as her only opportunity and she finds minor salvation when Caesar, a new slave on the plantation, who arrives with talk of the Underground Railroad – fantastically recreated as a box car pulled along underground tunnels by a steam train. They both make a daring break for it, but things get tricky when they arrive at their first stop in South Carolina where there’s a plot that could undermine their plans.

Added to the danger and treachery of their route north is the dogged determination of slave-tracker, Ridgeway, who has been sent to find Cora and Caesar. As he snaps on their heels they race desperately in search of freedom, but the best laid plans have a tendency to face adversity and during their time on the reformed Underground Railroad in Whitehead’s Odysee they have a mammoth challenge ahead of them.

About Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead first rose to prominence with his New York Times bestselling debut novel, The Intuitionist, in 1999. He’s since followed that with yet more bestsellers in John Henry Days, which was shortlisted for the Pulizer Prize; Apex Hides the Hurt, Sag Harbor and Zone One.

First impressions

The Underground Railroad is shaping up to be a strong American novel, with a new perspective on one of the country’s most celebrated, but despicable times. We may not have institutionalised slavery anymore, but the international refugee problem and ongoing race issues in the US and the rest of the world is more than enough to make Colson Whitehead’s latest book as relevant commentary to the modern day as it is a commentary on the horrors of the past.

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