What did Laura’s book club make of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2016 National Book Award, the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and ranked no. 30 on The Guardian‘s list of Best Books of the 21st Century.
In this alternate history novel we meet Cora, a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, dreaming of freedom. Learning of the Underground Railroad from Caesar, a newcomer from Virginia, she decides to risk everything and flee with him. They make their way via a network of hidden stations and trains through different states seeking a new life in the north. But the states they travel through pose their own threats and pursuit is always on their heels in the form of Ridgeway, a slave catcher. Playing with metaphor and an imagined reality Whitehead skilfully constructs a world that lays bare the suffering of enslaved people and causes us to look at history with fresh eyes.
A powerful story with important themes but did it hit the mark with Laura’s book club? To our delight the book proved both highly readable and also divisive, always the magic ingredients for lively book club discussions. Listen in to find out.
Plus, can you ever be too young for book club? We talk to Tom Milne, a teacher at Rosendale Primary School in South London, who runs a school-wide book club and together with parents, teaching staff and pupils has come up with the ultimate list of reading recommendations. Kate went to visit him in the Rosendale School library, housed in a converted London double-decker bus. Listen in and feel inspired.
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Book recommendations for The Underground Railroad episode
- The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
- The Sellout by Paul Beatty
- Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
- The Known World by Edward P. Jones
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Notes on The Underground Railroad episode
If you enjoyed this episode The Underground Railroad crops up again in our Best Books of 2021 episode.
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