The Underground Road clinches the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017
19 April 2017
It was on Barack Obama's summer reading list alongside Helen MacDonald's H is for Hawk (
but now Calibre members will be able to read Colson Whitehead's The Underground Road, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017.
Set on a Georgia cotton plantation from where every slave wants to escape, it tells the story of Cora and her fellow slave, Caesar, who take flight by disappearing down a subterranean platform to catch a train heading north to freedom. Helped by a network of abolitionists, they are pursued by the slavecatcher, Ridgeway, who is driven by his version of 'the American spirit, the one that called us from the Old World to the New, to conquer and build and civilise.'
As Cora emerges from her underground world travelling to different southern states to find work, she encounters brutal racism. In North Carolina she leads an Anne Frank existence holed up in an attic for protection. However Ridgeway, spurred on by his failure to capture Cora's mother Mabel from her successful escape, is always a few steps behind.
In his review for the New York Times (August 2, 2016) Michiko Kakutani commented: 'In recounting Cora's story, Mr Whitehead communicates the horror of slavery and its toxic legacy rumbling on the down the years....He has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present.'
The Underground Road will be available shortly.