Simply swept along by the Underground Railroad

What can we say apart from Wow! What a book!

We are still buzzing from our last Wellbeing Reading Group virtual discussion. So much to say about this powerful novel we could have easily trebled our 30 minute slot. Thank you to everyone who joined us online or shared their thoughts in advance.

Admittedly it’s a tough read. The author doesn’t hold back in his depictions of cruelty and brutality which occur in each of the different locations of the book. We all found it harrowing and upsetting but were spurred on by the novel’s structure to follow the Cora’s story, some reading in hope for a happy ending. We see human nature at its absolute worst in the treatment of and between slaves, and in the control of those who had escaped enslavement and were supposedly “free”. There were a few rays of hope however in the kindness and considerable bravery of those who helped slaves to escape. A few of us found the pack mentality of the white community particularly upsetting and whilst appalled at their behaviour felt they were probably also fearful of the slave hunters or too afraid for their lives to make a stand.

We admired Cora’s resilience and ability to escape re-capture. We felt that she held some fascination for Ridgeway the slave hunter who had failed to find Cora’s mother, Mabel. We were happy to have Mabel’s story resolved but several of us felt the novel went a little off track (sorry!) towards the end as the story reached the utopia of Valentine’s farm.

Many of us felt the book gave us a greater understanding of the current racial and social turmoil in the USA and frustration that discrimination and oppression of racial groups has persisted  throughout the world – the treatment of the Uighurs, Native Americans and First Nations People were just a few we drew comparisons with. We also discussed the invisibility of modern slavery in the UK and lack of opportunity for black people.

Enjoy is the wrong word to use for this bleak story but we certainly appreciated this cleverly crafted and paced novel which I’m sure none of us will ever forget. Definitely worthy of being awarded the Pulitizer Prize for Fiction in 2017.

Other books and televsion programmes recommended during our meeting included:

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Hariet Jacobs

Miriam Margolyes – Almost Australian https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000l45y

Next book and virtual meeting

There’s still copies of our latest book Our House available to borrow from the library – it’s a quick read.

Our next virtual meeting is on Tuesday 3rd November, 12:30-1.00pm.  Here’s to another great discussion. As ever everyone is welcome to join us – just get in touch and we will send you an invitation and joining instructions.

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