The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead has received such good reviews I had to read it. A novel based on a period in history, is my kind of book.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation plant in Georgia. She witnesses scenes of terror and hell but takes strength from these traumatic events which helps her on her journey across America.

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She runs away from the plantation on the underground railroad, a way of transporting slaves on the sly and run by free men. The first part of her journey takes her North and she  becomes a model in a museum. Disgustingly she is made to dress as a slave and from her life in Africa.

But she has to quickly move on again via the underground railroad when the plantation owners from Georgia track her down and attempt to capture her. She then moves onto South Carolina and meets a husband and wife, the former of which suggests she stays in their attic. The wife is sceptical of the situation and stays out of Cora’s way. The only way Cora can see the outside world is through a small hole the wall where she sees slaves being murdered on stage and white folk harbouring slaves slaughtered before her eyes.

But even in the attic Cora cannot escape the race and is soon tracked down again. Her last view of South Carolina before she hops on the underground railroad is of the husband and wife being murdered.

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The end of the book hints that Cora will continue on travelling and running.

I found the novel hard to get into, enjoyed the middle and then just wanted it to finish for the last 100 pages. I feel I may be the only person in the world who didn’t particularly enjoy the book. I couldn’t warm to Cora as the main character and sadly the plot didn’t do enough to keep me interested.

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Big Little Lies – Lianne Moriarty

Big Little Lies – Lianne Moriarty

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It took me a few episodes to warm to Big Little Lies when it was broadcast in the summer as at times it seemed like a lot of style over substance. But I persevered and loved it by the end of the last episode.

After reading Lianne Moriarty’s Truly Madly Deeply a few months ago I knew I wanted to read Big Little Lies.

When reading the book it is hard not to visualise the TV programme and thankfully the latter kept very close to the former.

Centred on three women, the book reveals their glamorous lives are not all they seem and are brought together by one tragic incident.

Jane is escaping her past and thinks living in different towns will allow her to do this. She has a son, Ziggy, but mystery surrounds his father. Until Jane reveals to Madeline that Ziggy’s son was the product of a one night stand with a bully.

Madeleine has three children and is ‘queen bee’ of the playground. Behind closed doors she harbours insecurities but is incredibly loveable and will do anything for her friends. She doesn’t however have time for her ex-husband’s hippy loving wife Bonnie, who’s child just so happens to be in the same year as Madeline’s youngest.

Everyone wants to be Celeste, a former lawyer with twin boys and a gorgeous millionaire husband, Perry. Everyone thinks she has the dream life. But her husband beats her and she concocts a plan to leave him.

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The three women all have children’s starting school but an altercation leads to Ziggy being called a bully and a petition started to remove him from the school. Jane knows her son is no bully. The real tormentor turns out to be exactly like his dad.

At a charity night, the atmosphere is fractious with waring couples. But tempers boil over when Jane reveals the true identity of Ziggy’s father, Perry. In a fit of rage Perry hits Celeste. In retaliation Bonnie then pushes Perry over the balcony to meet his end.

Like the TV show the story is interspersed with antidotes of other parents stories detailing the women’s character and what went on that night. Nothing is revealed at this stage but you start to put the pieces together.

For me, I much preferred the book, the plot built more and more and I did not want to stop reading it. Next for me is to get my hands of a copy of Moriarty’s – My Husband’s Secret.

Swing Time – Zadie Smith

Swing Time – Zadie Smith

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In my opinion Zadie Smith is back to her best with Swing Time.

 

I had to read White Teeth for university and loved it. I then read N-W which I struggled with so I was slightly apprehensive to read Swing Time.

 

If you want a book that’s all out action, this isn’t it. Smith is a master at really delving into a character’s mind through their life events and views on the world and I felt as though I had known both characters for years. For me that’s the test of a good author.

 

The book flits between two friend’s childhoods and how their lives cross during adulthood.

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The narrator (I don’t think we are ever told her name) loves dance however as much as she tries, she’s not as good as her classmates. Her mother is a political activist and spends her time dealing with the problems of the community and eventually becomes an MP. The narrator’s mother and father separate during her teenage years which has an effect on her. She drifts through school and university not knowing who she wants to be.

 

It’s not until she works for a TV company that she meets pop superstar Aimee, who takes the narrator under her wing, that she feels she’s on the verge of discovering who she is. Aimee’s world presence causes her to set up a charitable foundation which has a deep effect on the narrator. However when she mixes business with pleasure and is unceremoniously ‘dumped’ by Aimee, the narrator realises without Aimee’s money, travel and employment she has nothing.

 

Everyone knows a Tracey – the loud mouth girl at school who thought she was the bee’s knees and would go on to achieve all her dreams. Whilst Tracey is the more talented dancer of the two, her arrogance and bolshie nature becomes her hindrance. She manages to get some work in the West End however it’s not as big as she would have hoped and having children holds her back.

 

The narrator is always completely in awe of Tracey even when they haven’t seen each other for years.

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Both girls without the power of dance struggle to work out who they are. They both dreamt of becoming stars of the stage however lack direction when that dream is taken away.

 

It’s not a particularly easy read and it’s not one you can drop in and out of. There’s little action but a lot of character exploring. You need to give it your full attention and you will most definitely be rewarded for it.