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Colson Whitehead’s new slavery novel contains misery—but is crisply unsentimental about plantation life

Whitehead’s boldest stroke is to make the historical underground railroad a literal secret railway line

By Sameer Rahim   September 2017

The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead (Fleet, £7.99)

In a 2009 article for the New York Times, Colson Whitehead cutely described the kind of novel that he, as an African-American, was expected to write: “The Southern Novel of Black Misery,” where you “slip on your sepia-tinted goggles and investigate the legacy of slavery that still reverberates to this day.” So it was a surprise to many when Whitehead, best known for his social satire of the black middle-class environment in which he grew up and also for writing a zombie novel,…

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