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153 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive edition of a powerful story
If you were, like me, looking to read Twelve Years a Slave and were looking through the various Kindle versions of the book, stop right here -- you've found the version you want. For just a dollar the Eakin "enhanced version" is absolutely loaded with historical features, annotations, and pictures that add tremendous depth and context to an amazing story, and is easily...
Published 12 months ago by J. Johnston

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49 of 62 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time on the annotated version.
The story itself, without the annotations, is incredible.
These annotations, though, make me feel ill. Almost every time Northrup vividly describes a barbaric practice, there is an annotation attached that attempts to minimize or refute it. The annotator repeatedly insists that slaves ate better, were treated more kindly, and were in better health than Northrup...
Published 11 months ago by r a s


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153 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive edition of a powerful story, October 15, 2013
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If you were, like me, looking to read Twelve Years a Slave and were looking through the various Kindle versions of the book, stop right here -- you've found the version you want. For just a dollar the Eakin "enhanced version" is absolutely loaded with historical features, annotations, and pictures that add tremendous depth and context to an amazing story, and is easily the best version on Amazon.

The Northup book itself is, of course, marvelous. As slave stories go, this one is, in my view, without peer. Northup's s captivating tale -- which has gained attention because of the movie that shares the book's title -- is told in exacting detail with an easy prose. He sets the stage masterfully, describing people and places before proceeding into the narrative. Unlike works of fiction, this book is so compelling because, by all accounts, it is true. There is no polemical axe to grind, as with Uncle Tom (a novel at one point wryly referenced by Northup). Here you see both the brutality of slavery and the moments of kindness by slaves and even some slave owners. Solomon tells the story with clarity and intelligence.

Because Twelve Years a Slave is in the public domain, I initially searched for free copies elsewhere. Unfortunately, the free versions I found on other sites were pretty badly formatted, so spending a dollar for a polished version on Amazon proved worthwhile. That said, while most of the Amazon versions are while noticeably cleaner than the free site versions, nearly all of the Amazon entries are barebones versions with no extra material, and most of their introductions, such as they are, are done by novelists or movie producers. That's fine, but at the end of the day they're not historians.

Sue Eakin is. As a scholar who devoted her life to Northup's story, she fills in the gaps in a way that is honest and easy to follow. She traces Northup's life before the book, brings outside contemporary sources into the picture, and, most interestingly, discusses the mystery behind Northup's life after the book. All of this is done via footnotes and appendices, meaning that they are there if you want them but don't interfere with the book proper. As if that's not enough, the e-book has a website full of great pictures of everything from Epps's house to the ship's manifest that has Northup's slave name on it.

It's hard to go wrong with this edition, especially given that it is currently priced the same as the other, far more basic, editions on Amazon. Highly recommended.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Visit to Hell and A Providental Deliverance, September 15, 2013
Complaint about this review is noted: Don't read this if you don't want to know the plot before reading the book or seeing the movie. Some people think I told you too much in this review. Bill

As for the original book itself, it is fascinating. It is an easy read that has a "hook" in every chapter.
The "what happened after" is equally interesting and gives a more objective view of the man and his times. When I finished the well written book I took a tour of all the many detailed footnotes. What a collection of information! There is a whole history of lots of topics that are an education unto themselves in footnotes containing primary source material I would not find anywhere else! If there was an index to footnotes I would read them by topic.
These detailed footnotes might be published as daily readings in a desk calendar to cover them and do them justice.
I think this book holds the possibility of helping people like myself who have lived in white northern America to be both educated and sensitized to reactions of the black community to things we do not "get" because we have no shared experiences with those who have face discrimination in ways we have never experienced and therefore do not understand. The "What Happened After" section tells us that the kidnappers where found, arrested, charged and after extended delays in the court system were never sentenced for the cruel injustice of kidnapping a freeman. This tells me a good deal about things I was not much aware of from the point of view of Solomon Northup and those who have suffered similar injustices through a court system not up to doing justice as common sense would judge it should be done. It is the story after the story that was most helpful to me in framing what the issue are in my time and place. But I would need "the story" first to get the emotion and feeling that vividly communicated the events of injustice given in the well written narrative.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!, September 2, 2013
By 
Jill (United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I love the fact that Dr. Eakin was a socially conscious lady ahead of her time. She did some courageous things in the Deep South based on a video of her on the website of the book, which is noted in the Kindle sample pages. In fact, she was a planter's daughter who rediscovered the book as a 12-year old, who lived in the area where Solomon Northup was held in bondage, and became a civil rights leader and writer-historian-professor and Hall of Fame journalist. The background story on her discovery of the narrative is on the site and could be a movie in itself. She spent a lifetime authenticating and writing about this story. The audiobook with Lou Gossett is very personal and moving... on Audible. I believe he had an Emmy for "Roots" and picked up an Oscar along the way; plus, he has a non-profit organization that promotes racial tolerance -- perfect casting. The publisher placed Gossett's audio clips of scenes on their website and they are engrossing. They have really maxed out the value you receive in this edition.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a beautifully written memoir read by Louis Gossett Jr., January 31, 2014
This is the harrowing account of a free black man who was kidnapped. His free papers were stolen, he was viciously beaten into submission and then transported to plantations in the south as a slave. His whereabouts were unknown to any and all who could free him. The idea that any man, of any color, or any background, could be captured and penned, treated like no more than a brute animal, should have been, then and surely now, nothing short of anathema to any breathing human being. Ignorance could not be a legitimate excuse, anymore than it could have been during the Holocaust. Myself, I am at a loss to understand why an economy driven by slaves would be exalted, why greed would be elevated to heights higher than human dignity.
Man’s inhumanity to man, man’s ability to turn a blind eye to human suffering for monetary gain, will render the reader speechless and horrified. As a Jew whose history is steeped in slavery, I felt personally affected by his plight and angered to the point of distraction, because there is absolutely nothing anyone can do today to reverse the effects of the terrible injustice imposed upon people, simply because of their color. They were kept illiterate, forbidden to improve their station in life, beaten violently for the slightest infractions, by people who would not have wanted such a life for themselves or anyone they associated with, and yet, they turned a blind eye to accumulate the all-mighty dollar. Those who hated, taught their offspring to hate. Those who hated, hired overseers who hated. Those who hated often got away unscathed. Justice was usually not served for the black man. No matter how many times one reads about slavery, it is impossible to get used to the idea that human trafficking existed in this country with very little opposition, for many years, and today, still exists in other avenues of the culture.
The successful economy of the plantation depended upon slavery, but while the South flourished, the slaves did not. They worked until their deaths, without hope of freedom or any basic civil rights. In this book, there is a definitive description of the life of a slave, by a man who walked in those shoes. No man or woman could possibly begin to understand the horror of a slave’s existence, the helplessness, the shame, the humiliation, the human suffering, unless they walked in those shoes, themselves. The reader will come to understand, more fully, how cruel and barbaric the practice was and will understand why it has been so hard, for those enslaved and their descendants, to achieve success, even today.
Families were torn asunder, children were separated from mothers, husbands from wives, friends from friends, and then subjected to abuse, beatings, rape, overwork, starvation, unlivable living conditions, and brutal masters, until they were completely subdued and weakened, unable to defend themselves, unable to change their circumstances, unable to do anything but acquiesce or die.
From Solomon’s descriptions of the despicable treatment of the slaves, as if they were less than human, lower than animals in bondage, made to respond like automatons, the reader will come to understand how strong these people had to be, mentally and physically, in order to withstand so much cruelty and exploitation, in order not to succumb. One will wonder why they would even want to live under such conditions, yet they found a way to find enjoyment and pleasure in the few moments they could share together, on holidays, in evenings, in moments when they were alone. They managed to create communities for themselves, even under such horrendous circumstances. Solomon makes it a point of saying that not all masters were cruel. He often found goodness in unexpected places. He, himself, was sometimes forced to be cruel to his friends and fellow slaves, forced to lose his own humanity by joining forces with the masters in order to avoid his own abuse and beatings. His plight, during his years as a slave, when he was required to whip fellow slaves, reminded me of that of the Kapos, during the Holocaust. Kapos were prisoners who meted out the justice and punishment upon other prisoners, for their Nazi captors. Were they co-conspirators or simply saving their own skins? It is an ethical conundrum.
Perhaps not all masters were the same, but all owned their slaves and valued them more for their purchase or resale price and their productivity, rather than for their lives. Some slaves, realizing they would never be free, tried to escape. When caught, the punishment was inhuman. They were whipped beyond comprehension or murdered. Although many tried hard to please their masters, they were often caught between the petty jealousies of the master and the mistress, neither willing to understand that a slave had no choice but to do what they were told, that they had no free will. There was no safety for them. There were no defenders of their plight.
Simply reading about the beatings, often beyond human endurance, made my skin crawl, made me want to find those barbaric, immoral, insensitive savages who treated other human beings so maliciously, though they are long gone. These poor victims had no recourse whatsoever. The mercilessness of the owners and the overseers leaves the reader aghast and hoping there is an afterlife where these people do get their just desserts. They were totally selfish and cold-blooded, pitiless and callous. There are simply no adequate words to describe that blight upon our history.
The years of beatings and abuse never broke Solomon’s spirit; he saw good qualities in almost everyone he met and always maintained a positive attitude, hoping to be free again.
In this memoir, he presents a clear, concise description of slavery from a slave’s vantage point. His daily life was one of monotonous, unending labor and fear. Solomon was luckier than most. He played the violin and could entertain plantation owners, occasionally escaping the toil of his fellow slaves. He was clever and could build and repair most things, unlike the vast majority of slaves who were kept totally imprisoned by their forced life of ignorance. He was therefore, more valued. He knew of the outside world, while they knew of no other than the world of master and slave. He lived to go from his capture and captivity to freedom and his wife and family. He lived to try and see the worst of these slave traders cringe in fear, but not, unfortunately, brought to justice. Even though he was a free man in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of the world, he was still subservient, still second class. Once free, I read that he lectured on his experiences and also worked on behalf of the cause to abolish slavery and to aid other slaves seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad.
The descriptions of the cultivation and picking of the cotton and the process of planting and cutting of the sugar cane, as well as the explanation of how some of the crude equipment worked, was sometimes tedious, and that was the only drawback I could find in this beautifully written memoir, read by Louis Gossett Jr.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, September 17, 2013
By 
Bart D (Atlanta, GA) - See all my reviews
I rarely read for pleasure. My free time is very valuable to me. However, Dr. Sue Eakin's edition of Twelve Years a Slave is definitely worth reading. I literally could not put the book down once I started. The story of Solomon Northup is a gripping and very real tale enhanced with new information, and maps of sites that I insist on going. Truly amazing story, and I'm glad it was recommended to me.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story For Every Reader, September 6, 2013
The passion behind the sharing of this story runs deep. It started with Solomon Northrup's courage to tell his own story published in the 1850s, continued with Dr. Sue Eakin's life-long commitment to researching and publishing his experiences in the 1960s, was brought to life by Frank Eakin's desire to expand and complete his mother's work today, and finally, was portrayed by the readers and actors who applied heart and soul to expressing Solomon Northrup's experience which is, sadly, applicable still today in the form of human trafficking. With roots and branches like these, the story is for every reader- historian, activist, parent, child, and life-long learner.
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49 of 62 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time on the annotated version., November 14, 2013
By 
r a s (New Jersey) - See all my reviews
The story itself, without the annotations, is incredible.
These annotations, though, make me feel ill. Almost every time Northrup vividly describes a barbaric practice, there is an annotation attached that attempts to minimize or refute it. The annotator repeatedly insists that slaves ate better, were treated more kindly, and were in better health than Northrup describes. Even though Northrup was, you know, ACTUALLY THERE.
As a whole, the annotations read like racist slavery apologia. I usually love annotations but I can't continue to read this. I find them disgusting.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal... looking forward to seeing the move..., September 1, 2013
This was a very good read. Once I started reading it I didn't want to put it down. I am looking forward to seeing the move in October.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great price!, September 18, 2013
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This a great price for a great book. I'm rushing to finish it before the film premieres in November. It's nearly unabridged which is a plus.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing true story, September 1, 2013
I purchased the audio version of this book read by Lou Gossett (excellent reader- makes the characters come alive) - but wanted to know more. This version of Northup's true story offers footnote links to research & documentation about his story. I found it interesting how accurately he recalled names of people, events and places when he was not able to write any of the story down during the time he was in captivity. The extensive research also proves the validity of his story and gives historical perspective to his story and how it may have influenced the public prior to the civil war.
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12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave by Dr. Sue Eakin (Paperback - February 21, 2014)
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