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12 Years a Slave
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160 of 162 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2013
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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252 of 261 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2013
Growing up in the North,I had always found it hard to imagine that slavery not only existed in this country,but flourished.Through the years,I have read many an autobiography or history book concerning slavery and thought I knew it all. And yet I was blind.
Until I read Solomon Northrup's "12 Years a Slave." Where has this book been? It is a masterpiece of history,of one man,one free man's life. A true picture of 'The Old South'.
Mr. Northrup was a free black man with a beautiful wife and two daughters living in Saratoga,NY. He was lured from his home by slave traders who specialized in the awful practice of kidnapping free black citizens and selling them into slavery. Torn from his home and family,Mr.Northrup endured the worst that can happen to a human being,and still live.
And yet,he remained fair and honest,never stooping to the level some of his white masters did.
I am not going to rewrite the book in this review because I recommend reading it for yourself. Slavery was and is a vile institution.
Solomon Northrup is my new inspiration.
This book will shock you. But you will be the better for having read it.
My highest of fives.
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178 of 185 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2013
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.

The free versions on other sites I found were pretty poorly formatted, so spending a dollar for a polished version on Amazon is worthwhile, but this one is not the best of them. Granted, the book is formatted adequately, and any typographical errors in this version seem to be simple reproductions of the original.

However, the supporting material is a letdown. I read the version that includes the introduction by novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez. That introduction is borderline insulting, as it makes only a weak attempt to separate accounts with fictional elements like Roots from an authentic account like this one. Worse still, Perkins-Valdez can't resist indulging in repeatedly referencing her own recently released slave novel, even going so far as to quote herself. There are almost no historical elements to this version beyond the main book -- no mention of Northup after the book, no mention of he writer who helped him pen the book, nothing. There is more information on the writer of the introduction than there is the author. One other oddity worth mentioning: the original book's preface -- the one done by the man who helped Northup write the book -- has been curiously excised from this version too. That makes this version something less than complete.

For those looking for a better version, you might consider Twelve Years a Slave - Enhanced Edition by Dr. Sue Eakin Based on a Lifetime Project. New Info, Images, Maps, which contains a robust amount of supporting material and, better still, is right now the same cost as this version.
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142 of 153 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2000
I read this entire book in one day. I could not put it down. I came across it while trying to learn more about my town. I was in awe after realizing that all this occured some 15 miles from where I now live. I believe this book would make an excellent movie. The way this free black man was taken and sold into salvery is so sad and if I had not been looking into old new paper articles around the area I would have not believed this story. SO many people want to forget about the history of black people but they shouldn't. I don't think anyone can walk away after reading this book and not feel some sort of compassion for the all the souls lost to slavery.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on 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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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2013
The book itself is great -- absolutely wonderful. But I see that all sorts of folks have rushed it into print in the last month or two, to cash in on the film (which is also great) - This edition is quite cheap and shabby; it doesn't even include page numbers. I'd recommend one of the other editions (although some of them are probably also shabby... but at least look for one from a reputable publisher. And really: the book itself should be considered a classic. It's beautifully written, and powerful in its descriptions and insights.
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67 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2001
This is the story of Solomon Northup, in his own words, a citizen of New York kidnapped in 1841 and taken to Louisiana as a slave, where he was found twelve years later on a cotton plantation near the Red River. It is a story that will break your heart as Solomon was torn away from his family for over a decade. According to a quote from 1853, when Solomon first published his memoirs, "Think of it: For thirty years a man, with all a man's hopes, fears and aspirations--with a wife and children to call him by the endearing names of husband and father--with a home, humble it may be, but still a home...then for twelve years a thing, a chattel personal, classed with mules and horses. ...Oh! it is horrible. It chills the blood to think that such are." And indeed, this story will both chill--and boil--your blood.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2013
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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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2007
Solomon Northup's slave narrative follows in the line of scores of other enlightening first-hand accounts of African American enslavement. What makes Northrup's account so unique is the fact that he was free when kidnapped and enslaved.

His harrowing description of his kidnapping in Washington, D. C., and of his fellow kidnappees, will melt the hardest heart. Yet, his interactions with other abducted African Americans also portrays the beauty and power of shared sorrow.

Another fascinating distinction found in "Twelve Years a Slave" is Northrup's almost uncanny ability to fairly depict his slave owners. In some cases, he ruthlessly exposes the one-dimensional ruthlessness of cruel masters. Yet, in one case, with his owner Pastor Ford (yes, Pastor), he calls Ford one of the most godly, caring, Christians he has ever known. He describes the biblical preaching and personal ministry that Ford provided to him. It is difficult for us today to see how the hypocrisy of a slave-owning Pastor could occur. But for Northrup, an intelligent, educated, articulate man, who could be blistering in his verbal attack on slavers, Ford was not a one-dimensional man. He was flawed, yet could still display admirable attributes.

"Twelve Years a Slave" is perhaps the most important first-hand account of enslavement ever written. The end of the story, which I will not ruin, must be read. Of course, with riveting writing like this, only the rare reader would dare stop before the end of the journey.

Reviwer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Soul Physicians, and Spiritual Friends.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 18, 2013
Although apparently slave narratives existed toward the end of the antebellum period, they were rare. For the simple reason that lifetime slavery did not afford the opportunity for first-hand accounts to be written. And, with the teaching of reading and writing illegal in most Southern states, few bondsmen possessed the ability to communicate their stories through the written word in any event.

Solomon Northup was well educated and was afforded the liberty to write his story. Tragically, this free Negro - born free, educated and a master violinist - was lured from his New York home to Washington D.C. on a promise of employment as a violinist with a show. Drugged in our capital city - very much a southern city fully in support of slavery - Northup woke in a slave pen and soon was shipped south to New Orleans and sold into bondage.

His initial attempt to tell his DC captors he was a free man were met with a promise of death if he spoke of that to anyone. Representing a substantial investment to his owners (he had several), his talk of being a free Negro or display of his education would have invited severe punishment or death. Certainly the southern planters and contractor who owned him at various times would not have cared anyway having shelled out significant money for his purchase.

For twelve years Northup lived the life of a slave. This account is riveting. The witness to the events of slavery - the selling process, vicious whipping and being run to ground by dogs, back-breaking labor, escape attempts, rape of favorite females who caught an owner's lustful look and all of the other atrocious practices of America's "peculiar institution," are dramatic and bring home an appreciation of what it meant to a slave to be a slave far beyond what any general history of the institution can achieve. Northup also provides interesting accounts of the cotton harvesting and packaging process as well as how sugar cane plantations operated as well as general accounts of how slavery was organized and managed in the places to which he was held.

Northup is a skilled writer. His presentation of his story - and the events are so riveting that they could almost stand on their own without a narrative - makes this a very well written as well as important narrative. Although written in conventions common to the era - the author sometimes addresses the reader directly and gives commentary that current writers would feel redundant - this is a very readable and enthralling account of what slavery was probably like for many who endured it. Highly recommended.
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