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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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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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on January 26, 2017
I bought this after watching the movie. I am a college student that works full time, so I usually don't have much time for reading things that aren't school related. I finally got around to finishing this. This is an extremely difficult book to read. What this man went through was astoundingly awful. It is an important narrative though. If you want to understand southern culture as it is today, if you want to get a deeper understanding of race relations in America, or if you just want to read a good book, I highly recommend it. You get a real picture of what institutional (versus man to man) racism is. You will also understand how far our country has come from it. If one black man can triumph over adversity in that day, all of them certainly can now. A history professor once told me that it's not enough to just say that the south was wrong, you have to understand why they thought like they did. This will definitely shed some dark light on the subject.
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on July 8, 2017
I saw the movie, but the movie only stole ideas from this book and created it's own "honey coated" story - that is, compared to the book. One can only marvel at the ability of man to cope with the most extreme situations, and then marvel even more at the cruelty that man is capable of. Slavery has been around since the beginning of time, I guess, and the perpetrators of this evil even used the Bible as a means to justify it's use, but a person with any conscience can only abhor it's use, as the author demonstrates in his own words that people become inured to violence that is around them on a daily basis, and that this violence eventually corrupts an entire society. A lesson that has been learned, and then forgotten, way too many times throughout the history of man.
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on October 16, 2015
A story that illustrates the hardness of a slave's existence. It was so sad that he lost twelve years of his life and his own daughter didn't know him when she saw him again. Heartwrenching. I'm from Louisiana, and I know all planters were not as mean and cruel. as coldhearted as the one in this book, but I also know many were. I thought it beautifully portrayed the way the author showed the kindness of one to her slaves to illustrate that not all were alike. I can't get over how they only ate boiled bacon and cornbread. No wonder so many grew sick. The only rest and joy they had were at Christmas. I love historical romance and write my own, so I wanted to read this book. I'm glad I did. I read Uncle Tom's cabin as a young girl and my heart went out to slaves and how their families had to be ripped apart. In this book, not only is the man ripped apart from his family, but a young woman loses her son and daughter when they're split up and sold. That part tore my heart apart. I could just picture the mother clinging to her little girl and begging. A well written book, but I didn't care for the formatting of giant capital letters that took up pages and pages at the beginning of each chapter. That is not necessary. However, the story is well illustrated verbally for the reader to visualize. Vivid description right down to Louisiana swamps full of gators and snakes.
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on January 27, 2017
Everyone should read this book. Even though Solomon went through horrific experiences he was still able to see the light in the darkness, the good side of human nature. His view of slavery was unique, not what you would imagine. Read it knowing that slavery was an institution of the time, one which was passed down through generations with no definition or reason. Humans sold into slavery and families who were split apart, many knew no different, had no ability to tell the world about what they experienced. Solomon was a free black man, highly educated and aware of his options to gain freedom again. I'm so glad that his story was not lost to time and the tendency of people to rewrite history.
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on February 19, 2017
The story is well written and not overly dismal or bogged down with brutal details. The author gives just a sliver of the bitter pain of slavery to the reader. There is a great deal of beautifully poetic language reminiscent of the mid -1800s, which carries the tale along smoothly. It's an emotional discourse, but one that can be understood by readers of almost all ages who place value in the ideals of freedom and equality.
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on October 17, 2015
The first hand account of a Black man's experience as a wrongfully imprisoned slave made a lasting impression on me. The writer is quite matter of fact ,unemotional,yet his style makes the book more powerful because it adds to the authenticity of his life's struggles. Northrup comes across as strong,wise, realistic, perseverant and heroic for his quiet dignity in the face of his battle against the seemingly invincible fortress in the South that he is trapped it. I recommend you watch the movie to compare these two accounts. They complement one another,in my opinion.

Personally, i enjoyed the book more because I respected the writing style. The movie invokes the sadness and cruelty that slavery promoted and magnified the internal torments the white owners had while rationalizing their roles as owners of human beings.
This book was so much better than the glossed over glazed paragraphs social studies textbooks devote to the matter of slavery. I believe it is essential to any us history curriculum,and recommend it to social studies teachers.
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on March 7, 2014
An Oscar winning movie is bested by the written word. Perhaps the movie is the best way to get the story told to millions but the mind's eye did an excellent job of understanding the horror of slavery.
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on August 19, 2017
Twelve Years a Slave is Solomon Northup's memoir on his time as a slave. Northup recounts the incidents leading up to his kidnapping and subsequent sale into slavery, the different masters that he had and his way out again.
Northup tells his story without any filters and it is incredible to think of he could have stayed sane and focused on getting out despite the hatred and sorrow that surrounded him.
A haunting book and reading it 150 years later after its publication I can't imagine how it must have felt like to read it in that day and age.

Highly recommended reading.
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