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Showing 1-10 of 5,944 reviews(verified purchases). Show all reviews
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 November 23, 2013
This is an excellent book that is, unfortunately, terribly edited. I refer exclusively to the Kindle edition. It is replete with typos and missing words that frequently interrupt comprehension and that testify to an overall sloppiness that is difficult to excuse. If I had to guess, this was mechanically transformed from a paper to a kindle edition, with little or no human oversight. This lack of oversight shows on almost a page by page basis - and speaks extremely poorly of the overall quality. This is a real shame, because the book itself is indispensable reading for anyone who wants to *begin* to confront the trauma of slavery - a trauma that continues to inflect American and global affairs to this day.
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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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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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on September 1, 2013
While the story is wonderful, this version of the book is the only the original pubic domain text available on Google and written in the 1850's, and it doesn't have the many extras of other books. Some versions, like one I use for my students, are written by prominent historians and provide in-depth insights and historical context, pictures, and extras. There is one written by a Harvard professor and I especially like the one written by Dr. Sue Eakin, the lady who discovered the story who lived in the exact location where the story took place. Authentication of the story became Dr. Eakin's lifetime story according to her website, which has many images and extras, including audio clips of the story performed by the amazing Louis Gossett Jr (remember him from Roots?). There is also a supporting book by a man named David Fiske that offers interesting details on Solomon Northup's life, but his version doesn't include Solomon's narrative -- only supporting info.
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on January 14, 2014
Wonderful and moving story. Gives much more insight into the characters and what happened than the movie did. Only negative is that it is written in the very formal English of the time and can be hard to read. It was also written as a description, and was not written to entertain. So it can be a little dry in parts. Amazing story, very informative. Very glad I read it.
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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 October 23, 2013
Highly recommend this book I couldn't put it down. The story was eloquently told. I look forward to seeing the movie.
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on September 22, 2013
All I can say is that I never truly knew the full horror of slavery until I read this book. Nearing the end of the book as Mr Northrop's hopes swung up and down I could feel the powerful depths of his desire to be free. Tears came again and again as I was caught in his longing yet also his not knowing whether freedom would arrive. I also shed many tears of joy as he finally returned home to the loving embrace of his family. I suggest this become a standard history book for students.
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