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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 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 November 14, 2013
The simplicity of his reflections in this journal open a window to the culture of slavery and racism that is unique and memorable. He uses understated language which makes each event all the more vivid. His candor about the experience of bondage and what it does to a free man is remarkable. His insight into thoughts of slaveholders ring true. This book was written more than 150 years ago and is an easy read. Mr Northrup was an exceptional man. We are lucky to have his words today.
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on January 24, 2014
I ordered this book after seeing the movie by the same name. I was afraid it might be redundant, but it was not. The movie allowed the viewer to see the experience of Solomon Northrup's kidnapping and 12 year bondage as a slave in the 1850's. The book allowed the reader to hear Northrup's thoughts and feelings about those experiences. A freedman living a secure life in upstate NY, Northrup was torn away by slave traders. Forced to hide his ability to read and write from his captors, after his liberation, he ultimately uses those skills to share his experience of slavery with generations of Americans brought up blind to the reality that was foundational to our early history....and haunting us still. Northrup's narrative is a matter of fact, unsensationalized, and a far more charitable description than the horrific events would reasonably call for. Should be required reading in US schools.
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on October 2, 2013
picked this up because of the movie coming out. i was just amazed how these historical documents are so fresh, relatable and easy to understand, even for a modern audience. does a better job than anything you can think of to bring home the reality of human slavery. this edition appears well organized too, worth the price for out of copyright works. highly recommended.
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on October 1, 2013
You really can't beat the price for this collection of stories. I was even introduced to a book I'd never heard of.
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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 January 5, 2018
Some parts were very good. Its never pleasant to hear horror stories about slavery. I'm sorry it was ever allowed and i wish all wounds from it and racism to be healed. I had to wonder at a former slave gushing over a slave owner, Miss McCoy, whoever that was. I imagine some were better than others but gushing over her seemed strange and excessive. She owned one hundred slaves I believed it said. I can't imagine her being that great. I wondered why it was written in the book. That's a large reason I gave it three stars. Otherwise it was a pretty good read. What an embarrassing time. I'm glad it is over. Imagine if white people are legally enslaved someday. God help us.
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