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Showing 1-10 of 5,994 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 6,712 reviews
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 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 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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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 February 20, 2014
“If they don't know as much as their masters, whose fault is it? They are not allowed to know anything. You have books and papers, and can go where you please, and gather intelligence in a thousand ways. But your slaves have no privileges. You'd whip one of them if caught reading a book. They are held in bondage, generation after generation, deprived of mental improvement, and who can expect them to possess much knowledge?”

Reading about slavery from Northup's perspective was quite insightful because he was born free. It felt like he was soaking in every detail from the landscape to the nature and personalities of the other slaves so that he tell this story. Being without pen and paper during his 12 years of slavery did not hinder Northup's memory. I appreciated the details even though most were painful to read.

"Truly, Patsey was a splendid animal, and were it not that bondage had enshrouded her intellect in utter and everlasting darkness, would have been chief among ten thousand of her people."

After viewing the movie based on this book, I could not wait to read Northup's actual narrative about Patsey played by the actress Lupita Nyong'o. Patsey was known by her master as Queen of the Field because she could pick 500lbs of cotton a day. She was a tortured soul and only 23 years old {per Northup's documentation}. It makes my heart glad that this slave who was treated so brutally and only praised for her labor is now known of by people all over the world. Epps nor the mistress could not stop the power of the written word.

Patsey you made it. Slavery did not keep you bound. That evil institution did not keep your story from us. Northup gave you your freedom by writing your story. You are more than the Queen of the Field you are the Queen of our Hearts. I will never forget you.

Another remarkable woman of this narrative was the slave, Celeste. Her cunningness was inspiring. She evaded the dogs. They refused to follow her tracks. Knowing something about the area that Northup writes from, Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, I can only speculate that Celeste may have dabbled in "roots." She ran away and stayed in the woods for months. When the terror from the beasts of the swamps overwhelmed her she returned to her master. He fastened her neck in stocks and sent her back to the fields.

Celeste your spirit of courage and determination was not lost. Other women put it on such as Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer. The stocks did not bind your spirit you found us.

Personally, I think the only thing Solomon Northup had to get him through those twelve years was his music. Had he not gotten to play and travel to play I believe slavery would have stolen him from his family and us forever.
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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 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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