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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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on December 1, 2013
I had never heard of Northup's book before seeing the movie, but although the movie strives to do justice to the book, the book is far more detailed and realistic. Its straightforward, honest, unpretentious style details the inhumanity and brutality of slavery -- not in the third person as most of us read in history books, but in first person, up close and personal. It is riveting. Reading the book a century and a half later, one can see why the Civil War was inevitable. One also can easily identify a whole host of southern racist attitudes that the Civil War did not eradicate and that in various forms remain with us to this day.

In a somewhat fortunate happenstance, I had recently read "Two Years Before the Mast," by Richard Henry Dana, which was published barely a decade earlier than Northup's book, describing in equally intricate detail - and remarkably similar literary style -- the hard life aboard a merchant ship. (It's a free Kindle book.) Dana, of course, chose his fate, but Northup's and Dana's books, read together, give one a real feel for the nasty, brutish, and short aspects of life in the mid-19th century.

I chose to get Eakin's annotated version, and I found the annotations to be well-researched, factual rather than opinionated (and disagree with the reviewer who found them "downplaying" the brutality), and useful if one wants to use Google Earth or a search engine to look at places and peripheral documents and photos. The annotated version costs the same as the unannotated version. The book itself is public domain so it is probably available for free if one wants, but no matter what edition one has, it's a great read for anyone aged 12 and up.
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VINE VOICEon October 31, 2014
“Twelve Years a Slave” is a riveting biography by Solomon Northup, an uneducated free black man who was lured from his home in New York state to Washington D.C. where he was kidnapped by slavers. He was transported to the pens of Richmond Virginia and subsequently sold into slavery in Louisiana. His story is short and stark. Although largely uneducated, his miserable life after the kidnapping and for the twelve years he was enslaved is told with clarity and urgency in his yearning for freedom.

What makes this story even more appealing is the effort the late Dr. Sue Eakin expended to study the Northup’s written account and provide understanding as to how a free man of color could possibly have his freedom snatched away and then be denied the justice he deserved when the misdeed was discovered. Neither the slavers nor the brutal plantation owners were ever prosecuted. Solomon Northup has provided the description of his live as a slave. Dr. Eakin has used his experience to explore the concept, the manipulation, and the erosion of justice implicit to the practice of slavery.

Northup tried to regain his meager life after being returned to his wife and children but his lack of education and technical skills relegated him to a life of spotty employment and indebtedness. Eventually he simply disappeared, leading to much speculation about his fate. Was he kidnapped again and returned to slavery? Was he murdered for his notoriety and highly visible stance on abolitionism? Did he succumb to alcohol and live a homeless life? No one knows, his wife never said, and a gravesite has never been found.

This book is fascinating. Northup’s account takes up about two thirds of the volume and Dr. Eakins’ studious research and comments form the final third. Northup’s story has been called the second most influential accounting of slavery in the United States behind Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Solomon Northup’s ghost writer, David Wilson, must have relished the thought of gaining the wealth that Stowe achieved but, although it was published less than a year after Stowe’s 1852 publication date and it sold well, it went out of print in 1856, the victim of plain non-fiction versus heart wrenching fiction.

I couldn’t put the book down. The inhumanity of slavery as presented by one who lived it was touching and heartbreaking.

Schuyler T Wallace
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on April 27, 2014
I can't take credit for the title of this review since it's a quote from Frederick Douglass:

“It’s truth is far greater than fiction.” - Frederick Douglass, writer, orator, former slave and abolitionist

In rich and stunning detail and incredibly clear language, Solomon Northrup tells the tale of his capture and forced enslavement for 12 years, during which he had no contact with his wife and children. The hardships and degradations he suffered were representative of the treatment of many slaves, but his intelligence and language skill, and the fact that he had been a free man his entire life until then, allowed him to give voice to the injustice and cruelty of this inhumane practice.

The story itself takes up the first half of the Kindle book, and the remainder consists of the notes, references, photographs and appendices compiled by Sue Eakin during her lifetime of scholarly pursuit of the truth of Solomon Northrup. Through exhaustive and painstaking research, she validates his life before, during and after enslavement, leaving no stone unturned in the process. Though you may be tempted to skim through some of this research, as I did, you will no doubt be left with the indisputable evidence of the truth of the story.
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on October 26, 2013
Additional detailed information, including footnotes maps, photos, and web links greatly enhanced my understanding of the facts. I listened to/read this book after seeing the film. Very graphic, as I'm sure you know. Many haunting images. I cannot imagine the horror. There are many examples of wisdom, intelligence, and community among slaves. A great book. Enhanced Edition a must! Even if you listen to the book, it's great to have more about the context from this Edition. I live in Washington DC & I now know that the slave pen where Mr. Northup was held is abt 10 min from where I live. Never would have known that without the map & drawing in this edition. I'm going to go back to look at the info in those footnotes many more times.
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on January 20, 2014
I was curious how accurately the recent movie followed the book, the answer being pretty closely. Fundamentally it's a well-written book because I think it conveys the hopelessness and frustration of the slave even better than the movie, and also convincingly shows the institution's corrupting influence upon the owner class (to varying extents depending on the individual). All the details fall into place, and it simply "rings true".

Warning: this book is written in a somewhat archaic style by an early-19th-century ghostwriter: there are some old-fashioned and usages, a few words I didn't recognize, and it can be verbose by today's standards. There are also some attempts to pander to the prejudices of white readers of the time, and the sexual predator aspect of slavery is discussed somewhat obliquely due to 19th-century sensibilities. But overall I strongly recommend this book. It's a fascinating historical story, the writing works at the fundamental level, and it's a less brutal experience to read this book than to see the movie, because one doesn't have to imagine every horrifying detail.
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on April 15, 2016
An eye opening and sober rendition of slavery and its affects on individuals and society. Sue Eaken's life long effort to find historical records and references confirmed Solomon Northups story and also provided context for the time period when these events occurred. Like at least one critic of the era, Solomon's story is the real thing. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was a sensation but it is a fictitious novel based on similar true events, while Solomon's story is the counterpoint of truth that confirms how disastrous slavery is for everyone. Having power over another human being and removing that person's humanity to the point that they are not treated as well as an animal is the worst example of humanity. Equally shocking are the bibliographical references and notes by the author that point out aspects of slavery that are not commonly known. It was shocking to read how a black woman, who had been emancipated by her owner, was returned to slavery by the state court and the Supreme Court, because as valuable property she could be sold to pay off her deceased owner's debts. I cannot imagine the level the depths of this woman's fear, anxiety, depression, anger, and loss that this woman would have felt. This book is a must read and I recommend reading Uncle Tom's Cabin first as a way to contrast two books written in the same era.
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on January 21, 2014
First of all, the book is heart wrenching as it details the life of a free man who was kidnapped into slavery and survived in the system for 12 years. Most of us know the story, but the detail touched me deeply. As Solomon Northrup detailed dodging water moccasins in the low land waters I could visualize his effort to out run and out maneuver the snakes. I'm not sure the movie can deliver the feeling the book evokes.

Aside from the story Northrup detailed, there is an addition to the book by Dr. Sue Eakin that tells us of Northrup's life before and after being a slave, his strengths and his human weaknesses. Although the addition showed a less saintly side to Northrup's life after his release from slavery, there is no excuse for enslaving a human being, yet we should have expected no more of Northrup than being a human.

A highly recommended reading experience.

All that said, the book is great on all the Kindle formats I have used.
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Enthusiast: Drawingon October 9, 2013
I first learned about this book from the media buzz concerning the upcoming movie about Solomon Northrup's life. Dr. Eakin's edition of Twelve Years a Slave is outstanding. Her lifelong dedication to bringing this story to light is truly remarkable. The story itself of what happened to Solomon is fascinating. Dr. Eakin's detailed research and notes only serve to enhance the tale. This book is highly recommended.
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on April 19, 2014
The narrative itself is a compelling story of the worst evils of slavery. It's all here ... the physical and emotional degradation of those enslaved and the moral degradation of the owners. The beatings, separation of slave families, and lives of arduous work with virtually no relief either physical or emotional is amply shown in all its' horror. But the after story of Solomon Northrup leaves more questions than answers. It's hard to picture the man portrayed in the book as the real man traced afterward with alcohol issues and three arrests for assault ... all before the kidnapping. And the slight possibility the kidnapping itself was part of a scam that didn't work as planned leads to more unanswered questions. Nonetheless, if anyone needed any more validation of the consummate evils of American slavery this book will give it.
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