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on 27 October 2013
The cruelty of the human race never fails to amaze me. I have no doubt that Solomon Northup's narrative is as accurate as it can be, but the content of this book is truly shocking. This glimpse into African American enslavement is one of horror and shows just how brutal man can be to his fellows.

Solomon is captured and enslaved against his will, removed from his wife and two children and transported by sea to begin his new life as the chattel of another man. What he witnesses in his 12 years of enslavement is harrowing, to say the least. This is a land where Mothers are forcibly removed from their children, brutal whippings occur with frightening frequency, near starvation and being worked literally to death were common occurrences. Slaves were not even given the most basic privileges of a knife and fork or plate upon which to eat. Imagine a life where you cannot travel, marry or even post a letter without your owner's permission!

Thankfully, Solomon eventually finds a way out of his predicament, but it was a risk that might have caused his own death had it backfired on him.

Conclusion: A 5 star read. Once I picked it up, I simply could not put it down. Let's just hope that the world continues to endeavor to allow every man the right to his freedom.
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on 9 February 2014
I bought this partly because I had just seen the film and partly because I wanted to download something to my new kindle. I was surprised to find that it is actually several books about slavery in the edition I bought.

12 years a slave is spellbinding. I had already read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" years ago, and I don't know why "12 Years" has never received more acclaim. It is at least as good as Uncle Tom, and has the added advantages of being a first hand account by someone to whom these experiences really happened. I read it in two days, and am now reading another of the books that came with it in the download, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl", another autobiographical account, and also gripping. Everyone with an interest in the subject should read these.
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on 4 January 2014
Book was as good as expected from the reviews if not better, found it very informative and highly engaging. Book leaves you in the mind frame of thinking alot about your roots but i think the book is definitely worth having.
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on 28 February 2014
This book transports the reader to a life of horror that cannot be imagined. From a very violent capture and enslavement to many years of torture, starvation and overwork. To think that the writer celebrates his final freedom, while his 'owner' only looks at the situation as a loss of property is hard to put into perspective. While Solomon Northup is finally safe in the arms of his family, those who were his co-workers, or fellow slaves were left behind to suffer further beatings, starvation diet and eventually death, without ever having the freedom to choose the course of their own lives. The book leaves the reader with joy that Solomon finally returns home, but overwhelming sadness for all of those left behind.
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on 23 October 2013
This is an appalling first person diary of human cruelty and maltreatment, but it does make for page-turning without cessation...it beggars belief on many levels, but also tells the story of the curse of human bondage. If you are a history buff, you'll enjoy the look into a pre-Civil War life, gain many insights to the mechanics of slave trade, and see how slave owners were loathed and loved as well, depending on their behaviour to their property. The film should be fantastic, but be warned; if it is as graphic as the book's accounts, it'll be disturbing. More than anything, this book is about lousy luck!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 17 November 2014
This is powerful, maddeningly brutal, heartfelt and hard to forget.

I've put off reading this for several months, knowing the content from the Oscar-winning film. Actually, it wasn't as hard to read as I'd feared, but scenes will linger for me.

I've read The Long Song, Chains, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Beloved. Solomon made it more real for me, the husband and father doing what he can to get home.

His writing style is very much of the period, which I don't have issues with, though some descriptions of farming procedures held little interest in the context of the book for me.

Some of the more shocking scenes were actually those in which slaves are 'granted' three days holiday for Christmas, treated to sumptuous meals and dances by their usually whip-wielding 'masters'. The enjoyment and laughter resulting had me in floods of angry tears.

Solomon wisely state facts and leaves opinion to us his readers. The actions of the participants speak for themselves. Bass I would want awarding medals. To stand out against public opinion and speak as he did - commendable.

It's a book that by rights should be reqiired reading by every secondary school student in the UK and USA. More than textbooks, films, question sheets, students will be forcsped to think about what nations did in their past, what happens when greed trumps humanity.

Not a book you will enjoy but one you won't regret letting into your conscience.
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on 7 August 2013
this book is superb it is about solomon northup a man living in america in the 1800s who was born a free man but ends up a slave for 12 years there is a film coming out later this year telling this story so if you are going to see it i recommend reading the book first
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on 4 January 2014
Thought provoking, a good read indeed. Unfair, unjust, deliverance. Glad justice prevailed!!
Cannot wait to to see the film adaptation.
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on 5 January 2014
This is a must-read. It is dated, obviously, but it's still a riveting story with eye-opening detail about the atrocities of US slavery. This gives the lie to Uncle Tom and the 'happy workers' myth put out by those who try to brush the whole thing under the carpet. Essential reading for any complacent Daily Mail reader.
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on 2 February 2014
A personal account of abduction, enslavement and rescue by a free born African American in pre-civil war America. This kindle version is not illustrated as advertised but no matter, the work stands alone very well without this embellishment. It is a heart rending tale containing some truly gruesome scenes of deprivation and torture. I think the editor in setting down the story as communicated verbally to him by Solomon Northup, probably took a little licence with some of the expressions and sentiments contained in this volume. I think this is understandable as it was certainly meant to appeal to a white audience to garner support for the abolishionist cause. I have read other reviews that suggest Solomon was a victim of his own attempt to scam a slave trader and this accusation is dealt with in the latter pages of the book. I don't think it matters how he came to be sold into slavery. There is enough corroboratory evidence to assure us that his treatment and experiences as a slave are accurate and believable. So this really is an indictment of a trade in human flesh that formed a significant and profitable industry and represents a period of incomprehensible institutionalised cruelty which casts a shadow to this day. What I took from this was the very strong sense of Solomon's character and strength of will. What it must have taken to survive those 12 years without completely giving up in despair, I can barely imagine. How a people can endure not just the physical hardship but the injustice of slavery for so long, again is hard to fathom although Solomon gives a very good personal interpretation of how and why this can and was achieved. At the end of his ordeal, there is great relief at being restored to his family and freedom; gratitude to those helped secure his release but surprisingly little bitterness. Indignation, a sense of the great injustice of his situation certainly but overriding this, a pragmatism which made the greatest impression on me. As to the writing style and language. Yes, it's nineteenth century. I found it very easy to read. If you struggle with the English of this period, I hope you give this a try and persevere. Stories like this need to be read, still. Lessons still not learnt etc!
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