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193 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When All Else Fails, Only Hope Remains
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...
Published 8 months ago by Anari

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ohhh...
I know its probably a sin to say it but I found this book really boring, even the fact it was a true story couldn't keep me gripped. It was too slow for my liking. I can't believe I am saying this but I think I would rather have watched the film!
Published 4 months ago by Nichola J Langton


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193 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When All Else Fails, Only Hope Remains, 27 Oct 2013
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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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127 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, 19 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Twelve Years a Slave (Kindle Edition)
The story of Soloman Northup is both horrifying and heartbreaking and all the more devastating when you know that it is true. I have seen the film and although it is excellent, I feel that the book explains in more detail exactly what happened. There are parts in the film where I would have wondered why situations developed as they did and the book fills in those gaps. The language in the book is evocative of the time in which it was written and for me was all the more powerful because of the understated tone.
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165 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solomon Northup - The epic journey from freedom to slavery and back, 12 Nov 2013
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Red on Black - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Twelve Years a Slave (Kindle Edition)
"12 Years a Slave" is one of those books that was important and popular in its day but unexplainably over the years it fell from view and into obscurity. In every sense this book by Solomon Northup is the non fiction equivalent of Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic anti slavery tome "Uncle Tom's Cabin". Indeed in many respects it is a better read. Yet whereas the reputation of the latter has played a key role particularly book in the historiography of the origins of the American Civil War, Northup's book only re-emerged in the 1960s after being rediscovered by two Louisiana historians. The books fame will receive a well deserved boost with the forthcoming release of Steve Rodney McQueen's heavily British driven film version. It is already an Oscar contender in the US and is clocking a remarkable 97% rating on the film critics web site "Rotten Tomatoes". There is some inevitable controversy over the films interpretation of the book but that is for another review. Whatever the case the central performances of Chiwetel Ejiofor as "Northup" and Lupita Nyong'o as "Patsey" are said to verge on acting master classes with potential award glories to follow.

First published in 1853 the base line for the book charts the story of Solomon Northup. He was born in Minerva, New York in July 1808, to a liberated slave and his wife. Northup's life as a a free man and brilliant musician takes up the first part of this very powerful short book. In 1841 an encounter he had outside Washington DC with two men "Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton" changes everything. They essentially kidnap him and sell him into slavery. This base duplicity leads to the telling of a story of a free man forced into bondage and its horrors. He is sold to the notorious Washington-based slave trader James H. Burch, who brutally whips him for protesting that he is a free man. Eventually he ends up deep in Louisiana and spends the next 12 years of his life there until he was rescued by a prominent citizen of his home state who knew him. In that time he is "sold' to a variety of "owners" although by far the most brutish is Edwin Epps, a "repulsive and coarse" Louisiana cotton planter whom Northup describes as being devoid of any redeeming qualities "and never enjoying the advantages of an education". This is where the burning hurt and degradation of the story reaches its climax. This is a throughly compelling and gripping read. Northup describes the "rhythms" of slavery giving real insight into the relentless whippings, punishments and the back breaking work particularly of cotton picking season. He learns to survive and despite his predicament a fierce intelligence burns not least a sense of the beauty of the nature around him confessing that "there are few sights more pleasant to the eye than a wide cotton field when it is in bloom" . The details in the book of slave living quarters, of sticks of wood as pillows and the starvation diets of bacon and corn are a key element of this book, but it is the chronicle of the Antebellum era "White masters" that makes you rage with anger. These were possibly one of the most debauched, brutish and hypocritical category of human being this side of white South African police during apartheid. Thank God that Lincoln, with the persistent agitation of abolitionists like the great Frederick Douglas, took them on and won.

The book concludes with the tortuous negotiations around Northup's release from slavery (hampered by the fact that his slave name was "Platt") and the joy of eventual re-union with his family. It is a literary work that deserves all belated plaudits possible. It is written in a surprisingly contemporary manner and Northup is natural storyteller, acutely intelligent and observant plus possessing a dry sense of humour despite his predicament. His prose is beautiful and easy to read and he has a towering tale to tell. The cost of this book is essentially a giveaway and you will not regret its purchase.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No small wonder it is now a film!, 23 Oct 2013
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Mr. J. H. Wheeler "Easy Street" (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ohhh..., 1 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Twelve Years a Slave (Kindle Edition)
I know its probably a sin to say it but I found this book really boring, even the fact it was a true story couldn't keep me gripped. It was too slow for my liking. I can't believe I am saying this but I think I would rather have watched the film!
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hard read - but well worth it., 12 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Twelve Years a Slave (Kindle Edition)
it's taken me longer than usual to read this book. Not because it was uninteresting or boring. I honestly found it difficult to read for long periods of time. I felt such despair and frustruation throughout I needed to stop reading for a while. I am humbled by Soloman Northrup and all of those who endured the relentless pain of slavery. I am utterly speechless.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars twelve years a slave, 7 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Twelve Years a Slave (Paperback)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, 9 Mar 2014
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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If you decide to read this book you will see that there is an editor’s preface by David Wilson, who did assist Solomon Northup in writing his memoir. This fact, that a white man helped a black man write his experiences may be one of the reasons that when it comes to books by slaves this is often overlooked. At the time of the first publication of this it was quite well known as it came on the back of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ and gave more weight to the abolitionist movement. Solomon did give lectures and such like when this was first published and then dropped out of the limelight, and I don’t think anyone really knows what happened to him, when he died, or where.

Northup was a free man although black, as he was a resident of New York, and his father had been given his freedom in the past. Northup was tricked and then kidnapped and sold on as a slave, which did happen on occasion. It is a part of the slave trade that we seem to overlook when we talk about African American history. You needed to be able to produce documents to prove that you were a free man, and in the case of Northup and many others, they were either stolen, or were not obtained in the first place. Indeed such tricks were quite old and similar ones were played on those Europeans who sold themselves into bondage to eventually achieve something in America.

Solomon gives us his account of how he found himself to be kidnapped and enslaved, and what he went through whilst dreaming of freedom. He was an educated man, practical with his hands and was married with three children and it was truly appalling what happened to him. This story is quite harrowing as most slave literature is and reminds us that such practices still are with us today, and should be stopped.

Because Solomon was from the State of New York, this actually turned out to be his salvation as that State had already passed a statute if such a thing should happen to a black resident, with regards to kidnapping and sold into slavery. For twelve long years Solomon was a slave, and then thankfully due to a Canadian helping him his friends from New York were able to locate him. Mainly in part to the new film release of this that we do in part owe a thanks to this book once more being widely available as it reminds us all of man’s inhumanity to man and that as we are now in the Twenty First Century perhaps more thought and action should be given to preventing slavery and other inhumanities from continually occurring. I’m no optimist and I know that things such as wars are inevitable, but slavery and other degradations of our fellow humans should be stopped if we want to progress as a species.

This book also includes some appendices which give you the law as set out by the State of New York with regards to the kidnapping and slavery of their citizens, the memorial sent by his wife to the Governor, and the freedom of passage given to Solomon by the State of Louisiana. This in all is a compelling and harrowing memoir that I am sure most people interested in the history of slavery, or American history will want to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to believe its a true story., 28 Feb 2014
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw truth, 16 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Twelve Years a Slave (Kindle Edition)
This was a fantastic book. The eloquent writing style expressed the strong personality of the author throughout. It immerses us into the world of slavery and is heartbreaking, not only for the injustices Soloman suffered, but the suffering that the other slaves had to endure for the rest of their lives, even when Soloman was restored to liberty. The sequence of events are believable and portrayed with raw honesty.
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