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Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River in Louisiana Paperback – 13 Dec 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 4,004 customer reviews

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  • Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River in Louisiana
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  • Uncle Tom's Cabin (Wordsworth Classics)
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  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Dover Thrift Editions)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (13 Dec. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1629143499
  • ISBN-13: 978-1629143491
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 0.3 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4,004 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,739,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"For sheer drama, few accounts of slavery match Solomon Northup's tale of abduction from freedom and forcible enslavement." --Ira Berlin, from the Introduction "When I read ["Twelve Years a Slave"] for the first time, it was like the first time I read Anne Frank's diary. And I wondered to myself, 'Why isn't this book on everyone's bookshelf.' . . . For me, it's a classic. It should be in every school." --Steve McQueen, director of the film adaptation of "Twelve Years a Slave, "in "Entertainment Weekly" "Frightening, gripping and inspiring . . . Northup's story seems almost biblical, structured as it is as a descent and resurrection narrative of a protagonist who, like Christ, was 33 at the time of his abduction. . . . Northup reminds us of the fragile nature of freedom in any human society and the harsh reality that whatever legal boundaries existed between so-called free states and slave states in 1841, no black man, woman or child was permanently safe." "--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "The Root"" "A moving, vital testament to one of slavery's 'many thousands gone' who retained his humanity in the bowels of degradation. It is also a chilling insight into the 'peculiar institution.'" --"Saturday Review" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

The astonishing memoir of a free man who was sold into slavery in Louisiana where he was kept for 12 years-a powerful, riveting condemnation of slavery, and a story soon to be introduced to a new audience through a major film. Tricked by two men offering him a job as a musician in New York state in 1841, Solomon Northup was instead drugged and kidnapped. Threatened with death, Northup was forced to assume a new name and fake past. Taken to Louisiana on a disease-ridden plague ship, he was initially sold to a cotton planter. In the 12 years that followed he was sold to many different owners who treated him with varying levels of savagery, including forced labor, scant food, and numerous beatings. Eventually Northup succeeded in contacting Samuel Bass, a white carpenter whom he knew to be sympathetic to the cause of black people. Bass contacted Northup's family and together they gained the necessary paperwork to travel to Louisiana to retrieve him. Northup pressed charges against his captors but in a triumph of irony the case was heard in Washington-meaning that as a black man he could not testify against the accused (in the end they were able to countersue him.) A true-life testament to tremendous courage and tenacity in the face of unfathomable injustice, Northup's account is also of extreme interest due to the meticulous recordings of slave life. Unique in its firsthand nature, the book became a runaway bestseller. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
On one level this is simply a story about a man who finds himself in hell and just wants to go home. On that level it's a page-turner.

The other level is that it's a true story.

In places it's not at all an easy book to read. Not because of the writing, which is straight forward and remarkably detached - Northrup wrote just to tell his story and let it speak for itself - but because of the things and the events it describes.

If you've seen the film but not read the book be warned that the film does not come close to depicting the violence in the book. The film had to look away; Northrup couldn't.

Northup's story is very powerful on the barbaric and brutal levels of violence, on the senseless hate, the screaming injustice, and the sheer stupidity of slavery and on the way a slave-owning society above all brutalises itself.

That perhaps is the most horrifying aspect - that an entire society, with a few brave exceptions, thought all this was perfectly Christian and reasonable.
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Like many other reviewers, I read this ahead of the film, and was really glad I did. Solomon Northrup's journey from free man to slave and eventually back to freedom again is an essential read. I can't believe it practically disappeared from public consciousness for a century, while works like Uncle Tom's Cabin remained in popular circulation all that time. Perhaps it was easier for society to understand the true brutality of slavery from a more detached, second hand source?

Although Northrup told his story to a ghostwriter following his release from slavery, the writing does feel authentic and spirited. What I loved about the book - and Northrup himself - was that he never stops giving up hope of regaining his freedom. Even when he has spent years under the whip and can plainly see the futility of his situation, he is ever vigilant for means of escape. His wit, bravery and love for his family ensure his survival, and the reader will be rooting for him throughout. As a huge wake up call to the slavers and anti-abolitionists, this account of an intelligent man trapped in unremitting drudgery and treated worse than an animal was surely a sign that their superiority beliefs were completely unfounded.

The other outstanding quality of this book is the balanced portrayal of Northrup's bondage. There is violence, horrific in places, but it is never gratuitous. There is humiliation and hard work, and Northrup is open about the way his fellow slaves were treated as well, but it never feels like he is asking for us to pity them. Northrup is even able, on occasions, to describe moments of peace and reminders of the man he is. The fact that he was allowed to keep his violin and escape for a while in his passion for music must have been a godsend to him.
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I enjoyed this book as it takes you through what appears to be a well educated man and his descent into slavery, he takes you through the horrors that befall those who have been dragged into this alien lifestyle. Solomon was lucky in some respect as he had a trade which would help him avoid the more mundane tasks that slaves were made to endure for very long hours day in day out.
It's worth reading this book just to get a feel (imagined as nothing could duplicate the real thing) for the inhuman things that some people are willing to make others endure just for the colour of skin,
Remember slavery is just as prevalent today as it was in Solomon Northups time,it's just disguised very well and does not get the attention it needs
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Sad, moving, and shamefully true story which can only be described as a depressing but fascinating first-hand account of the utterly barbaric and inhumane treatment endured by a huge number of slaves on plantations across the southern states of the USA. And to think that this was still taking place less than 200 years ago!

A compelling and immersive read, but not for the faint-hearted.

(As others have mentioned, the Kindle version is littered with "misprints" - presumably the result of poor text-conversion software, but it surely should have been proof-read and corrected by now! But don't let that put you off buying and reading this book - everybody should!)
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