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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 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 6 May 2017
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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on 5 September 2015
I decided to read the book before I saw the film, and I managed to read the whole book in one sitting on a train ride home.

How can a book like this have disappeared from bookshelves? I am thankful to the film for bringing this story back from obscurity. Twelve Years a Slave conveys the brutality of African-american slavery in a graphic style – the horrors that Solomon has to put up with are unbearable. Yet in an archaic fashion, despite the horrors, Solomon expresses hope and a longing to see his family. All the while expressed through a neutral tone with no hint of bias or bitterness.

Twelve Years a Slave is as hard-hitting and memorising as The Dairy of Anne Frank – a story which needs to be read.
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on 1 March 2014
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. He himself admits that it was sometimes the only thing that kept him going.

Even if this had been written as fiction, it would be well worth a read. Unlike the aforementioned Uncle Tom's Cabin, which muddied its narrative with superfluous passages, characters and situations, Northrup's tale flows easily and never deviates from its central message. It is obviously not something you can really call enjoyable, due to the content, but it is certainly engaging.

For those who have seen the film and may have been left a bit confused by some scenes, the book will answer every question. Be warned though, the violent scenes depicted in the book are actually far worse than what you will have seen on screen. They are necessary to show us just how easily and badly ultimate power can be abused, but they don't make for comfortable reading.

The feeling I was finally left with when the book reached its conclusion was one of awe and inspiration. Northrup was an amazing man, held back only by the colour of his skin. Who knows what he might have achieved in another time?
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on 9 February 2014
I wasn't expecting much from this novel, but somehow it surprised me and it turned out OK.

Unfortunately there is a problem with this novel. Amazon copy and pasted this novel from another site (reason why it's so cheap). Because of this there is typing errors throughout the novel that Amazon haven't bothered changing.

This has to be one of the best historical pieces involving slavery. It's great for educational or entertainment purposes. This novel opened my eyes a little more considering slavery, not just in England, but in America too.

There are clear and sometimes graphic descriptions in this novel, but I guess it's told as it is. (You have been warned). The dialogue was also clear and was of very good quality. It compliments the descriptions and pieces everything together nicely.

Overall it's a great novel that's well written, even considering it's age. I would recommend this novel who stumbles across the author or even the movie.
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on 5 July 2014
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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on 19 July 2017
Matter of fact and unsentimental but harrowing at times. I haven't seen the film so no pre conceived ideas about the story. The language takes a bit of getting used to but it is easy enough to follow and I like how descriptive it is. It's an educational and rewarding read. I found it riveting and read it over a couple of days.
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on 17 January 2014
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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on 25 February 2014
I bought this because I want to see the film, but I wanted to read the book before seeing the film.

The book is written in an old style which I thought I would struggle with, but I picked it up very easily.

The story is fairly fast-paced and is constantly moving forward so it's difficult to put down.

I have a found a few spelling and grammatical errors in the kindle version, which I presume were introduced when the book was converted to kindle format. These don't distract from the storyline, but I don't think it is unreasonable to expect these are ironed out in the final version.

I'm currently about 70% of the way through the book and I am looking forward to reading the rest. I still plan to see the film, but (as usual) I doubt the film will be as detailed as the book.

I would recommend this book.
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on 5 February 2014
What a great read I could not beleive how cruel some people were to these slave's Soloman did well to stand up to some of his masters. Even though he was born as a free man from slavery this didn't stop him from becoming a slave himself, he never gave up the fight for his freedom. This book is a very good read and I could not put this book down I just hope that the film does not destroy the book itself.
I'm glad that I read the book first onto the film next.
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