BOOK REVIEW: Twelve Years A Slave – by Solomon Northup

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Title: Twelve Years A Slave
Author: Solomon Northup
Genre: Non Fiction, History, Memoir
First published: 1853
Finished reading: December 26th 2014
Pages: 288
Rating 4

“Life is dear to every living thing; the worm that crawls upon the ground will struggle for it.”

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This book was a gift of a friend who knows I always like reading historical books, whether fiction or non fiction. Twelve Years A Slave is not the first book about slavery that I’ve read, but without doubt it is one of the more powerful once. In this memoir Solomon Northup, born a free man, tells us about how he was kidnapped, then forced into slavery during twelve long years and finally rescued from such fate. It’s not an easy read and at times a bit slow in pace, but the message is powerful enough to keep reading. I think most people already suspect how slaves were treated in Southern USA back in those days, but actually reading a testimony makes it hard to ignore such inhumane treatment that was used on black slaves. Like Northup said in his book, it was part of the culture and most slave owners didn’t know any better, but still… Even humane masters as Ford were still seeing slaves as property and forced them to work for them. A heavy, but strong book and definitely recommended to those who are interested in reading more about the life of slaves.

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Solomon Northup was born a free man in the state of New York. He got married, had some children and were able to coope by working hard. Even in the free states, work for black men was harder to find, but both Solomon and his wife were creative enough to scrape together an income. Solomon plays the violin, and when to gentlemen invite him to travel with them to Washington with the promise of money, he quickly agrees to join them. Unfortunately, they deceived him and Solomon was kidnapped, severely beaten and then sold into slavery in 1841. Once crossing the border to the Southern States, he knew that nobody would believe he was a free man without his papers. And those who did, would most likely kill him rather than set him free. So he kept his mouth shut and during twelve years played the role of Platt the slave on different plantations in Louisiana.

Solomon/Platt had different owners during those twelve years and while some, like master Ford, treated him at least with humanity, others were mere brutes and unnecessarily cruel. They actually try to kill him various times when he refuses to be humiliated too much, and owes his life to more humane southerners. Solomon tells us the story of when he manages to escape against all odds and arrive safely back at master Ford’s land, who then protects him from harm. Solomon first works at the cotton plantation, and later is hired to sugar cane plantations as he is way more productive at the latter. He help building new houses and other useful buildings and stands out for his cleverness and violin skills. And then finally he meets the right man that will help him reclaim his freedom…

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If you are interested in reading more about the life of slaves during the years of slavery in Southern USA, Twelve Years A Slave is without doubt a must read. This is not just another testimony written by a slave, in this memoir we see the facts through the eyes of a free man that was forced into slavery. That and the fact that Solomon Northup clearly was an educated man, makes this book that much more powerful. The prose is not always easy to read, but the message makes up for it. Plus, this book was written back in 1853…

WWW Wednesdays #22 – Christmas Edition

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I’m baaaack!! 😀 It took a bit more time than originally planned to actually finish everything, but life is finally back to normal. Just in time for Christmas! I haven’t had much time to read in the last two weeks, but I managed to finish two books… Ah, and before I continue, I first want to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas!

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On to the meme… Originally featured at Should Be Reading, WWW WEDNESDAYS is all about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

twelveyearsaslaveI’m finally continuing with Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup, a story about a free man who was forced into slavery during twelve years. Since I didn’t have much free time to actually sit down with a paperback, I didn’t get much reading done… But now I have, I’m hoping to finish this one soon.

 

  • What did you recently finish reading?

achristmascarolI16139704 finished The Racketeer by John Grisham the other day, as well as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The first one didn’t fully convince me; the main character turns out to be a crook and it is not easy to symphatize with his situation. A Christmas Carol was the perfect read just before Christmas, and I’m glad I finally came around reading the original story!

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Since I will be completing the Bookish Bingo challenge as soon as I finish reading Twelve Years A Slave, it will be REALLY hard to choose my next read. I have no idea so far which title to pick next, and I might end up using my TBR cup to decide for me…

WWW Wednesdays #21 – December 10th

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Originally featured at Should Be Reading… WWW WEDNESDAYS is all about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

twelveyearsaslaveI’m still reading Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup, a story about a free man who was forced into slavery during twelve years. I could have finished this one sooner, but somehow I find it easier to read e-books right now and I have been neglecting this poor paperback. Maybe today or tomorrow I will manage to continue this intriguing story…

 

  • What did you recently finish reading?

kiera'smoonthedarkwindI finished Kiera’s Moon last weekend and I’m in the process of writing my review. It won’t be a positive one, since I couldn’t enjoy what turned out to be a cheesy romance novel rather than a science fiction story. I’ve also finished The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman today, which I enjoyed better than my last read. An interesting mystery story involving a drug exchange gone wrong… And Navajo chief Chee is trying to figure out what really happened. Review coming soon!

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

16139704I’m about to start The Racketeer by John Grisham, a book that I need to fill one of the last squares of the Bookish Bingo challenge. I was going to read another book for the Birds On Cover square, but when I decided to use my TBR cup to choose my first read after completing the Bookish Bingo challenge, this one got selected out of over 80! titles. So I guess it was just ment to be…

WWW Wednesdays #20 – December 3rd

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Originally featured at Should Be Reading… WWW WEDNESDAYS is all about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

eatinganimalstwelveyearsaslaveI’m reading two non fiction novels at the moment with the first being Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, a non fiction novel slash memoir about what is really going on in the meat industry. It’s an interesting read so far with some very shocking details about how the animals really live and are slaughtered; not just a book about vegetarianism I suspected before starting it. The second book I’ve started the other day is Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup, a story about a free man who was forced into slavery during twelve years. Heavy material but definitely intriguing!

  • What did you recently finish reading?

halloweenkentuckystyleI6539 actually finished both The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell and Halloween Kentucky Style by Charles Suddeth last Saturday, but the reviews are still pending. Both books weren’t that great, although I liked The Body Farm betten than my second read. More details will come soon as I write my reviews…

 

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

kiera'smoonI will probably stick with a ‘light’ read after two non fiction novels, and try to fill one of the final squares for the Bookish Bingo challenge… So I guess something on that TBR list, although I’m not sure yet which title. Maybe Kiera’s Moon by Lizzy Ford?

Teaser Tuesdays #23 – December 2nd: Twelve Years A Slave

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TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

A friend gifted me a copy of Twelve Years A Slave a while back, a non fiction historical novel about a free man named Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and forced into slavery back in 1841. In this novel written in 1853 he tells us his experiences during those years as a slave (he was rescued, like the title suggests, after twelve years). A VERY interesting read, and even though I’m not too far into the story, I can say I’m loving this classic so far.

twelveyearsaslave“Oh! how heavily the weight of slavery pressed upon me then. I must toil day after day, endure abuse and taunts and scoffs, sleep on the hard ground, live on the coarsest fare, and not only this, but live the slave of a blood-seeking wretch, of whom I must stand henceforth in continued fear and dread. Why had I not died in my young years – before God had given me children to love and live for?”

What are you reading right now?