Dan Sandman

22: 12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup

In Books, History, Non-Fiction on 30/05/2014 at 12:00 pm

12 Years a Slave by Solomon NorthupLike most sane people, I think that slavery is wrong. When a man or woman is chained, whipped and sold like cattle, this is a bad thing. And yet bad things happen to good people in this world everyday. But if we read books about bad things and try to understand history, we can learn from the mistakes of the past. That’s where true stories such as 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup step in.

This book is an accurate account of slavery as told from the perspective of a kidnapped slave. Northup begins life as a free man and is duped into a life of forced labour under horrific conditions. He then describes in detail the oppressive behaivour of his masters, the grueling work on the cotton plantations, and the violence committed towards the slaves. What results is an upsetting story with a strong moral message about man’s inhumanity to man. Since its publication in 1853, this autobiography has had a significant influence on American history.

From a reader’s perspective, I did not find the book particularly interesting. The story was written in a matter of fact way, the prose style was dull, and I never felt close to the characters. Having read Beloved by Toni Morrison, this book pales in comparison. Like many boring nineteenth century novels, it is over descriptive and can drag a bit. Therefore, it works well as a history and less well as a enjoyable reading experience.

Watch the film instead, it’s shorter.

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  1. Not an autobiography -a memoir. “Accurate” is a tough thing to claim about a non-fiction piece. Isn’t there an inherent bias? While I, too, am stunned by Beloved, the comparison is apples and staplers, no?

    • Thanks for the comments! My name is Dan, I read a book every week and write what I think about it on here. Good to meet you on here.

  2. I’ve been meaning to read this book for quite sometime now. I just haven’t had time. I haven’t had time to watch the film either. But I think I’ll give the book a shot anyway. 🙂

    • Good luck if you do decide to pick the book! I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by it as a reading experience, but it certainly has an important place in the history of slavery. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. 🙂

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