12 Years A Slave (#39/50)

For those who don’t know, this book is based on a true story, and as one might expect from the title, it is devastating. It’s clear early on that Solomon will eventually regain his freedom, and that hope was what kept me reading to the end.

Title – 12 Years A Slave

Author – Solomon Northup

Page count – 217

Goodreads rating – 5 stars (This is something new I’m going to include. The ratings are as follows: one star=didn’t like it, two=it was ok, three=liked it, four=really liked it, five=it was awesome! Or, in cases like this where “awesome” doesn’t feel quite appropriate, I think of it as “would highly recommend.”)

As stated before, this book is based on a true story. And keep in mind I haven’t seen the movie, so my commentary/opinion is based solely on the book. Solomon was born a free man in New York State.He had access to an education, employed his skills in good-paying work, and enjoyed a comfortable life with his wife and three children – as any and every person should be free and able to do. This book is set approximately from 1840 to 1853 and recounts Solomon’s kidnapping, sale into slavery, and captivity on a variety of Louisiana slave plantations.

The narrative in this book reads in a couple different styles. Often, Solomon would write his story as if it were a biblical lamentation. It was prayerful, almost poetic, and heart-wrenching. At other times he would simply recount things in a detached, factual way. This was almost more disturbing, to hear true horrors told as if they were normal (because, in fact, they were; Solomon’s written account is rare, but his story is not unique, and that is perhaps the most horrifying thing of all).

Here is a passage from early on in the story, soon after Solomon was kidnapped and is being kept in a pitch-dark cellar in chains:

“There must have been some misapprehension – some unfortunate mistake. It could not be that a free citizen of New-York, who had wronged no man, nor violated any law, should be dealt with thus inhumanly…It was a desolate thought, indeed. I felt there was no trust or mercy in unfeeling man; and commending myself to the God of the oppressed, bowed my head upon my fettered hands, and wept most bitterly.” (p. 19)

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