Thursday, February 13, 2014


Twelve Years A Slave, Solomon Northup, Derby & Miller, 1853, 235 pp

I read this slave narrative as a reading group pick. Not having previously read any slave narratives, I can't judge it by comparison but I found it a gripping read.

The twist in this one is that Solomon Northup was a freeman in the North who was captured by trickery and sold into slavery, a crime at the time. The drama is how he survived for twelve years and finally arranged to be rescued by people he used to know in the North. And it is dramatic right up to the end.

I presume this book has provided details for many a novel about slavery written since. Should you read it before or after seeing the movie or in addition to seeing the movie? I have not as yet watched the movie so I can't say, but members of my reading group who have, say they make good companions to each other.

I don't guess any of us need to do either to be convinced that slavery is a wicked thing. The worth of the book was its role in the abolitionist movement as well as the power of literature to create change.

My copy was part of an eBook by Timeless Reads that also contains five additional slave narratives including Up From Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T Washington; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Uncle Tom's Cabin; The Life of Josiah Henson; and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. (I have wanted to read the Frederick Douglass book ever since I read Transatlantic by Colum McCann, because Douglass features in that story.) All of these books were first published in the 1800s except for Up From Slavery in 1901.

I read both Twelve Years a Slave and Black Like Me during the week of Martin Luther King Day. That is enough for now but next year I'll have more to read. I also watched The Butler that week. Good for me!

(Twelve Years A Slave is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. I had seen the Kindle book for $0.99 and didn't buy it at first because I thought it was a made-up book from a movie script as many books are nowadays, but thanks to your post I learned that it was actually written by a former slave and that the novel had social impact at the time.
    Thanks, Judy, your post was enlightening and thanks to it I put the ebook in my TBR list. I have yet to watch the movie.

    1. Hi Carmen. I am glad I got the word out to you! It was a moving reading experience and I am looking forward to watching the movie.