Biography · Classic · History · Non-Fiction

12 years a slave

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

― Solomon Northup

Why I’m Reading this Book?

This book popped up in some book club reading challenge for a month. I forgot which one, but I got the book from the library and after 1 month of delaying finally got to it.


Story is set during 19th century before slavery was abolished. Solomon, who is a freeman from New York was kidnapped , bound and beaten was sold in slavery. There in a cotton plantation, he toiled for 12 horrible years before he was delivered to his rightful freedom. This is an autobiography of Solomon.

My Review…

Story told here is very powerful and stays with the reader for a long time. We all have heard about slavery, but here we see it in its most cruel form. This is an unflinching account of all the sufferings Solomon and his fellow slaves endured. And then you think again how can such an appalling tradition continued for so long.

When Solomon was kidnapped, he repeatedly professed about his free status, but was brutally beaten until he submitted to his new slave status. Then he journeys towards south. On the way, he makes a lot of schemes, but nothing bears any fruit. He observes the injustice all around. He sees a mother separated from her children. He witness the slaves beaten senseless with impunity.

But he has some good fortune to be sold to a good man and hopes to achieve his freedom by winning his favor. But before that happens, by turn of events , he is passed around from master to master who are cruel and crueler. Throughout this Solomon keeps the hope of getting free alive and along with that he maintained an identity owing to his education and freeman status. He is known for his violin skills and quick wit. But that makes him more valuable and thus more in shackles.

Solomon gives a detailed account of life on plantation, daily routine of slaves, in case of slave women; sexual advances of masters and jealousy of mistress, unrelenting and unreasonable demands of masters and basically a life which would break the very soul of a man. However, he also details account of people who are kind, who helped him in one way or other and because of one such person, he finally gains his freedom.

This is a very touching story and many times, I found myself with wet eyes. I’ve watched the movie long back , but essence of movie was not that effective. I, in fact watched the movie again as soon as I finished the book, and I didn’t find it as soulful as the book is.

In very simple words, Solomon bares his soul in this story and that makes this book a worthwhile read.

My Rating — 4

On the scale of: (1- Hate , 2- Neither like nor dislike, 3- Like, 4- Love, 5- Gaga)

Why anyone else should read this Book?

Story is told in very plain and simple words. It strikes at your heart from the start and thus a very fast read.

It’s one thing to know about slavery, but its altogether a different thing to witness it. I’m glad we can no more witness it in person, but detailed account here of what happens is equally poignant.

Not for nothing, this book is shelved amongst classics. If you haven’t read it, give it a go.

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” – Garrison Keillor


3 thoughts on “12 years a slave

  1. This book is also in my “To-Read” list. You have provided very short and crisp review of the story which creates my interest even more in the book. One thing I really want to ask is why it didn’t deserved rating 5 ? What could have been better ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has sometime too many details about farming, how cotton gets picked up, how sugar factory works, which was boring for me, hence 4 😄

      Liked by 1 person

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