Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
Beautifully written, beautifully read, an easy listen, never a dull moment, and happens to be true. This is our history (and I'm white). But first of all, click on "PDF" under the title in your library. Roll down to see the map of the neighborhood where the author was kept in slavery for ten of his twelve years before being freed.
Louis Gossett, Jr. was a great choice to read this book. I got off to a rough start, however, and I suspect he did as well. Just turn up your volume and keep listening. It smooths out. The language is old-fashioned, very courtly, and takes a bit of getting used to. At last Gossett and the listener find their groove for an easy listen. Not easy, however, to contemplate what happened to this precious man whose slave name was Platt. I am amazed that he remembered so many names, dates and places in his journey. The book is a remarkable historical record for many reasons, telling what the slaves ate, how they earned a little extra money, what they used that money for, their efforts to feed themselves better, how both cotton and cane were cultivated, etc.
Gossett reads with good cheer, announcing the chapter headings joyfully, and getting excited when the story is exciting, like when the dogs are chasing Platt in the swamp and he loses them because unlike most slaves, he knows how to swim. The story is told with dignity, no cheap efforts to make us cry, but . . . what a story! Northup/Platt plays the fiddle, so is in demand at nearby plantations, especially at Christmas. He tells of playing at his master's orders, the master cracking his whip over the dancing slaves, and after a bedtime well after midnight, getting them up before dawn as usual to get out to the fields to their work. He tells how the worst masters whipped their slaves on general principles -- not for any good reason. I hope very much that the film coming out makes something of Northup's description of Patsy, a beautiful and joyful young slave who could pick 500 pounds of cotton to the 200-pound average. Patsy would be an Olympic athlete or run her own dance company in these times. She was physically clever, a joy to watch, and sweet-tempered. Northup indicates tastefully that the master uses her for sex and as this makes the mistress jealous, the mistress asks repeatedly to have Patsy whipped. It's great fun for them! As some couples like to fight because the making up is so good, these slave-owners are pretty disgusting. In fact, the master orders Platt/Northup to whip Patsy on one terrible occasion. Platt must obey or be whipped badly, himself, so he tries. At last, Platt refuses to continue, so Epps, the master, picks up the whip to continue. It's the old business of someone mean wanting to break the spirit of someone possessing a bounty of life force and joy -- what some of us do to our kids. Or wives. Patsy's slave-family poured parrafin into the wounds on her back; Patsy lay face-down for weeks and was never the same again. Northup does describe specific slave-owners who are kind and fair, where an un-free life is at least tolerable. He is anxious to be believed but says this is only what he experienced around the Red River area, so the situation may be different in other parts of the country.
I enjoyed Platt's cleverness in that he designed a trap to catch fish to supplement the slaves' wormy pork allowance. He made a curved axe handle which amazed his owner. He knew things! The book shares some of the music he heard, i.e., verses of popular songs. He describes the making of sugar. He could not google something or make a quick phone call for confirmation; he simply remembered!
Northup tells in detail how he finally got his freedom. The book has a happy ending, except the half-grown family he left was grown up when he finally got home. There was a trial and the men who sold Northup into slavery presented a pack of lies and were acquitted. Still happening!
Good read! Lots to think about!
I may go back and listen to certain parts after I see the movie.
That it was true!
His voice of course, and his passion.
I'm listening to the Louis Gossett, Jr. audio book of this on my kindle because it's a super convenient way to absorb the story before the Brad Pitt movie comes out. From what I've taken in so far, it's one of those cases where truth reads like fiction, but is even more engaging because you know it's historical fact. It's clear to see why the big boys decided to make a movie from it. I think I saw where Amazon is making it's whisper sync feature available for it so that when the corresponding e-book comes out for Kindle (soon I hope) I'll be able to read when I can and listen when I can, and never lose my place. Louis Gossett, Jr. is the perfect voice for the audio book. Can't wait to see on the big screen what I'm learning about now from the original source whenever I have a few spare minutes to listen to it on my Kindle.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
In the beginning of Twelve Years a Slave (1853), Solomon Northrup says that he'll recount the period from 1841 to 1853 when he lived as a slave in Louisiana after having been born free and grown up and married and made a family in that condition in New York. His object is "to give a candid and truthful statement of facts: to repeat the story of my life, without exaggeration, leaving it for others to determine, whether even the pages of fiction present a picture of more cruel wrong or a severer bondage." After sketching his family history, Northrup depicts how he was lured away from home with promises of a lucrative gig playing the violin, only to be drugged, kidnapped, beaten, and sold into slavery. Then the bulk of his narrative concerns the highlights (wrong word) of his twelve years as a slave.
Northrup tells us much about the "peculiar institution" in Louisiana: how slaves earned a little money to buy "extras" like pans, tobacco, ribbons, and hats; how they spent their only holiday (a few days at Christmastime); how they were fed just enough bacon (often rancid or wormy) and cornmeal to keep them hungry; how they worked from sunrise to nightfall (and to midnight under full moons) with only a ten-minute break for lunch; how they were whipped for resting during work or for not filling their cotton quotas or for various other infractions; how drivers drove their fellow slaves to work fast enough; how slaves were forbidden to learn to swim or to read and write; how they married with the only "ceremony" being asking the master's permission; and so on.
The book is absorbing, appalling, and moving. Even when Northrup details the methods of cultivating and picking cotton and raising and processing sugar cane, the book is clear and interesting. It's also suspenseful. Although we know from the start that Northrup will find his way back home to freedom and family after twelve years, we do not know how he will accomplish that, and we do not know what physical and emotional torments he will be subjected to before that, and we do not know which of his fellow slaves will be raped, flogged, sold, or killed. And his mostly calm tone makes the abuse he and other slaves suffer all the more horrifying.
The most devastating part of his book is not Northrup's enslavement, but that of Patsey, the young, vibrant, top cotton-picking slave on Epps' plantation who is routinely raped by Epps and tormented by his vindictive wife for it (because she cannot punish her husband). Patsey is literally excoriated with floggings that flay her back and spirit. Northrup tries to the limits of a slave to shield her from master and mistress (telling Mrs. Epps that it's her husband's fault and refusing to obey her when she tells him to kill Patsey and dump her body in the swamps), but Epps makes Northrup flog her once, and the scene when he is finally free to go home, and leaves her, and she plaintively says, "I'm glad you're goin' to be free--but oh! de Lord, de Lord! what'll become of me?" is heart-breaking.
Northrup's story vividly demonstrates that slavery was a terrible injustice festering in the USA. Even when treated "well," slaves would prefer freedom to bondage, and the fact that they were forced to work for the benefit of others and were denied education and self-improvement and were subject to the whims of their owners rendered the whole system pernicious. But he also asserts that there were good-hearted masters as well as heartless ones, and that both were products of their culture: "It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel,” he says, “so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives.”
One part of Northrup's narrative that rings especially true involves his honest accounts of his unheroic actions. He fears too much the risk to try to escape or to tell his Louisiana masters that he'd been born free; he does his job as driver well enough to avoid being punished by Epps; he whips Patsey to avoid bringing Epps' wrath down on his own head; and so on. That is, although he depicts how capable he is in playing the violin and making things like an axe haft, a loom, and a fish trap, he presents himself as a human being rather than a saint.
Although the Eakin Films audiobook provides "An Afterword on the Rediscovery of Twelve Years a Slave by Dr. Sue Eakin" (read by her), it leaves out the "Editor's Preface" revealing that Northrup didn't write his autobiographical account, but rather dictated it to a white lawyer, David Wilson, who then wrote it in consultation with Northrup, who corrected many details to make it more accurate. Anyway, Northrup-Wilson is a fine writer, telling the story vividly and literately. Here is some of their prose in a particularly painful moment:
“As soon as he was gone I threw the letter in the fire, and, with a desponding and despairing heart, beheld the epistle which had cost me so much anxiety and thought, and which I fondly hoped would have been my forerunner to the land of freedom, writhe and shrivel on its bed of coals, and dissolve into smoke and ashes.”
Once or twice I was yanked out of imagining Northrup telling his own story when "he" says something like, "Lew Cheney, with whom I became acquainted--a shrewd, cunning negro, more intelligent than the generality of his race, but unscrupulous and full of treachery. . ." Or when "he" waxes a wee bit too complimentary about a "good" master/mistress.
However, the feeling that Northrup is telling his story by himself is usually easy to maintain, due to Louis Gossett Jr.'s wonderful reading of the audiobook. His savory voice has a nasal and gravel quality and a sensitivity that suits the material without any melodramatic, actorly changes for different characters. I listened to the samples of eight other audiobooks of the novel and found Gossett's the best.
Anyone interested in an informative and powerful first-hand account of the institution that still scars America should read Twelve Years a Slave.
Mr. Northup was careful to remind his readers that he was writing only from his own experiences and not from what he had heard from others. He was an impressive gentleman.
Mr. Gossett did a wonderful job in his narration. He made you believe that it was actually Mr. Northup telling the story.
Not so much the characters, but the story!
His acting ability is tremendous.
A first hand history by an educated black man sold into slavery.
Honest and balanced account of the times - and a happy ending.
The voice felt as if it was right out of the period.
Many moments moved me but his final rescue and return to his family were wonderful.
I wonder how many other treasures such as Twelve Years A Slave are gathering dust on bookshelves, just waiting to find a more receptive audience than there was during the time they were written.
I absolutely would listen to this story again. The narrative was remarkable. Louis Gossett at his finest.
The recounting of a free-man being stolen away into captivity. It's just riveting. Everyone can imagine the emotions that must have flowed.
My favorite scene is when the family is reunited.
Tired teacher. That is, REtired teacher.
To think that this is a true story is just heartbreaking. And of course heart warming in the end. I had never heard of this book until recently, probably because of the recent movie based on this story. I have not yet seen the movie, but am looking forward to seeing it soon.
This man, Solomon Northup, deserves respect and admiration from everyone. He handled his situation about as well as it could be handled, but more importantly, he never gave up his hope of freedom and seeing his wife and children again. Intelligent, well-spoken, and classy in so many ways, he was despised by lesser white men who were determined to hold him down and to claim that they "owned him."
Many nations can look back on certain parts of their history with shame and embarrassment, and the USA is no exception. Slavery is a mark upon us and our history that we have to live with, but we don't have to perpetuate. Although we as a nation and a people have come a long way since 1853, there are still those who continue to hate and mistreat others because the color of their skin is not to their liking. This can be said of people on both sides of the issue. Isn't it about time that this whole nonsense stop and we fulfill the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and love people because of the content of their character? Let's teach our children to be better than this horrendous history that destroyed so many valuable lives. It is really the only way we can affect a true change.
Louis Gossett Jr. is an amazing narrator, at times making me believe that he was Solomon Northup. Certainly he must have known the man, and yet it is not possible. So good!!!
Yes. Louis Gossett, Jr provides an excellent speaking voice in this audio book. His voice keeps the listener wanting to hear what will happen next in the narrative.
Of course, Solomon. He was the focal point in the story and his plight was meant to be heard.
Yes, but because of human obligations, I was forced to listen in multiple sitting, which proved to be very entertaining.
The story is phenomenal. I read along in the book just to be sure I did miss anything.
Just another girl with too many books and not enough time for them all.
Like most book lovers I NEVER, EVER see the movie before reading the book. NEVER! Until now.
A week before I started reading this book I went to see the movie with the ladies from my book club. This book was selected as our November book of the month. The theme of the month was "Book to Movie", so of course we had to see the movie together.
FYI, this is not going to be a review about the movie at all.
The story of Solomon Northup starts out giving the reader a sense of the life he lead as a born-free African American living in the North with a wife and three children. Solomon was a musician and very well respected in his community by Whites and Blacks alike. After accepting a temporary job to play with a traveling "circus" Solomon is mislead and drugged by his employers in captivity. This is were the book gets...sad...upsetting...frustrating...speechless!
Solomon gives the readers an overview of his twelve long agonizing years as a plantation worker who's life and family mean nothing at all to his overseers and Masters. Solomon unlike many of his fellow slaves could read and write and if anyone knew it, would mean his death.
Could you image? First being kidnapped then having your name changed? Sold into slavery with all of its brutality, hunger, and misery? Despite all of that Solomon keep a small glimmer of hope throughout it all.
At times I had to remind myself this is non-fiction. This is the real deal 100%.
I loved his writing style and the way the author described his environment. But there were a few places where I felt the descriptive writing was not needed. But overall it was a eye-opening read.
I feel this book should be a must read for ALL American High School students at the junior and senior level. This a must read for everyone.
Audiobook: 7 hours and 51 minutes
Narrator: Louis Gossett
Again, I have found myself reading and listening to a book to help me get through it faster. I have to say, I found myself listening more than reading on this one. The audiobook is narrated by Louis Gossett Jr. a wonderful actor and now a great narrator. He did a marvelous job. The book is written in a more formal English and as I was listening to his voice read, he made it seem like poetry at times.