My Goodreads review –
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup
I haven't yet seen the movie, but knowing about that made me curious about the book. I was surprised to realise it is non-fiction; had imagined it to be a novel. Despite being in the language of another place and time, and despite dealing with horrendous subject matter, it is very readable. Northrup writes with honesty, clarity, and surprising fair-mindedness. He was the victim of great injustice, being a free man who was kidnapped into slavery – yet the book also makes it clear the whole institution of slavery was a massive injustice against human beings. We take that as self-evident these days, but there was a time when it was believed in and justified on very spurious grounds. Northrup shows, among other things, how children brought up in such a system take it for granted – the children of the powerful class, that is. The injustice is clear enough to every slave.
Now I would like to see the movie, knowing that in spite of the horrors it deals with there are also some positive aspects. Northrup's own stalwart character is one; and the fact that there were good people who did their best to help him.
Note: I did eventually see the movie, and I thought it did a very good job of transferring the book to screen. The main actor, Chiwetel Ejofor, was wonderful. I thought he caught just the right tone of innate dignity as well as the horror and at times despair at the shocking circumstances.
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