Published in 1853, this is the true life account of Solomon Northup, free man of Saratoga NY, properly educated as a child, married with three children and one time owner of a ferry service on the Hudson River. Through deceit and trickery, he was enticed to Washington DC with a job offer, drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. He was shipped to a slave market in New Orleans where he was sold to William Ford. His time with the kindly Ford was short lived. Due to financial troubles, Ford was forced to sell Northup to the violent and volatile Edwin Epps. Northup toiled for almost 11 years in backwoods Louisiana before being rescued and restored to his family. Upon his return to freedom, Northup brought charges against the perpetrators. The case in NY was dropped due to issues over jurisdiction. The case in DC resulted in an acquittal because Northup, a black man, was not allowed to testify there. Northup's book was an instant success, selling 30,000 copies. Unlike other slavery accounts of the day, it was written from the perspective and experiences of a free man who finds himself so horribly betrayed and enslaved. His writing was not polemical. (He actually had kind words to say about his first master.) Accordingly, his writing was given greater weight as a true account, written without an agenda. Sympathy for his plight spurred abolitionists and won the approbation of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who stated it magnified and informed her Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the last days of the Civil War, Union soldiers remarkably searched out Edwin Epps, who agreed Northup's account was factual. Northup spoke movingly and well about his experiences and was sought on the speechmaking circuit. Before being lost to history, documentary evidence also indicates he actively assisted slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. How does this account hold up for modern eyes? Northup's story is written with all of the verbal flourishes of mid 19th century literature. You will not want to read Twelve Years A Slave for the quality of the prose but rather for the powerful impact of his experiences. I was particularly moved by his palpable love of his wife and children. There is a searing account of one woman's agony and grief upon being separated from her children at the slave market. Most heartrending is the fate of Patsy, forever caught between the unwanted libidinous interest of her master and the punishments of her spiteful jealous mistress. Historically important both in Northup's time and ours, this unique perspective on a now incomprehensible way of life is highly recommended.