12 Years a Slave Concludes

SPOILERS only if you have no idea how this book concludes. You do realize that Solomon Northup would not be able to write his memoirs if he remained a slave.

After 12 years, Solomon Northup meets a good man (There must have been a real scarcity of them in the South of the 1840s, if it took him 12 years, just sayin’). That this man is white is a given, because if he were not white, he would never have been able to effect Solomon’s release. Second, this man, whose name was Bass, was played by Brad Pitt in the movie version, so right away you think: HERO!

Solomon decides to trust Bass with his story: the fact that he was kidnapped by slavers and brought south. And Bass decides to write a letter to Solomon’s family in Saratoga. And then Solomon’s family has to find an agent, who has to receive permission (from the court) to locate Solomon.

The letter from Bass arives in Saratoga in August, but it’s not until December that anything is done about it. Solomon’s family sends an agent, Henry Northup, south to search for Solomon (Self is mighty confused that the agent who is looking for him has the same last name as Solomon himself, but doesn’t appear to be a relation) Unfortunately, Solomon Northup is not easy to locate, because for the last 12 years, he was known as Platt the slave.

Finally, someone decides to focus more on the letter-writer, Bass, than on the slave in question, and they find that the letter Bass posted was from this particular place, and so the slave in question must also be from that place, and now they look for Bass, to question him, but Bass moves around a lot because he’s a kind of journeyman carpenter. At long last, they find him in some place while he’s in between jobs, and they start talking to him, asking him where he’s worked the last year, and finally they ask him if he wrote the letter concerning Solomon Northup.

And Bass first says, “Excuse me, that’s none of your business.”

Only after more conversation does Bass decide to admit that he in fact wrote the letter. After his admission, he says, “I have done nothing to be ashamed of. I am the man who wrote the letter.”

It comes out so roundabout, you realize how much is at stake (for Bass as well as for Solomon). This is really a fantastic narrative.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Ch. 13: Twelve Years a Slave

Now, Solomon Northup is working for a crazy master named Epps. This part was adapted in the movie — in fact, the Epps scenes have lingered longest in self’s memory. Could also be because Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey, the fastest cotton picker on the whole plantation — no, maybe in the whole American South. (The great Sarah Paulson played Mrs. Epps: she killed in the role)

This Epps liked to make his slaves dance, even after they’ve had a long day laboring in the fields. He wanted them to laugh. He wanted Northup to play the fiddle.

Crazy!

Cotton Plantation, 1841

The slaves work seven days a week, with 15 minutes for lunch.

All that is allowed them is corn and bacon, which is given out at the corncrib and smoke-house every Sunday morning. Each one receives, as his weekly allowance, three and a half pounds of bacon, and corn enough to make a peck of a meal. That is all — no tea, coffee, sugar, and with the exception of a very scanty sprinkling now and then, no salt.

12 Years a Slave, still Chapter 12

Big Cane Brake, 1841

We proceeded down the south shore of the bayou, crossing it at Carey’s plantation; from thence to Huff Power, passing which, we came upon the Bayou Rouge road, which runs towards the Red River. After passing through Bayou Rouge Swamp, and just at sunset, turning from the highway, we struck off into the Big Cane Brake. We followed an unbeaten track, scarcely wide enough to admit the wagon. The cane, such as are used for fishing rods, were as thick as they could stand. A person could not be seen through them the distance of a rod. The paths of wild beasts run through them in various directions — the bear and the American tiger abounding in these brakes, and wherever there is a basin of stagnant water, it is full of alligators.

12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup, Ch. 11

Sounds like a fascinating place.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Chapter 11, Twelve Years a Slave

Self was wrong: the good former master is STILL ALIVE! She was so sure the other planters would kill him, since he rescued his former slave, Solomon Northup, from a lynching, back in Chapter 8.

Anyhoo, in Chapter 10, Solomon’s new master has a foreman who tries to split Solomon’s head with a hatchet and Solomon runs through the bayous to escape. He ends up running all the way back to his former master’s plantation. The good man takes him in (even though there was a law on the books at the time, that a runaway slave must be returned to his master).

And this is what happens in Chapter 11: Solomon is walking by the side of his former master, when who should come galloping out of the bayou towards them but — the evil foreman! He comes alongside Solomon’s former master, and the two begin a conversation.

Self is thinking: any minute now the evil foreman is going to take out a hatchet and kill Solomon’s good former master! But self is midway through Chapter 11, and the two white men are still conversing. The good former master says he knows the foreman tried to kill Solomon, then the foreman explains why he was moved to try and kill Solomon, then the good former master tells the foreman that was not the way to treat a slave, then the foreman says his hound dogs aren’t worth their keep, and the good former master tells the foreman it is evident that the foreman will keep trying to kill Solomon, and Solomon will keep running away, and therefore the foreman must sell Solomon. He says: Unless you do so, I shall take measures to get him out of your possession.

Self does not remember this part of the movie at all, so she has to go on the movie’s imdb page and scroll down the cast list. She has to read practically all the way to the bottom to find that Ford (the good former master) was played by Benedict Cumberbatch! Niiiice! The real shock, though, is when self discovers that the evil foreman, Tibeats, was played by Paul Dano!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Voyage: Slaver Ship, 1841

When in sight of the Bahamas Banks, at a place called Old Point Compass, or the Hole in the Wall, we were becalmed three days. There was scarcely a breath of air. The waters of the gulf presented a singularly white appearance, like lime water.

12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup, Chapter Five, p. 39

As I read, I keep seeing Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Bravo, what a performance.

Opening Sentence, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

“Having been born a freeman, and for more than 30 yrs enjoyed the blessings of liberty in a free State — and having at the end of that time been kidnapped and sold into slavery, where I remained, until happily rescued in the month of January 1853, after a bondage of twelve years — it has been suggested that an account of my life and fortunes would not be uninteresting to the public.”

12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup (first published 1853)

Next on the Reading List

But first, Attica Locke. Woo hoo, self has discovered a new favorite mystery writer. Dragging through the final pages because she doesn’t want to leave Harris County, Texas. Heaven, My Home and its Texas Ranger hero, Darren Matthews, are fantastic.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

MILD SPOILER: Heaven, My Home p. 169

This book is taking forever for self to read! She used to read so fast: a book a week, even when she was working full-time. But now, when she’s really enjoying a book, she can only get through a handful of pages a day.

MILD SPOILER

Black Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has been given a complimentary suite in a Victorian hotel in downtown Jefferson, Texas. The owner of the hotel is also a suspect in MURDER, LOL. In addition, he finds out (after noticing a constant parade of tourists taking pictures of his room windows from the street, on into the wee hours) that the room is reputedly haunted. How very passive-aggressive of the hotel owner/murder suspect!

After a long day spent interviewing witnesses and chasing down leads, Darren returns to his room to find his wife:

  • . . . why was his wife dressed for debauchery but also wearing reading glasses and flipping through a manila file folder with a Bic pen clamped between her teeth? He had the fleeting thought that the security at this hotel was troubling enough that he should consider a change of venue, as now two people had walked into his room without a key.

Will wonders never cease? This is the most ENTERTAINING mystery self has read since Ruth Rendell.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Heaven, My Home, p. 120

It would bring Dateline and 20/20 and a salivating Fox News to Greg’s front door. Darren could practically see the Netflix true-crime documentary they would make.

LOL

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