(audiobook)Full title: "Uncle Tom's cabin, or life among the lowly"

I've read this book once in the past, in Russian, when I was a kid. It was so long ago that most of what I read now sounded unfamiliar. In any case, I don't think that as a child I could understand this book as I understand it now. It has several layers - outwards, it's an entertaining, highly readable novel that's fun enough for children to read. Inwards, it discusses lots of tough moral matters that would take a more adult mind to grasp.

Uncle Tom is a black slave sold from his native Kentucky when his owner, Mr. Shelby, gets into financial trouble. He travels south with a slave trader, is sold into a kind family, and later into the hands of a cruel plantation owner. The story mostly follows Tom and the characters around him, with some detours into the fate of Eliza, a young slave who escaped with her son during the same sale from Shelby.

The book is markedly anti-slavery and pro-religious / Christian, and to the credit of the author is must be noted that she tries to present both sides in all debates. Published in 1852, this book is commonly considered to have made a huge impact on the minds of Americans in the free states, and some even go as far as suggesting that it brought the civil American war closer. As this article explains, Abraham Lincoln is sometimes quoted as having said: "So this is the little lady who made this big war" when meeting with the author in the beginning of the civil war.

Some additional interesting facts: "Uncle Tom's cabin" was the 2nd best-selling book in the world in the 19th century (after the Bible, of course). Sure, its 300,000 copies sold in the first year are no competition for Harry Potter, but considering the much lower population of that time, and the fact that the world was a much less global place (and there was no Amazon) - this is actually quite impressive. In addition, although I'm not too familiar with this topic, it appears that most of the racist stereotypes of American blacks - like the fat and cheerful maid or cook "Mammy", had their origin in this book. This is an often cited criticism, especially in modern times.

Last but not least, a word must be said about the narration. The audio-book I've listened to was downloaded from LibriVox - wholly narrated by John Greenman. This is the best narration I've ever heard - very clear, the tempo just right, no mistakes, and amazing impersonations of voices that make it a much more pleasant and realistic experience. I won't be surprised to find out this is a professional narration passed over into the public domain, for some reason.


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