The Barnes & Noble Review
Former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter presents a novel of the Revolutionary War that emphasizes the role of the South in the battle for America's independence. With a multitude of previous nonfiction works, ranging in topics from the Middle East conflict (The Blood of Abraham) to the workings of democracy (A Government as Good as Its People), Carter uses his political understanding to bring this well-researched tale to fascinating life.
When newlyweds Ethan and Epsey Pratt move from Philadelphia to a settlement in Georgia, they find themselves drawn into the war despite all their best efforts. Side by side with their Quaker neighbors Kindred and Mavis Morris, the Pratts are forced to take up arms against the British, as the world around them is bitterly changed forever.
With a discerning eye and a commitment to historical accuracy, Carter provides a unique view of the American Revolution by presenting lesser-known aspects of the conflict -- including the shameful way everyone involved tried to manipulate and control the Indian tribes. Despite a huge cast of characters and an extremely detailed and complex narrative, Carter keeps the story rooted in the personalities of common folks faced with extraordinary difficulties. The Hornet's Nest is a vivid, compelling, and original fiction debut from one of our most noted history makers. Tom Piccirilli
With this intricately detailed novel of the American South and the Revolutionary War, President Carter becomes our first chief executive, past or present, to publish a work of fiction. By concentrating on Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas from 1763 to 1783, Carter takes a fresh look at this crucial historical period, giving life and originality to a story usually told from the viewpoint of the northern colonies. There's a large cast of characters, but the focus is on the families of Ethan and Epsey Pratt and neighbors Kindred and Mavis Morris, backwoods Georgia homesteaders who are swept up, albeit reluctantly, in the revolution against the British. Among many other subjects, Carter covers military tactics, natural history, 18th-century politics, celestial navigation, the causes of the war, the sexual practices of both Indians and pioneers and how to tar and feather a man without killing him. Fascinating tidbits about well-known historical figures abound: "After some New Jersey militia actually mutinied [George] Washington decided to set an example of stern discipline; he forced the top leaders to draw lots, and the winners shot the losers." Carter's style leans toward the academic ("Mr. Knox, what's the difference between Whigs and Tories?"), but readers who can put up with the occasional lecture will learn fascinating truths about this exceedingly brutal war and the stories of the men and women who lived and died in the course of it. Those seeking a riveting prose style would be advised to look to more experienced fiction writers, but anyone who has ever wondered about the difference between a Whig and a Tory will find this an interesting and informative read. (Nov. 14) Forecast: Carter's status as the only president to publish a novel may not last long, as it is rumored that Bill Clinton may be working on one as well. In the meantime, the curiosity factor will draw readers, but Carter's flat style will discourage many who are looking for a fat, historical novel to sink into. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Former President Carter's ambitious first novel depicts Georgia and the Carolinas over a 20-year span encompassing the Revolutionary War. At the time, this seemed more like a civil war, as the competing interests and loyalties of Whigs, Tories, renegades, pacifists, Indians, and slaves ignited into fierce skirmishes and harsh reprisals. Carter highlights lesser-known figures such as Thomas Brown, the clever and determined commander of the Florida Rangers, and his enemy, Elijah Clarke, rough-hewn leader of the Georgia militia. Frontiersman Ethan Pratt occupies the middle ground, a reluctant patriot spurred into action by mounting atrocities. Meticulously researched, the story is slowed by detailed exegeses of local politics, agriculture, and home economics until the momentum of war finally kicks in. While on the whole this an evenhanded, authoritative, and lucid account, Carter's writing lacks the personal immediacy of Jeff Shaara or Thomas Fleming, with description and dialog rendered much like the aforementioned exegeses. This makes for palatable history, but many fiction readers will wish the meat had more sauce. Purchase to meet demand.-David Wright, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Setting his hand to historical fiction, the former president focuses on the American Revolution, getting the history part right, the fiction not quite. It’s the Revolutionary War as fought in the Southmostly Georgia, the Carolinas, Floridaand what a story that is. It has sweep, drama, suspense, and, as Carter suggests in his acknowledgments, it surprises for some who think they know what 1775-83 was all about. The war, southern-style, was a ferocious, bloody, take-no-prisoners kind of war, despite the homogeneity of the combatants. The vaunted British army was, for the most part, otherwise occupied, as was the less vaunted Continental army, George Washington only a name written on the wind. Miles away from Bunker Hill, Saratoga, etc., guerrilla warfare ruled: Loyalists (to Britain) vs. Rebels (against Britain), but Americans all, behaving toward each other as savagely as if they had never been friends and neighbors. Not long before the breakout of hostilities, Ethan Pratt and his wife Epsey, newly married, leave Philadelphia to arrive, ultimately, in Georgia, where they stake out a land claim, convinced they’ll be able to ignore those complex and vaguely irritating events up north in the interests of getting on with what mattersraising crops and family. It’s a delusion, of course, and soon enough the two are swept up in the swirl of fast-moving events: Ethan, a pacifist at heart, joins a Rebel militia group; Epsey, left on her own, finds protection among the Quakers. Poignant, even desperate things happen to both, but essentially they’re protagonists at the periphery. At one point, for instance, Ethan virtually vanishes from the action for 160 pages. It’s hard, then, notto conclude that it’s the history that fascinates the author, while the fiction merely interests him. Carter’s 17th book (Christmas in Plains, 2001, etc.), the first work of fiction by a US president, will certainly inform, but, lacking the novelist’s spark, it’s unlikely to move or grip. Agent: Lynn Nesbit/Janklow & Nesbit