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The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 11, 2003

3.4 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Carter continues to have one of the most productive and varied post-political careers of any former U.S. president. A prodigious writer with 16 works of nonfiction to his credit, Carter turns to fiction with this account of the Revolutionary War as fought in the Deep South. Because most of the accessible literature revolves around battles fought in New England and the Middle Atlantic colonies, it is easy to overlook the fierce fighting that took place in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The plot revolves around the migration of newlyweds Ethan and Epsey Pratt from Philadelphia to a homestead in Georgia. When the War for Independence heats up, the Pratts and their friends and neighbors--many of them Quakers--are forced into the vortex of historical events beyond their control. What Carter lacks in narrative style and characterization, he more than makes up for in the breadth of historical fact and detail interwoven into this obvious labor of love. It is not surprising that a history-maker would turn to history for fictional inspiration; what is surprising is the effectiveness of his debut effort. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"The Hornet's Nest is a bold book with a big cast of characters and numerous plots." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743255429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743255424
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was so incensed by the Missouri reviewer who thought this book was just a Revolutionary War history "textbook masquerading as a novel", and who thought that it wouldn't have been published if an ex-President hadn't written it, that I decided to write a rebuttal review, my first fiction review on Amazon. So first of all, let's be clear on what actually happened. The Revolutionary War in the south was hardly the stuff legends are made of, but it was certainly vicious. Here's an outline.

There was strong Loyalist sentiment in Georgia and the Carolinas at the start of the war. The British planned to exploit this when in 1778 they seized Savannah as their base in Georgia. The plan worked, for two years later, British forces commanded by Sir Henry Clinton, the top British general, could advance north and besiege the American-held city of Charleston in South Carolina. The city was defended by General Lincoln with 3000 men. But Clinton forced Lincoln to surrender, which put the whole region in British hands.
For all practical purposes, there were now no American regulars left in the south. Clinton then went back to New York, and left the subjugated south in the care of Lord Cornwallis. American Patriot forces, however, were still active in the region, and kept up a bloody guerilla campaign against British and Loyalist forces. (Had the word been invented back then, the British might well have called them terrorists.) Encouraged by their struggle, Congress eventually got around to sending a General Gates south with a force of 3,000 to help the Patriots fight Cornwallis and the Loyalists. But Cornwallis defeated him in August of 1780 at Camden, South Carolina.
Finally it was the turn of the Patriots.
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Format: Hardcover
I agree with some of the criticisms made by other reviewers who gave low reviews. The characterization tends to be shallow and inconsistent. The transitions between personal stories and historical accounts are jarring and sometimes frustrating. But, in spite of these problems, I still enjoyed the book. So, I feel three stars is appropriate. I learned a lot about the history of the Revolutionary War in the South and the people who lived through it and enjoyed learning about it in the context of fiction. Since such books are so rare (apparently this is the only one) these pluses alone made the book worth my time.
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By A Customer on November 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
President Carter demonstrates that he was not only a wonderful President and man, but also a good researcher, writer and teller of stories with his first work of fiction. For someone who loves history and lives in Georgia, this was a fascinating look into a time in the history of our region about which very little is known or understood. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the story line, the characters and the history!!
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Format: Hardcover
I might not have read this book if I had not gone to a book signing by President Carter. I had not been particularly interested in the subject.

I gave it four stars rather than three for two reasons: President Carter's research is astounding, and the book did keep my interest throughout.

I do agree with most reviewers that it is a history book trying to be a novel. But I did not mind. I acually found Ethan, the fictional protagonist, to be a flawed but sympathetic human being, like most of us.

"The Hornet's Nest" shows the ugliness and brutality of the American Revolution. There aren't too many "heroes" here (a much over-used word anyway). It gives one pause for thought about who the American people really are.

I do hope President Carter writes a sequel or at least a history of the next 20 or 30 years in the South.
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Format: Hardcover
Let me begin by saying something I shouldn't have to - I think that Jimmy Carter was a fine president at a difficult time, and I think that any person in that office at that time would have had an equally difficult time. I also think that Mr. Carter is a fine, decent, honorable man, and the most scholarly of our ex-Presidents. I understand that he is a fine writer of non-fiction works.
That said... I was looking forward to this novel about a time and a place not often explored in literature. Most Americans (and Americans are virtually the only audience for historical fiction set in this time and place) know very little about the Revolutionary War in the American South; Mr. Carter had every chance to shine here, with few competitors. His name will bring people in to read the book, and he had a fine opportunity to educate as well as entertain. He knows his time, his place, and his subject well. I can tell he loves this subject, and this place. His scholarship shows on every page.
And therein lies the problem.
This is an extraordinary work of scholarship - I'd like to read it with the characters taken out as a survey of the Revolutionary War South.
It is an abysmal work of fiction, even by a first-time novelist. The characters are flat, the dialog is inexcusable, the transitions in time and place are poorly done. Speeches are put in characters' mouths intended primarily to educate us, the readers. Characters sound as if they are reading from 20th Century American history texts, breaking character each time. In real life, people don't (generally) lecture one another about current events; in novels the shouldn't either. Instead of a long lecture, the author should assume the other characters remember what is being discussed, and let the reader infer from the discussion.
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