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on December 16, 2003
Whether, like me, you were a big fan of Carter back at the time, or whether you have come to love the unquestioned greatest ex-President we have ever had (just look at Habitat for Humanity, which Republicans and Democrats support alike), you will naturally want to read this magnificent novel by him which bears all the excellent hallmarks of good research, a compelling story and a great view of the South, one that we all need in these troubled times. Democrats - buy this for all your Republican friends and see if they are still Republicans come November 2004 - this could be the Democrats secret weapon! Christopher Catherwood, fellow Evangelical Christian, Baptist and author of CHRISTIANS MUSLIMS AND ISLAMIC RAGE (Zondervan, 2003)
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on January 4, 2012
I couldn't put this book down. Being from the South, I get annoyed when people assume that the Revolutionary War primarily took place in VA, PA, and Mass. If they took one look at Walter Edgar's "History of SC" they would realize that the turning point for the patriots was on Cook's Mountain in northeastern SC. President Carter has helped correct that miss perception through this story set in various locales, including North Carolina and Georgia. Our best ex-president is a powerful storyteller as well as a fine researcher. I will be giving copies of this book to all the readers in my family.
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on November 5, 2007
I love Jimmy Carter and want to salute him for writing fiction. I can't think of any other former US president who has done such a thing.

What kills this book is not the research which is excellent but the people in the book which seem to be more like actors in a play then fictional characters. They speak as if they already know the outcome of the situation they find themselves in.

The transitions from one scene to another are also painful to read but I could even ignore this if the book didn't have the tendency to good into history text book mode spoon feeding the reader perfectly self evident information which the characters never utilize.

Overall-For all of its faults the book does make plain that which no one else wants to remember the Revolutionary War was never as simple as everyone would like to believe.
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on October 7, 2004
This book was given to me as a gift this past Christmas. I am a fan of Jimmy Carter's humanitarian efforts but I hadn't read any of his literature. The book starts out nice with the Pratt's in Philadelphia and their journey to North Carolina. After that, it gets hard to follow. The basic problem as I see it is that there is a wealth of historical facts that Mr. Carter tries unsuccessfully to spin an interesting tale around. My main complaint is that he skips from character to character without warning. He will be going in depth on how Ethan feels about his political sentiments and the next sentence he is introducing a completely new character. The next time we get back to Ethan may be 50 pages later. This back and forth writing style is irritating and prevalent throughout the entire book. Personally, I find this hard to follow. I like historical non-fiction as-well-as fiction; however, this book does not succeed as either. I recommend this book only to the reader that is very interested in learning about the Revolutionary War and doesn't mind the confusing and hectic writing style of the author.
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on January 28, 2004
President Jimmy Carter's The Hornet's Nest is an exciting first novel. Carter introduces his reader to the Revolutionary War in the South, a subject rarely broached in most American History classes and texts, and tells the story of Ethan Pratt, a Philadelphian who sets out for the south to build a life.
Ethan Pratt is the novel's focal character, although the reader often loses sight of him among the other historical characters. The early events which culminate in the execution of Ethan's brother Henry in North Carolina seem oddly similar to Carter's autobiographical tale of governmental corruption in his earlier book Turning Point. Pratt moves from being a loyal British colonist to a concerned citizen opposed to colonial corruption to a militia member ready to execute British prisoners of war in an act of revenge.
The historical background is one which seldom has been told. Although the Battle of Kings Mountain is often noted in history texts, the fact that the Revolution in the South was largely fought American colonist against American colonist is rarely mentioned. Execution of prisoners, rape and pillage and murder, terrorist actions are all part of the scene in this novel.
Carter tells the story well and introduces lots of new material. The cast of characters reads like a list of counties in Georgia and South Carolina--probably because the counties are named for these individuals.
Now, the complaint . . . the work needed a better editor. So many individuals are introduced that it is often difficult to keep track of the action. Occasional errors enter into the text, for example, on page 437 General Andrew Pickens mysteriously morphs into Pickett (the Civil War General?) at the bottom of the page and then changes back to Pickens. This is a minor error, but there is so much action and so many characters that small errors can quickly cause confusion. Ethan Pratt is often left out of lengthy sections of the story, leaving the reader wondering where Pratt has gone. Finally, there are times when Carter uses a page to traverse several years of action and other times when a similar amount of space is used to describe Ethan's construction of a chair--a case of too little detail, followed by too much detail.
Still, this is an admirable work for Carter. Should he choose to write another novel, I'll read what he writes and I am certain I'll find something there worth my time!
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on February 28, 2012
this book without being aware that it was written by an ex-president. For good or ill, this influences our judgment. The story of the Revolutionary War in the colonies south of Virginia has been neglected and certainly Mr Carter is very knowledgeable about it. However the story doesn't really come to life in his hands. There are too many details & not enough focus on anything.

I appreciated being reminded that there were many rights & wrongs on each side & that the British were more sympathetic to both the native Americans & the slaves, though I don't know how sincere they were. I have long thought that people today think we'd all be for independence rather than for accepting better treatment from London. But hindsight is 20/20 & we could well have ended up with the chaos that the French Revolution brought.

Anyway, I hope there will be more novels written about neglected aspects of this time period. One could focus on the Florida-Georgia situation, another on Georgia & the Carolinas, etc.
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on September 12, 2009
It is said in this book that Jimmy Carter is the only US president that ever wrote a novel and it is true. I was surprised to find a novel written by no less than a US president.

The Hornet's Nest is a fascinating tale of many families whose lives have become intertwined because of the struggle for American Independence in the late 18th century. The stories of courageous men and women who fought the British forces so that they can realize their ultimate dream of independence gives great inspiration to our country's own struggles for independence, even up to this day.

The story is quite balanced taking into consideration the good deeds done by the British and the bad effects that the American Struggle for Independence had on the Native Indians. I was astonished to learn that the Native Americans actually sided with the British during the struggle for Independence.

Early on, it showed greed existed among many American families who saw independence as a way to enlarge their estates and plantations. Even after the Americans defeated the British, slavery went on as the backbone of the American industrial revolution. Jimmy Carter has done a remarkable job in presenting the life of ordinary Americans during that war. I would hope that one of our Philippine presidents would one day also write a story on the life of ordinary Filipinos during the Philippine Revolution for Independence in 1896 - 1898. It is a very interesting read especially for those who want to better understand why America is the superpower it is today.
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on March 16, 2006
I enjoyed this book. I have read books on Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Washington and remained pretty ignorant about the role that the south played in the American Revolution. This book is extremely valuable if you want to learn about that.

I liked the way he presented the material in a pretty unbiased way. The reader can fully understand the position of the Tories (and the Indians and slaves who often helped the Tories). Although we cheer for the Americans, we see that both sides committed atrocities and didn't always behave admirably. I now feel like I have a better understanding of the period in general.

As for the story line...

It takes a hundred pages or so to get a grip on who the main characters even are. It seemed like we'd be following Henry, but then he was killed. Oh, it's his brother Ethan! Then he wanders off to other characters for a LONG time. Just when you've about forgotten the protagonist (Ethan Pratt), there he is again. It was a little difficult to get attached to the characters.

I don't think the characters were drawn very well, either. It bothered me the way Ethan (who is introduced as a quiet, kind-hearted sort of guy) watched his brother's execution, his best friend's deboweling and then learned of his young son's murder and scalping -- and each time, it took him about 30 seconds to get over it. Even his wife, whose life revolved around little Henry, upong finding the child's mutilated body, sniffled for a minute, buried him and then tried to decide what to do with the rest of her life. Real people take at least a day or so to recover from tragedies like this.

The ending was very sloppy. I don't even know what happened. The war ended and we have a few sentences that don't tie into much of anything and then the book is over.

President Carter writes excellent nonfiction, but I don't think he's much of a novelist. I still consider it a worthwhile book for its sheer historical value. He obviously did a great deal of research and the factual passages in the book are intriguing.
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on February 20, 2005
From a historical perspective, this is a great book. it is obvious that Mr. Carter has researched the subject. The book is full of interesting insights about how life must have been in the 1770s. But, this is not a history text book, or a non-fiction account. This is a novel, and the creative part of it is what has disappointed me to the point that I won't make it past page 173. The characters are very one-dimensional. Ethan, the main character, is so stiff to the point of being terribly unlikeable. Elijah Clarke is an overgrown bully. The plot moves slowly and without any spice. The action is so painfully slow! The funny part is that much to the chagrin of Mr. Carter, the book was reduced in length by his editors.

I have read historical fiction before, and at times it has had a thriller aspect to it that made me look forward to the next chance to read. All that was absent here. I am sure that if the author had been someone other than a past president, this novel would have never seen the light.
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on January 13, 2004
As a genealogist with ancestors who were in Georgia and the Carolinas before and during the Revolutionary War, I was interested to see what perspective Jimmy Carter would bring to the topic. I found this to be an excellent historical perspective that personalized the events of the day and made me understand why people, whether settlers, Indians, or slaves, made the choices they did. While I have read some "history" books and articles, they tend to be more abstract. This book gave me understanding of the people and their motivations in relation to the war and the times. If I had wanted to read a love story, I would not have chosen a book by Jimmy Carter. (Perhaps Nora Ephron or even Nora Roberts!)
However, this book gave a thorough accounting of the political events, the battles, and the kinds of people involved at each stage. Some incidents, like that of the slave Quash Dolly, were individual stories that stood alone--except that it showed why some--and perhaps many slaves--chose to support the British rather than the American revolutionaries. The treatment of the Indians, and the lengthy development of the personality and activities of the British Indian agent and spy, Thomas Brown, showed why the Indians threw their lot in with the British. Personalities of many of the Georgia and Carolina revolutionary leaders were drawn out effectively (example, Elijah Clarke) as well as many other wartime leaders.
Hornet's Nest is a great read if you are interested in history of the beginning of this country from a perspective that is different from that of the usual "founding fathers" approach. It also portends many of the problems that we faced years later with the political issues leading to and following the Civil War and later settlements farther west.
I have already started going to other reference books and pure "histories" to find out more about some of the people and the events described in this book. That kind of inspiration signals a good book to me.
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