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Raising Holy Hell [Paperback]

Bruce Olds
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Quartet Books; New edition edition (1 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0704380641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0704380646
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,779,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A fictional account of the life of John Brown portrays his experiences as the son of Ohio abolitionists, the doting father of twenty children, and a chronic failure as a businessman. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is a 'faction' composed around the historical figure, John Brown, whose passionate anti-slavery stance precipitates the onset of the American Civil War. The author skillfully pushes the boundaries of the novel genre with his deft use of multiple narratives, historical evidence and extracts from presidential speeches and newspapers of the day. More than an imagined portrait of a disturbed extremist, this novel asks questions of us all: how far would you go for what you beleive in? It is filled with tension, humour, love, hatred, betrayal to name a few of the passions that suffuse Olds' narative. If I were a pedagogue in the USA today, I'd make this novel compulsory reading and my students would thank me for it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very important book 9 April 2006
In Raising Holy Hell, his novel about John Brown, Bruce Olds makes the reader ask: How should a person act if directly faced with the inhuman system of slavery that brutalised and killed millions? And, more uncomfortably, could extreme individual violence as exemplified by John Brown's actions be justified in seeking to hasten the end of slavery years before the advent of the American civil war? While vividly imagining through diary entries and historical documents the personality of John Brown and his impact on those who knew him, as a reader who just happened to stumble on this remarkable book I am most grateful to Mr. Olds for bringing into focus and making real the myriad repercussions that slavery had on our society and the individuals it affected. He does justice to real people whom he lets speak to us through his novel (apart, perhaps, from his portrait of Abraham Lincoln), including, among others, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Perhaps most shocking are the inclusion of statements by judges and various "founding fathers" of the USA in support of slavery. Highly recommended for anyone interested in these human questions or this historical period. A remarkable book that also causes the reader to reevaluate their own response to present-day issues which are even now costing the lives of thousands.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original Treatment of a Familiar Subject 8 May 2001
By R. W. Rasband - Published on
This is a terrific novel about the radical abolitionist John Brown. The style of the book is remarkable. Olds writes in short bursts of prose, not more than three or four pages at a time, and from different perspectives: first person, third person, quotes from actual historical documents, and what appears to be an interview with Brown from beyond the grave. The effect is like channel-surfing on cable TV. And it works beautifully--it's an exciting way to write about history for the '90's reader. Olds strips down his language--it reminds me a little of James Ellroy's recent work--but he uses archaic words and sentence structure combined with impressive poetic imagery to achieve a convincing historical density. This book has great resonance. This is a time of intense, moralistic political warfare and this depiction of intense pre-Civil War passions should be disturbingly familiar. Bruce Olds makes us recognize and respect complexity. His final take on John Brown seems to be that he was an unpleasant, possibly insane man who nevertheless knew what the most important moral issue of his time was. Great reading.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing less than terrific 28 Nov 2001
By Neil R. Kudler - Published on
An astonishing retelling of the life of John Brown. I selected this book for my book group after having listened to Banks' "Cloudsplitter" on BOT. I had read a few reviews of that book post hoc only to find that many critics cited this text as superior. I would say that the experience of listening, rather than reading, to Banks' book likely boosts my appraisal as I thought it was brilliant in its expanse, detail and imagination. As for Olds' work, it reads as though one is living through the time in a dream-like state. The wickedness and cruelty that is frequently attributed to "historical context" is brought to bear so that it is difficult to fathom how we look back at our American history as somehow noble and founded on justice. As for the man, John Brown, it was a serendipitous reading choice given the current state of world affairs. When resistance is linked to terrorism, the results are necessarily unpredicatable and frightening, regardless of the outcome.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crying Shame # 376 22 May 2001
By Rude Ingenue - Published on
I am sorry to see that this excellent novel is out of print. It is both technically innovative and a whirlwind read -- and how many novels are both? Olds's representation of Brown and his world is psychologically and morally complex, historically insightful (yes, even given its postmodern gamesmanship), and more worthy of our nation's most tragic passage than any other six Civil-War-era historical fictions I can think of. Yet this one is indefinitely out of stock while Mr. Banks's clayfooted trudge through the same material is not only in print, but available on audiotape. What a world!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cloudtopper 26 May 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Russell Banks's "Cloudsplitter" may have garnered higher sales, but Bruce Olds's Pulitzer Prize nominated debut novel, while unjustly neglected by readers, received more positive reviews, and deservedly so. Where Banks's wholly conventional treatment of the life of John Brown remains turgidly earthbound, Olds's more innovative take soars with incandescent energy. Where Banks's book plods, Olds's pulses with brute lyricism. Where Banks drones excessively, Olds incants extravagantly. At last, "Cloudsplitter" implodes of its own portentousness and gravity; "Raising Holy Hell" explodes with the raw power of its poetry. It is the difference between being sucked down a black hole, and riding the wave of a supernova. Which reading experience would you rather have?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and creative portrayal of Brown 18 Mar 1998
By - Published on
Outstanding! Olds creates a unique form of historical fiction in his creative portrayal of abolitionist John Brown. His use of fictitious newspaper accounts, diary entries, dreams, gossip and prose pulls the reader into the cauldron of antebellum America. I felt the Harper's Ferry saga was as fresh and live as though it were a hot story on CNN.
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