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The Hornet's Nest [Paperback]

Jimmy Carter
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Nov 2005
Following an extraordinary cast of characters, American, British and Indian, and their loved ones on both sides of this violent conflict, Jimmy Carter brings to life the Revolutionary War as it was fought in the Deep South. At the heart of the story is Ethan Pratt, a farmer in Georgia who is drawn into the war after not only his brother and his best friend are killed, but also his son. This powerful and moving personal tale forms the centre of a glorious novel that paints a vivid and resonant picture of desperate warfare, ever-shifting allegiances, the massacre of innocents, and increasing political dissent. With its moving love story, vivid action and the suspense of a war fought with increasing ferocity and stealth, THE HORNET'S NEST is historical fiction at its very best.

Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; New edition edition (7 Nov 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743495497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743495493
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,409,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Jimmy Carter was born in Plains, Georgia, and served as thirty-ninth president of the United States. After leaving the White House, he and his wife, Rosalynn, founded the Atlanta-based Carter Center, a nonprofit organisation that works to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health around the world. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NO SHINING CITIES ON ANY HILLS 28 Feb 2006
In his brief foreword President Carter says that Americans in general are not well informed about the course of the war of independence as it affected the southern part of what would later become the confederacy. As a British reader I would add to that only that American history is usually taught here only as an option rather than as a mandatory part of any history syllabus. History was not my own specialisation even in general, and I came to this book virtually ignorant of the background but intensely interested to find out how this humane and enlightened intellectual might shed light on the era and what further conclusions he would either draw or lead me to draw.
I would say that this is a genuine novel and not a history lesson. At least I would say that as far as the last few chapters, where I suspect the president had a publisher's deadline to meet, so that his narrative lapses into a chronicle, coming to a perfunctory and abrupt ending. Otherwise I found it a real novel, but not a novel of characters or even mainly a novel of events. It is a novel of ideas, and there is nothing particularly unusual about that. Most of the novels of Olaf Stapledon have no characters at all, and in one that does the main character is a dog. His books are about exploring his own dark visions. The stories of Arthur C Clarke are almost always didactic, explaining through his narrative gift this or that obscure issue in astronomy or physics, the characters being fairly schematic and that being no criticism - character development is not the name of the game. What is different about Jimmy Carter's presentation of his ideas is what he doesn't say.
If one didn't know, it would be hard to believe that the author was a president of the United States.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By T. D. Welsh TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book mostly out of curiosity. As a British subject, I wondered what an ex-President of the USA would have to say about the Revolutionary War nearly 250 years later. In this, I was very pleasantly surprised. Mr Carter combines solid story-telling and characterisation with an utterly reliable neutrality as to the rights and wrongs of the conflict. We are invited into the lives of townspeople, craftsmen, settlers, and soldiers on both sides - "Whigs" and "Tories" as they came to be known - and each person springs to life, complete with utterly convincing beliefs, hopes, desires, and ambitions. What's more, the Native Americans come to life too: revealed not as naked, painted, warlike savages, but human beings just like ourselves, wishing only to continue with their chosen way of life. Certainly, the pace is slow - but that is inevitable if the tale is to be true to life. Whirlwind, slapdash treatments like the movie "The Patriot" are bound to give one-sided, one-dimensional accounts of what was really a classic human tragedy played out over a quarter of a century. Even the most violent of wars is intermittent - a fact that we too easily forget when we read about it later, and at a distance. Mr Carter's profound understanding of politics and military matters helps him to show, rather than tell, the complex interplay of individual motives that lead, first to discontent and repression, then to simmering violence, and finally to open war. Frankly, not everyone has the temperament or the education to read this book with enjoyment; but the more people who do so, the better. Reading "The Hornet's Nest" is like visiting a foreign country that you have read about in guidebooks, but never seen before. It fills in all the little details that the history books leave out, and as a result explains why events took place as they did. It is a substantial literary and civic contribution, and one that few Presidents - or senior politicians of any nation - could hope to rival.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  101 reviews
326 of 345 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Befitting a respected American President 14 Nov 2003
By A Customer - Published on
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. In October of 1780, a Patriot force of 1,000 mountaineers attacked and totally destroyed a Loyalist force of 1,000, in their stronghold of King's Mountain in South Carolina. General Clinton, when he heard of it, wrote that it was the first link in a long chain of "evils" that eventually led to the loss of America.
The American General Nathaniel Greene now marched south to help the Patriots' guerilla war against Cornwallis. Eventually, General Greene did battle with Cornwallis in the spring of 1881, at Guildford Court House in North Carolina. Neither side won, but Cornwallis retreated north with worn-out forces, and took charge of the vital British naval base at Yorktown. There, he was later besieged by 9,000 Americans and 30,000 French, and, as all the world knows, finally surrendered to George Washington in October of 1781.
The war in the south was thus mostly a guerilla war with many minor engagements, individually unimportant, but collectively playing a significant role in the eventual defeat of the British at Yorktown. So what kind of a book has Mr. Carter written about this war? Would it have been published if you or I had written it? Almost certainly not. But so what? A then unknown John Grisham couldn't get "A Time to Kill" published by a major publisher. Jimmy Carter is hardly unknown, but his novel deserves to be published because it brings expertise, devotion to historical accuracy, literary creativity, and a presidential viewpoint to the story of that southern war that nobody else could. That makes it unique, and worth reading. And besides, it's very good.
Is it a history textbook masquerading as a novel? Definitely not. But let's be candid on what kind of novel it's not. It's not anything like the tactical drama of the Gettysburg battle as told in Michael Shaara's classic "The Killer Angels", or the WW1 horror story depicted in Eric Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front", or the conflict of self-interest and honor in Hemmingway's Spanish Civil War novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls", or the chilling suspense of Ken Follett's WW2 classic "Eye of the Needle", or, to continue into the future, the suspense and surprise of Thomas Cronin's extraordinary USA/EU future conflict novel "Give Us This Mars". So certainly, if you buy the book expecting a classic literary masterpiece or riveting page turner, you could be disappointed. But I'm sure Mr. Carter didn't intend it to be any of those things. Instead, he has created a solid, interesting, eye-opening dramatization of the southern Revolutionary War. It needed doing, and Mr. Carter is just the person to do it. He has done an outstanding job of dramatizing the many interwoven events, even bringing in the local Indian tribes, which each side tried to exploit. This obviously well-researched novel, which includes a horrible massacre (fictional I hope) of Indians by whites, beats a history textbook every time.

Given the relatively minor nature of most of those far off events, we could expect that a history textbook about the campaign would be bed-time reading only for insomniacs. But war is never a minor matter for those at the front line, and Mr. Carter's novel brings the war in the south back to life. You experience it vividly through events in the life of Ethan Pratt and his friend and neighbor Kindred Morris, solid folk who have moved south to Georgia to live in a peaceful Quaker community. Many people, after reading this book, will probably be motivated to look up the history texts, as I was. If so, Mr. Carter will have succeeded admirably in bringing an important segment of American and world history to public awareness, a task befitting a respected American President.
I have one minor complaint. The writing style is good, but is not quite right for a novel. A bit on the academic side. Every so often, I wanted to alter sentences and paragraphs to speed things up. But what can you expect? Mr. Carter is over eighty and has written sixteen nonfiction books. You can't expect him to turn into a Dean Koontz or John Grisham overnight. Be thankful he has worked hard to create this very good novel, and enjoy it for what it is.
111 of 131 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From a history lover 12 Nov 2003
By A Customer - Published on
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!!
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but enjoyable 11 Aug 2005
By Aaron Poley - Published on
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.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Revolution in the South 3 Dec 2004
By Reader from Fairport - Published on
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.
90 of 112 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched, but disappointing 8 Dec 2003
By Respice, Adspice, Prospice - Published on
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.
I wanted to like this book very much; I couldn't get past the anachronisms, the speeches, the preachiness, the stilted way people, places, and things are introduced and described. I couldn't get past the way that the author transitioned from descriptive and narrative text. I couldn't get past the fact that the characters all spoke with the same voice.
There are far, far better works of historical fiction on this time, albeit not in the American South. Consider the works of James L. Nelson for the naval war in New England, or perhaps Dudley Pope for the British side of the same Naval War.
Please try again, Mr. Carter, but this time get a good editor who knows fiction, and who will help you to write better fiction. As a writer myself, I know how hard it is to change editors. I also know how much a good editor can improve my work.
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