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ALL SOULS' RISING. [Hardcover]

Madison Smartt. Bell
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Historical Novel Jan. 21 2001
This very good book describes the beginning phases of the great Haitian slave revolt. Bell is a talented writer with a real gift for descriptive prose. This long and dense book reads easily and is very informative. Bell depicts a society in which whites, blacks, and mulattoes are locked in a mutual embrace of hatred and exploitation, leading to the horrific events described graphically in this book. This book is not for the squemish, it contains many scenes of horrifying cruelty. This book is very ambitious in scope and has some deficiencies. I find Bell's efforts to emphasize the role of voudon, the syncretic Afro-Haitian religion, somewhat contrived. For a useful comparison, see the brief and evocative novel The Kingdom of this World by the great Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier. Bell's characters are also somewhat flat. This may be deliberate choice on his part; part of an effort to show the consequences of a society where almost all human relationships are based on asymmetric and exploitative power relationships. Bell does not deal with the role of events in France or how these events shaped what happened in Haiti. This is an understandable but crucial omission. Consequently, we never get a sense of the collision of the ideals of the French Revolution with the reality of colonial exploitation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What is humanity? Oct. 20 2000
By Payson
The book is a metaphor of what it means to be human. If you have ever asked yourself who is evil in the the world, where the line can be drawn between the good and evil in humanity then this is a book that will change you. Madison shows his virtuosity in literature in a brilliant display of what it means to be human and what humanity clings to as food for the soul. You learn of the grotesque poisons that one soul inflicts on another and the embrace of inner conflict when one accepts another, faults and all. The characters are for the most part deeply entwined in the the plot, in many different ways, and there are many of them, so be sure to make a list of characters, in the back of the book or somewhere, as you encounter them throughout the story. Rest assured this book is not perfect, but no novel is. At times you will face slowerer parts, and surely this book will test your anylytical skills, it will not be at the same level as "See Spot Run," it is a difficult novel, but you will not be dissapointed at the end. At its conclusion you will feel as though you accomplished something more worthwhile than your job, and satisfyingly so. Don't be discouraged if it gets hard! Its worth it!
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1.0 out of 5 stars a waste Oct. 8 2000
When every reviewer uses the same set of words or phrases to describe a book, it means either that the tale is universal, transparent and easily understood or the exact opposite; it is impenetrable & the reviewer gave up and went with the consensus viewpoint. So when you see these words--"intricate", "labyrinthine", "byzantine"--in all of the reviews of this book, you know you are in trouble; these are not adjectives that lead one to believe that the story will be readily understandable. But, they are accurate; this book is so complex as to be incomprehensible. I finally gave up on this one after trying to read it about five different times.
The best Historical Fiction takes great events with which we are familiar but brings an added human dimension to them, first by fleshing out the basic situations via fictional narrative techniques (dialogue, characters thoughts, etc.), but second, by taking the historical context and peopling it with living characters. There is a great difference between the Claudius of a Roman History book and the Claudius of Robert Graves' novels. Graves' achievement is that he breathes life into Claudius and makes him a virtual contemporary of ours, which adds immediacy to the historic circumstances and gives us a vested interest in what occurs. History essentially is transformed into the present.
In All Soul's Rising, on the other hand, Bell plops the reader down in the midst of the incredibly violent Haitian revolt at the turn of the 19th Century and through the use of shifting perspectives, allows the reader access to the experiences of those caught up in it, but he provides no context for what is occurring.
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By A Customer
If one wants a powerful and unsettling sense of how the roots of race were buried so deeply in the western hemisphere, and how they entangle so much of the reality of the 20th Centurye, there is no better guide than Madison Smartt Bell. His powerful, blood-seeped, historical novel "All Souls Rising," traces the vibrant African will to freedom as it collides with the arrogant and brutal Colonial settlers of France and the mixed-bloods and others who sought to ride the horse of horrors. Though the land of Bell's imagination is confined mostly to the isolated half of the island known to Columbus as Hispaniola, and to the modern world as Haiti, the reader's imagination will be carried to events as fresh in their humanity as tonight's news reports. Through Bell's brilliantly informed imagination, the souls he births ring all too true-to-life, shudderingly so. Bell's creations will resonate forever in the minds the readers and chillingly so for those who have ever visited Haiti. The awful reality of Bell's world tell us, yes, it must have been that way and it reminds us that there can no other explanation for the world of the races as we know it today
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars My First Interesting Book on Haiti
Since our last Governor General was born there I had much interest in the country and its history. These books gave me some of the information I wanted. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Marlene R. Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Ominous, powerful, and exotic
This story of the Haitian revolution is violent and disturbing, but its violence is handled with care and placed in the context of each character's psychology and motivations. Read more
Published on Dec 25 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars comprehensible and worthwhile
I found this an extremely difficult read: I was 16, knew nothing about Haiti's history, and spoke no French. Read more
Published on April 1 2001 by Amelia Sunderland
2.0 out of 5 stars Unnecessarily Gruesome
I suppose I can understand how others could have enjoyed this book - its subject matter is interesting, and it is descriptive and evocative. Read more
Published on Dec 18 2000 by "esteds"
5.0 out of 5 stars Grandioso
Toccante, il libro mi ha coinvolto sin dall'inizio e a distanza di un anno ancora penso a quegli accadimenti. Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2000 by manuel mondellini
5.0 out of 5 stars GETS INSIDE THEIR MINDS
Most extraordinary, perhaps unique, is the way this book gets way inside the minds of 18th-century slaves faithful to Vaudou. Read more
Published on July 19 2000 by Earl Kulp
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are a fanatic of Steven King and would like to know
how race relations realy were during slavery then this is your book. Bell takes us deep into the souls of cruel slave owners and rebellious slaves. Read more
Published on Oct. 23 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars lots of words
If you like the tease of adultery and fornication, mutiliation from excessive torture in every third chapter then this is the book for you. Read more
Published on April 29 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult, but worth it
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I have been told by several friends that it was difficult to read, and thinking back I suppose it was, but don't let that keep you from checking... Read more
Published on Feb. 15 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Hardest book I ever read
And not just because of the frequent French, either. This was a difficult read, containing some of the most shocking descriptions of cruelty I have ever read. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 1999
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