The Hornet's Nest:

A Novel of the Revolutionary War

 

by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster,  2003)

 

(This column first appeared in the Augusts 12, 2004 issue of ArtVoice of Buffalo.)

 

 

When I told a friend that I was reading The Hornet's Nest, he responded, "I'm not into books by ex-presidents." I am afraid that his attitude will prevent him from reading an excellent historical novel. Believe it or not, this is Jimmy Carter's eighteenth book. Most of his earlier writing has been autobiographical; this, however, is touted to be the first novel by a former president. (Given their self-serving proclivities, it is not, of course, the first fictional account by a past-president.)  The Hornet's Nest is about the difficult times from 1763 to 1785 in this nation's South, mostly in Georgia and South Carolina, and it fits perfectly into the genre of books by Kenneth Roberts. A few fictional characters are followed through those years as they interact with the real people who fought on the colonial (Whig) and British (Tory) sides as well as those who sought to remain neutral. As in all good historical fiction, this model gives the reader a sense of personal participation that is absent from standard historical accounts. As in Roberts' stories, there is a great deal of descriptive detail. Neither author could resist throwing in information about such things as farming practices and folk medicines. I liked this; others may be put off, but they should judge it against the Roberts model. My high regard for Jimmy Carter was further enhanced by my reading of this outstanding book.-- Gerry Rising