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All Souls' Rising (Haiti Series #1)

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  618 ratings  ·  82 reviews
In this first installment of his epic Haitian trilogy, Madison Smartt Bell brings to life a decisive moment in the history of race, class, and colonialism. The slave uprising in Haiti was a momentous contribution to the tide of revolution that swept over the Western world at the end of the 1700s. A brutal rebellion that strove to overturn a vicious system of slavery, the u ...more
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Published September 30th 2008 by Vintage (first published October 3rd 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,113)
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Susan
One of the best historical novels I’ve ever read. It’s about the Haitian Revolution—this is the first volume. There are multiple points of view among the white and black people of Haiti. A French doctor comes to Haiti to visit a sister who’s married a Haitian planter and about whom he’s concerned. Dr. Hébert, who becomes involved with a mulatto woman and has a child with her, who’s captured by the rebels and learns about medicinal herbs from Toussaint L’Overature, is the “touchstone” character, ...more
Nick
Nasty, brutish and long. I pine for the days when crucifixion was the climax of a narrative, not the opening gambit, as it is here. I understand what the author is trying to do, I think, and I write as someone with great affection for the historical epic, Les Miserables, for example, or Zhivago. And it is impossible to address revolutions past without acknowledging that they tend to set the devils free. This book lacks either the immediacy of Hugo or the sweep of Pasternak, which is understandab ...more
Dergrossest
I don't know that I have ever read anything as shockingly disturbing as this story of the early phases of the Haitian slave revolt of the late 18th Century. Told from the perspective of an intrepid French doctor, a savage creole planation owner, his insane wife, a rebel slave from Africa and Toussiant Louverture, the black Haitian George Washington, the breakneck pace of this novel never lets up even for a moment while it moves from the unbelievable routine atrocities committed by the unrelentin ...more
Joan Colby
This is the first of Bell’s trilogy on the history of the Haitian insurgency. It is shocking in its frank descriptions of the abuse of slaves and the terrors of the insurrection. Bell interweaves the social structure of 18th century Haiti into his tale portraying the Grand Blanc plantation owners who supported the ancient regime, the Petit Blancs consisting of artisans, adventurers and so forth most of whom were supporters of the French revolutionaries, the mulattoes who were generally freemen, ...more
Speesh
Anyone who reads my blog (plug), will know - from looking at the Goodreads 'Currently Reading' widget there, that it's taken a long time to struggle through this one. A very long time. A very, very long time. You get the picture.

I fully accept it could be me that found this to be a long-winded way of saying very little. I don't know. It's either a polished turd, or a searing condemnation of…something or other. To be honest, I'm too bored to worry about worrying about what on earth he was trying
...more
Mathieu
Madison Smartt Bell has written a mind-blowing book which is a precise and researched telling of the Haitian revolution that drove the French out of the island. But this novel's strength lies more particularly not in its historical accuracy (which is flawless) but in his writing qualities. Smartt Bell writes like if we were dreaming. Everything has a kind of vaporous, sluggish, cotton-like quality and, as such, everything, even the most atrocious deeds, such as the opening scene of a crucified p ...more
Andrea
"ASR" has everything - pure substance and hard content written with rhythm and grace. M.S. Bell has taken the historical novel to an ultimate point of evolution and created an original masterwork. The nightmarish events are never hidden, but seem to be filtered through a buffer zone of detached observation. The language is also highly hypnotic, and the result is like watching horrific imagery in a dazed state. For all this restraint, the novel is never sterile - a living pulse runs through it an ...more
Lydia
I would suggest that anyone reading this book also read "The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and San Domingo Revolution" by C.L.R. James. The James book gives the history of the Haitian revolution, but "All Souls Rising" gives more a sense of the human toll the revolution took. Using the physician Antoine Hebert's search for his married sister, Smartt Bell steers the reader through the lives the landed gentry (slave owners); mixed race persons; the darker slaves and rebel and military lead ...more
Djrmel
Perfect balance of character/story/setting, this is a book that tackles a big event (Haitian slave rebellion) and brings it down to a very human size. The story is told through all the various points of view that brought about an incredibly bloody and deadly event, which in a lesser writer's hand would feel like padding. But Bell takes the time to let each character not only establish their link to history, he also makes them three dimensional enough that even the "villains" of the story have th ...more
Gregory
Incredible historical fiction about the early years of the Haitian Revolution. The story is told with a handful of characters...black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor. Some of the chapters that dealt with the start of the revolt featured descriptions of the most vicious and savage violence I could ever imagine, told with a surgical coldness. Not for the faint of heart.

I have no comment on the historical accuracy but I will say that every time I did follow up research online to learn
...more
Elizabeth
I do not think I’ve ever read a book I dislike more than All Soul’s Rising by Madison Smart Bell. The novel’s description states that “All Soul’s Rising provides a visceral sense of the pain, terror, confusion, and triumph of revolution,” but that’s not quite correct. Beginning with a crucifixion and ending in flames, Bell’s work is certainly filled with pain and terror, but the promised sense of triumph never arrives. Bell is so gratuitous in his depictions of rape, violation, and mutilation th ...more
Alumine Andrew
I was a little daunted by the size of this book, it's 530 pages. But as I began to read this epic historical novel I was swept away by the well written account of the Haitian slave uprising in the late 1700's and early 1800's. The research involved would have been a huge undertaking in and of itself, but the author has done a seamless job of balancing historical detail and fictionalising characters to engage the reader.

I knew very little of what happened in Haiti before and during its bid for in
...more
Michael Llewellyn
I read this first installment of Madison Smartt Bell’s unnerving trilogy about Haitian revolutionary, Toussaint L’Ouverture, when it was first published in 1995. Twenty years have not dulled its terrifying impact, one that pulls no punches in delineating the 1802 slave uprising that ousted the French colonials and the horrific interracial bloodbath that followed. Bell’s impeccable detail is everywhere evidenced as he unfolds events leading to the inevitable rebellion and sets a mood so vivid you ...more
Sarah-rose Gillespie
I was kind of disappointed by this book. It wasn't what I had hoped it would be. I was hoping it would be a more educational and informative account of the slave uprising in Haiti (before it was actually called Haiti of course(, but it wasn't that so much as it was a fictional story with some real world characters in it. It jumped back and forth between a band or two of maroons and they're life in hiding in the mountains and jungles and they're vicious attacks on the white plantations owners AND ...more
Edward
This historical account of the great slave rebellion in Haiti in the 1790's, in one sense, made me think of the mostly disastrous American military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In both cases, it was a question of trying to control indigenous political and cultural turmoil with outside military solutions. Americans can only hope that their efforts in the 21st century will not turn out as badly as did Napoleon's sending of troops to Haiti in the l9th century.

Bell's book is fiction, but I've
...more
Moloch
Feb 17, 2015 Moloch rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Moloch by: Visto sul sito di Alet Edizioni
Volevo scrivere una recensione bellissima appena terminata l'ultima pagina, ma mi mancavano le parole... e, soprattutto, non avevo tempo da perdere, perché dovevo subito andare avanti con la lettura di questa voluminosa "Trilogia di Haiti", incentrata sulla rivolta degli schiavi neri capeggiata dal carismatico Toussaint L'Ouverture alla fine del XVIII secolo.

Ora che ho finito anche il secondo volume, Il Signore dei crocevia , e mi sono un po' calmata, mi sforzerò. La colonia francese di Saint-D
...more
James Murphy
A gripping yarn. A good read. An unfamiliar story well told. Getting into historical fiction this good, this well written and presented, can be satisfying. And it was with that satisfaction and enjoyment that I read this novel by Bell, the first of his I'd tried and the first novel of his trilogy about the revolt ending slavery in French colonial Haiti. I was already interested in the history. Earlier in the summer I'd realized I had no real understanding of slavery in the South and had subseque ...more
Marlène
Répression, représailles, contrôle, vengeance, colère, pouvoir, exemple, folie, cruauté pure... la violence est partout. Elle rythme la narration des soulèvements des peuples de l'île qui deviendra Haïti.
Le soulèvement des esclaves dans les plantations de Saint Domingue n'est pas le seul mouvement intéressant, carrément fascinant, de ce roman historique aussi complexe que le sujet dont il s'inspire. Car il y a aussi l'opposition des royalistes et des républicains, des "grands blancs" et des "pet
...more
Alison
Jun 20, 2010 Alison rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs that enjoyed both "The Wide Sargasso Sea" and "Hostel."
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
sydney
Historical fiction about the first years of the Haitian Revolution, told from the perspectives of several different characters. Interesting to read because Bell does a good job of filling in historical information (an introduction giving the backdrop of events leading up to those in the novel, a chronology of events, a glossary of Creole terms and historical figures referenced in the book). He also tells the story from the perspective of a few very different players in this history--a maroon (es ...more
Abby
Dec 20, 2007 Abby rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who knows more about the Haitian revolution than me
Shelves: fiction
I generally find historical fiction to be a "lite" way of learning real history, material I can read before bed but still retain the lesson.

I know just as little about Toussaint L'Ouverture and the Haitian slave uprising now, however, as I did when I began this book, and I'm more confused. The book is well written, if extremely graphic and gory. It's told from the viewpoints of a maroon (run-away slave) and a somewhat unbelievably sympathetic French doctor (who is not from Haiti and is therefor
...more
Kristina
I came across this book by way of the Boondocks cartoon strip. The first line of the theme song is, " I am The Stone That the Builder Refused." Catching, no? I had no idea what it meant until my husband bought me Smartt Bell's Trilogy. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

All Soul's Rising (first book of the trilogy) was a nice surprise. Dirty, gory, rank and at times just brutal, Smartt Bell sluiced out an absolutely meaty piece of prose here. As one glimpses the tale through each charact
...more
Susan Haines
This story of the only successful slave uprising (on Hispaniola around 1800) gives War and Peace a run for its money. Both require the reader to keep track of a lot of characters in several settings while also having a good understanding of political and economic histories of the settings. I knew nothing of Toussaint before reading this and was enthralled by the story yet incredibly disturbed by the violence perpetrated by those in power. When I finally reached the end, which was difficult and r ...more
Shomeret
I thought that the sympathetic viewpoint characters anchored the narrative. Other readers may find the viewpoint changes difficult to follow. I didn't have this problem, but I did find the appended Chronology of Historical Events useful. I had hoped for more voodoo content, but finding out about the political factions during the revolutionary period was educational.

I do have to say that the novel is extremely violent. The author does illustrate the motivations behind the violence, and I did not
...more
Doralee Brooks
A really intense read. Delivers on the complexity and violence of oppression and revolution. No easy answers in this fiction. Just raw! It took me some time to get through this. It's as dense as nonfiction.
Heather G
Great!

This is book is both an amazing piece of fiction that draws you into the characters but a great history read that explains the Hatian revolution. No one's hands were clean but an amazing book!
K.P.B. Stevens
I recently read this for the second time, after a first read about a decade ago. It's even better than I remember. Dark, brutal, and scary, but with these odd and surprising moments of grace, particularly in the scenes with the Pere Bon Chance. And there's some real spiritual wisdom amid all of the extreme violence. I don't think that one can expect a novel about the Haitian uprising to be anything but violent and sad, but I never felt that the violence was gratuitous or unimportant. The novel i ...more
Craig
Very interesting novel documenting the rise of Toussiant L'Ouverture during the Haitian Revolution. I remember reading this book every night before I went to bed during grad school year one. I am always so grateful that someone took the time to create and record an in-depth reality for one of the greatest stories on earth. I actually got to meet the author at the Haitian Studies conference this past November, he was a bit of a different duck and wasn't overly social. I guess that's to be expecte ...more
Alan Spinrad
Did not finish. too much gore. made it to about p. 225 of 500+. pretty appalling from the start.
Abob1050
A remarkable, compelling story of the Haitian revolution
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Madison Smartt Bell is a critically acclaimed writer of more than a dozen novels and story collections, as well as numerous essays and reviews for publications such as Harper’s and the New York Times Book Review. His books have been finalists for both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, among other honors. Bell has also taught at distinguished creative writing programs including th ...more
More about Madison Smartt Bell...

Other Books in the Series

Haiti Series (3 books)
  • Master of the Crossroads
  • The Stone That the Builder Refused
Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form Straight Cut (Hard Case Crime #21) Master of the Crossroads Charm City: A Walk Through Baltimore The Color of Night

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