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All Souls' Rising

Posted on

All Souls' Rising

Current Status:
In Season
Madison Smartt Bell
Fiction, Historical Fiction

We gave it a B+

Much has been written about the last days of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, as well as the fallout in the French colonies from their demise. Much has also been written about the history of Haiti and its twin traditions of voodoo and decadent, cruel plantation owners. Until the debut of Madison Smartt Bell’s All Souls’ Rising, however, almost no historical fiction has been written about both. It’s an ambitious task. There were many factions and castes in end-of-the-18th-century Haiti — the whites, both French and Spanish; the many shades of mulattoes (quadroons and octoroons) who were their illegitimate offspring; and the black slaves — and their aggressions and hatreds all came to a head when the monarchy was overthrown. Bell focuses on one character from each group: a French doctor, his mulatto mistress, and a rebellious slave, tracing their stories as they intersect and diverge. The result is a sprawling epic — part Gone With the Wind, part Waterloo, and part something all its own. B+