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Bookmarks Issue: 
15-Mar-Apr-2005
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A-StoneBuilderIn All Souls’ Rising (1995) and Master of the Crossroads (2000), the Haitian Revolution raged. Toussaint Louverture, a former slave, rose to power in 1793 on the heels of a successful slave revolution in the former colony of Saint Dominigue. He abolished slavery and tried to implement his hopes for a racial utopia based on liberty and equality. The Stone, the last book of the trilogy, follows the collapse of Toussaint’s dream as Napoleon sends in troops to control the island and reestablish slavery. As battles ravage the Haitian countryside and black generals betray Toussaint, can he preserve the society emerging from violent revolution?
Pantheon. 768 pages. $29.95. ISBN: 037542282X

Chicago Tribune 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Bell has emerged as one of the most brilliant, artistic and daring historical novelists of our time … synthesizing and transforming an enormous amount of research into tales that are extraordinarily empathetic, and rich in emotions that range from hatred, fury, terror and bloodlust to humor, joy, ecstasy and love. … In sum, Bell has created that rarest of works, a masterpiece." Donna Seaman

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"It draws you along like any authentic history, day by terrible day, nerve ends raw because you have no sense of an author ready to intervene to save his characters. … As fiction, these books do what novels are meant to do: they propose their own vivid and inexorable history." Michael Pye

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"[T]here is no question that this trilogy will make an indelible mark on literary history—one worthy of occupying the same shelf as Tolstoy’s War and Peace—for blending fiction and an imposing and complex history." Molly Knight

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"… a profound page-turner, full of action and high drama. … The broad sweep of his prose is suggestive of Shelby Foote’s Civil War epic." Ariel Gonzalez

Portland Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Bell’s formidable achievement not only makes impressive literature, but he has managed to turn military, political and colonial history into such delicious reading." Annie Dawid

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s hard to imagine that anyone could have chronicled Haiti and the travails of Toussaint with an eye more unblinking or with a hand so steady." Michael Anft

Critical Summary

In two previous books, Bell introduced Toussaint and charted the bloody events that gave birth to a nation. The Stone continues this saga. More than one critic compared the historical novel’s dramatic battle scenes and impressive historical sweep to War and Peace. Though long, the sheer energy and humanity of the characters (both real and fictional), not to mention the novel’s relevance to atrocities today, propel the narrative forward. Appendices, including a chronology of events, Creole glossary, and real correspondence between Toussaint and Napoleon, round out the backstory. You may need some knowledge of Haiti’s violent history to grasp each detail. Still, critics unanimously praise The Stone as "a spectacular achievement" (Miami Herald).

Also in the Trilogy

Master of the Crossroads (2000): Bell takes a panoramic look at the slave revolt in process—from the individual characters involved to the larger international politics and military maneuvers.