Just finished reading the 2nd volume of Madison Smartt Bell‘s epic trilogy of the Haitian Revolution, Master of the Crossroads. Toussaint Louverture was the military genius, the Black Spartacus who built and led the enormous coalition through the miasma of sedition, disease, incomparable cruelty and false allegiances to eventually make Haitian independence possible.
Throughout, Bell paints the panoramic picture of battles, the sacking and burning of major cities and plantations, but it is not the chess moves that captivate; it’s the silent commentary of animals, of nature (Toussaint was originally a doctor of herbal medicine; the bond and respect for the earth is essential to his nature) that he gets so right and that makes reading his work such a magical experience. And the unique characterizations, the voice given to each of his many narrators is of such piquancy that I find myself dreaming in their voices, much like having Leopold Bloom’s stream of consciousness in my head many year ago.
Normally I would leaven my traversal of the trilogy with alternate writers, but I’m so happily immersed in this terrifying and still horribly relevant tale of racial divide that I will dive in to the final book, The Stone That The Builder Refused.
This is an epic historical novel against which all others are judged.