Books by Pamela Jekel

NATCHEZ by Pamela Jekel
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

Another of the author's historical dynasty novels (Deepwater, 1994, etc.), again with spikelets of real events, bits of natural history, and die-cast characters. Jekel's latest features a plantation family in the title area from 17751885. A prologue highlights a 1729 French settler wed to a woman of the Natchez Indians who states the novel's theme: ``The land belongs to the woman.'' Founder of the dynasty is Josiah Fleming from Connecticuta man who'll lose not only his family of wife and three children on the way west, as well as his original land claim, but also his faith. Josiah eventually marries a calm, strong widow, becomes one of the more successful planters, and regains his faith in Providence. But the couple's daughter Anne is the mean, beautiful Scarlett of the family; she's married briefly to a riverboat gambler, who frankly didn't give a damn and split, leaving wife and pretty Arden. Later, Arden marries nice Martin (who's opposed to the threatened civil war), then loses (in the war) a son and a son-in-lawthe one married to her daughter Felicity. At the close, it's Felicity who is rescued from a flood, along with her pregnant daughter, brother, and son-in-law, by ``outsider'' John Duncanwith an implausible middle-aged romance ensuing. In what's predictably a saga of fire, flood, and casualty lists, the family's women are all of a wholesome piece (except for cruel Anne), and the slaves generally imbecilic. (Says old Portia, Arden's lifelong maid: ``What I need wid freedom? I gots fambly.'') Also roaming around river waters and nearby land are various fauna, like Daspy the armadillo, Ursus the bear, a fox, a snake, etc., mimicking the traumas of human brethren. A journeyman saga. Read full book review >
DEEPWATER by Pamela Jekel
Released: March 1, 1994

The action is often sluggish and nearly always weightless in this transparently plotted, melodramatic novel about the European conquest of the Carolina coastline, from the author of Bayou (1991), Columbia (1986), and Sea Star (1983). Our story starts in 1587 with the landing of a new British colony on Roanoke Island, just before the birth of Virginia Dare. Then Dare and the rest of the colonists disappear. Next we meet Leah Hancock and her daughters, solemn Tess and charismatic Glory, in a tobacco-raising settlement in 1711. Indian warriors kill Leah's husband and badly wound her, but Leah and the girls escape to a colony of Scottish lumberjacks in Cape Fear. Leah marries the ship captain who brought them there. They all live relatively peacefully until Leah dies of smallpox and the captain fobs Tess and Glory off onto a dashing pirate. Tess marries him, Glory goes to live with them, and the sisters run the household and raise Tess' three children together. Then Glory gets pregnant and dies in childbirth and Tess is left to raise her niece, Della. Della grows up to be a femme fatale and marries Philip Gage, owner of a neighboring plantation called Deepwater. Their marriage is troubled from the start: Philip, who is loyal to the King in the brewing battle for independence from England, is always away for political meetings, while Della and her obsequious slave abet his rebel enemies. Della and Philip take in his daughter by another woman who comes, goes, marries young, and sends her infant daughter, Laurel, to be raised by Della after Philip's death. Laurel inherits Deepwater and marries a Quaker, with whom she helps slaves escape through the underground railroad and raises three children. After the Civil War, newly freed blacks claim part of Deepwater, a school for black children is established, and a schoolteacher arrives from up North. Laurel has an affair with the teacher, but it eventually peters out, as does the rest of the story. The lackluster narrative—a patchwork of animal vignettes and italicized history that the author didn't manage to weave into the story—never quite comes to life. Read full book review >
BAYOU by Pamela Jekel
Released: Aug. 1, 1991

Jekel's historical research, evident in her previous novels (18th-century pirates' seaways in Sea Star, 1983; the Pacific Northwest in Columbia, 1986), now concerns the flora, fauna, industrial, agricultural, and demographic development of the delta country of Louisiana. The country's decidedly more vigorous than her characters, although a busy plot keeps them on the go. This is the saga of four generations of women, from 1786 to the 1920's, as they struggle for love, security, etc., but mainly love. First off, there's Olivia Doucet, raised on a lush bayou in a small cabin set on the rise in the swamp. She'll choose to marry outside her French Arcadian community, and her German husband, Joseph Weitz, and she will have twin boys, Samuel and Simon, as well as a future nun, Emma. There'll be a brief stay in New Orleans but a return to the bayou, where there will be a tragic kidnapping. The twin boys will not be reunited for years. Samuel will become a rich man and the lover of Cetisma, the black slave he'd emancipated. After his death, Cetisma, now manager and owner of a guest house, will have a second child, a daughter named Manon, fathered by a white lodger. Color and caste and all the depressing strictures concerning same rule the life and love of Manon, who will be a powerful New Orleans businesswoman. Her daughter, by Manon's faithless white lover, will have a bland marriage—thanks to Mother, who held her off from passionate love. So it's ``a muddy mess of uprooted hopes and drowned dreams.'' A workaday historical but embellished with bright portraits of indigenous animals and birds and brief historical notes. The promise here of sensational dross concerning slavery and forbidden sex may beckon from airport racks. Read full book review >