by Terry Coleman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 16, 1981
The author of Southern Cross (1979) again displays a fresh, imaginative historical perspective and considerable storytelling agility--moving now from Australia to colonial America and its interior wilderness, circa 1620-1664. And again historical and fictional personages receive the same light but canny portraiture, with easy interplay among the likes of Governor Bradford, William Brewster, Miles Standish, Charles I of England, Samuel Pepys, diplomat George Downing (for whom the Street was named), and even Captain Richard Nicolls--who decently refused the offer of Stuyvesant's sword in 1664. At the fictional center: the family of Wolsey Lowell, a vigorous, well-educated woman, first seen as a girl of 17 in England, where she's been raised by wise former diplomat William Brewster, a quiet yet tentative Puritan. But Wolsey is oddly infatuated with tall, proud Puritan scholar Francis Wheaton, ""God's recruiter""; and so she will voyage with a group of pilgrims and irreverent sailors through two months of chilled darkness and unholy fear to the New World's Promised Land. In Plymouth, however, there is the winter of death and ""bitter and astonishing cold""; Wolsey and Francis marry well before the first Thanksgiving, when the pilgrims, to Francis' horror, sing and enact the old pagan rites of Harvest Home. And Francis' continuing inner battle between Sacred and Profane is too much for him to bear: eventually, he wanders into a wintry forest with son Robert, who dies. Wolsey, left with twin girl babies and tormented by Puritan repressions, leaves the colony with Irish captain Harry O'Brien, a trader sailing under a Dutch flag-as the focus then switches to New Amsterdam, under the erratic but essentially tolerant rule of Peter Stuyvesant. And the novel's final section turns, years later, to Wolsey's twin daughters Ruth and Rebekah, who accompany French explorer Pierre La Tour (a La Salle prototype): La Tour marries Rebekah but fathers Ruth's child; all but Rebekah and the baby are killed by Natchez; so Rebekah travels to France, becomes the unenthusiastic mistress of diplomat Downing, and is awakened to life by witty lover Pepys before returning home. With potent people and zesty period ambience--a richly absorbing historical novel.
Pub Date: Nov. 16, 1981
Page Count: -
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981
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