THE VOYAGE OF THE DESTINY by Robert Nye

THE VOYAGE OF THE DESTINY

KIRKUS REVIEW

Nye’s richly detailed 1982 historical, previously unpublished in the US, charts the industrious and embattled later years of Elizabethan Renaissance man Sir Walter Raleigh (1554–1618).

Raleigh himself narrates, during and following his expedition to Guiana in search of gold to swell the coffers of England’s King James I. James had previously imprisoned Raleigh for “treasonable” complicity with Spanish interests, and has more recently pardoned the eminent statesman-soldier-poet, giving him this final commission. In a yeasty period style (sprinkled with excerpts from Raleigh’s spare, eloquent poems), the former courtier recalls his earlier military and diplomatic assignments, the “affair” with the mercurial Virgin Queen Elizabeth, and the recent, needless death of his impulsive son Wat during a misconceived attack on a Spanish fortress. This is the novel’s chief weakness: virtually all its actions are remembered or related by the mordant protagonist, in effect imprisoned anew aboard “a rotting ship on a stinking sea and no gold and my brains broken and my life in ruins.” There’s some variety in the imposingly dignified figure of Christoval Guayacunda, a Guianan Indian who has abandoned his Spanish confederates (and who, in several lengthy conversations with Sir Walter, refers erroneously—and ironically—to the former British monarch as “Elizadeath”). And the tale improves enormously in its concluding hundred or so pages, as Raleigh prepares himself to accept the king’s newest reversed judgment (he now declares Raleigh a traitor for opposing the Spanish), abandons all hope of escape (after having rather ingeniously “counterfeited” leprosy), and moves from the Tower of London to his execution, seemingly “as free from all apprehension of death, . . . as if he had come there to be a spectator rather than a sufferer.”

Less immediately engaging than some of Nye’s other fiction based on history or literature (e.g., The Late Mr. Shakespeare, 2000), but accomplished and engrossing nevertheless.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-55970-646-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2002




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