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I, Roger Williams: A Novel Paperback – September 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323832
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,369,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Settle, taking the life of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams as her foundation, fills in some gaps and builds a compelling piece of imaginative autobiography, with Williams as an old man looking back over the events of his life. The facts are these: Williams was born in London in around 1603 (historians are unsure of the exact year). His family were tradespeople, but 14-year-old Roger's intelligence and facility with languages brings him to the attention of the eminent jurist Sir Edward Coke. He becomes Coke's secretary, an eyewitness to some of the major political developments of the time, and from Coke he absorbs many of the ideas, such as the separation between church and state, that shape his later career. Under Coke's patronage, Williams goes to Cambridge and becomes a member of the clergy, but his dissenting views land him in trouble. In 1630, he and his wife eventually set sail for New England. He finds the Puritan church in Massachusetts Bay just as corrupt as the church in England, and his radical stances, which include friendship with the Indians, get him banished from the colony. Making his way to Narragansett Bay, he founds Providence, and later returns to England to secure a charter. There is much fascinating material here, but some readers may be disappointed by the fact that so much of the novel deals with Williams' earlier (and most formative) days, while seeming to rush through the 50 years after his arrival in America. The language, which is meant to be true to the age, may also be a challenge. But patient readers will be rewarded, and will want to find out more about the people and events that Settle presents here. Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A beautiful work of art. Daring in conception, elegantly deft in execution. -- Los Angeles Times Book Review

An example of the historical novel at its best. -- Seattle Times

Customer Reviews

His vision for the world, alas, remains to be seen, but it gives one hope.
Marc S. Ardizzone
Ms. Settle's book makes a credible effort to set this complex personality in the context of his time and his personal background.
Lisa
If the above were true, I imagine that people might pick it up in bookshops out of curiosity, read and enjoy it.
rackronnieroff

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David on February 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I stumbled across "I, Roger Williams" in the public library, while I was waiting for my wife to go through the check-out line. A brief glance was enough to capture my attention, even though I had heard nothing about this book. After a careful reading (sometimes with a dictionary at my side), I am ready to read it again. "I, Roger Williams" is a sublime work, weaving great insight about human relations with credible historical fiction. With a delicate touch Mary Lee Settle has written one of the finest works of fiction I have ever read. This is a book to read slowly and savor, as it sparks reflection about law and faith and tolerance, and it piques curiosity about historical detail. No other work of fiction has so artfully explored the continuity between old England and New England, or critiqued the weaknesses of our ancestors while celebrating their achievements. Mary Lee Settle breathes life into great men who have unjustly become footnotes for historians. And she paints the most joyous pictures of faithfulness in marriage and wisdom with aging that I have seen. I am deeply indebted to the author for her research, wit, grace, and maturity; and I recommend this work to all who have the patience to read a masterpiece.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Burns on August 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a superb novel about an era of American and English history that is today often overlooked or misunderstood. But if you've read the historian Christopher Hill on the radical Puritans during the English Revolution and are interested in the connection between that world and early America - you should read this book. Mary Lee Settle has produced a beautiful novel that justly glorifies Roger Williams - an American whose love of liberty, freedom and his God lead him to live a life that should be far better known and admired than it is today.
I have to agree, however, with the previous reviewer that the cover of the book should be reworked. If I didn't already have a strong interest in the radical Puritans who settled Rhode Island, I doubt that I would have given the book a second glance.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I, Roger Williams by Mary Lee Settle, is a tour de force. A perfectly structured fictionalized autobiograpy of Roger Williams, the book makes the origins of the United States' most important freedoms, freedom of religion, belief, speech, and the separation of church and state come alive. At the same time it conveys the human side of our forefathers and the forces that shaped their thought and actions. A must read for anyone who would wish to understand and protect democracy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By greenpete on April 18, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're reading this in hopes of finding a conventional, comprehensive biography of Roger Williams, you're in the wrong place. But don't go!!! This book - more accurately, historical novel - by Mary Lee Settle goes beyond a mere recitation of biographical events. It unfolds layers of history and preconception to reveal a flesh-and-blood human being, his anger, joys, frustration, compassion, sense of justice, love of God, and even his love of a woman. This novel is a masterful achievement, and Ms. Settle has given us a most humanistic look at a man who for so long has been a historical curiosity.

Roger Williams was of course the founder of Rhode Island. Until recently, that's about all I knew of him (also that a small, liberal arts college is named after him). In a perfect world, his name would be up there with Jefferson, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. Like King, Williams was a minister of God who was attacked for preaching tolerance and civil rights. He fled to Rhode Island in the 1630s, in the dead of winter, after being banished by the Massachusetts Puritans for rejecting their version of Christianity. He took shelter with the Narragansett Indians, learned their customs and language, became a staunch defender of Indian land rights, and eventually published the first book on Native American languages. He has been called the first American radical, and his intense devotion to the ideas of individual liberty and the separation of church and state directly inspired the generation who wrought American independence a century later.

Mary Lee Settle, rather than offering a conventional biography of Williams, has allowed Williams to reminisce, in his own voice, on the events of his life.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By rackronnieroff on July 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Imagine that this book had a more intriguing title. Imagine that it had a more interesting cover. If the above were true, I imagine that people might pick it up in bookshops out of curiosity, read and enjoy it. As it is, they may not, which is unfortunate. My bookshop doesn't even carry the thing. But 'I, Roger Williams', despite the bland sound of it, is worth reading for those who enjoy good, solid historical novels.
Revolving more around 17th century England and its politics and troubles than the actual settlement of Providence, each chapter begins inside the head of an old, old man, and goes on to recount his boyhood in London, his life in England and his assosiation and education with Sir Edward Coke. These recollections reveal how Williams' ideas were shaped and how his conscience emerged, necessitating his eventual flight to America and later from the 'visible saints' of Boston to a place out of their jurisdiction, the future Rhode Island.
I only read this book out of a bizarre interest in early Rhode Island (no need to explain that here...!). Although disappointed on that front (only a very small part of the book actually takes place there), I am glad to have discovered and read a rewarding historical novel which gives insight into the beginnings of this country as we know it.
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I, Roger Williams: A Novel
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