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Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony Hardcover – June 8, 2001

3.6 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony by Lee Miller provides clear and convincing explanations for the disappearance of the late 16th-century British settlement on Roanoke Island off North Carolina. In probing Native American land disputes and intrigue, Miller uncovers the reasons for the colonists' disappearance. Miller's prose is commanding as she speculates on what really happened to the colonists after they left Roanoke and on the inevitability of their leaving. An ethnohistorian and anthropologist, Miller authoritatively removes the fog she claims was intentionally wrapped around this mystery.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

What happened to the first English colony in North America is a question that has vexed researchers since the word "Croatoan" was found carved on a tree in 1590. Miller, an anthropologist and editor of From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian (LJ 4/1/95), purports to solve this mystery. Using a limited number of primary sources and a significant amount of circumstantial evidence, she blames the colony's disappearance on treachery and murder she traces to the court of Elizabeth I. Conspiracy theorists should find much to savor in this convoluted story, which includes palace intrigues, cultural misunderstandings, and gray-eyed Native Americans. While the author's deductions are conceivable, there simply isn't enough evidence to support definitively the conclusions that are presented here. Still, this is an interesting, well-told tale that is recommended for public libraries. Academic libraries needing a book on this topic should instead consider Karen Ordahl Kupperman's Roanoke: The Abandoned Colony (LJ 5/1/84). John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1st U.S. ed edition (June 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559705841
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559705844
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,610,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The topic is indeed a fascinating one, and Lee Miller has asked many important probing questions from all sides of this story. She has done a good job of conjuring the excitement and drama of this historical mystery, bolstered by impressive research and a keen perception. However, I must agree with some of the reviewers below that her persistent failure to write in complete sentences makes for choppy reading at times. Perhaps she intended this fragmentary style to heighten the drama - I can think of no other way an editor would allow it. Also, I agree with someone below who said that another map or two would be helpful. She mentions many specific place names, many of which have changed since that time, and it was a little hard to follow the exact whereabouts of certain events, even though I am familiar with the Outer Banks. Be that as it may, the story itself is so compelling that I recommend the book and commend the author for her valuable probing. Above all, Miller makes it clear that there is ample evidence from which we may conclude what really happened to the colonists (and she does a convincing job interpreting every scrap that remains) and that much of it has been suppressed or forgotten for 400 years. Perhaps the Lost Colony is a mystery no more! This fact alone justifies reading this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Was the lost colony a tragic disaster, or a shrewdly engendered mass murder? Miller has made some fantastic connections to piece together her version of the mystery. It is a fascinating idea, and I found some of her proof and reasoning quite compelling. The use of intertextual first person accounts was also quite helpful.
However, while "Roanoke" had some great ideas, it was so poorly written as to be almost unreadable at times. Sentence fragments float wildly. Ideas are begun and then abandoned only to reappear from nowhere two pages later. The short choppy paragraph structure is highly distracting, and left me constantly feeling unsatisfied. I did manage to finish, but only because I am really interested in the Lost Colony. If you are not, I suggest a more clearly written account.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most Americans are probably familiar with the bare outlines of the story of Raleigh's colony at Roanoke. Many will, like me, remember history text pictures of the stunned John White staring in awestruck perplexity at that awful word, CROATOAN. Few will, like me, have mothers who explained that the Croatians came for them.
The basic story is familiar. Miller presents us with the entire story, from the Spanish pressure on England that led to privateering, to the court intrigues. We learn about the social and political situation in England, with much interesting detail that helps us understand how these people lived. Lane's dealings with the Native Americans, killing and burning for a wretched silver cup, are sickening. The poor Indians must have felt that unwonted doom had descended on them out of a clear blue sky.
Miller's research is highly impressive. All the pieces slide into place, even the preposterous Welsh Indians. I know nothing about American languages, so I cannot comment authoritatively on her conclusions there, but if this stands up to peer review, it should settle the case. If nothing else, she has convinced me. (Samuel Morison's Oxford History of the American People says the Lumbee Indians believe the blood of Raleigh's colonists runs in their veins. I wonder what Miller says about that.)
The case should be settled, but the melodramatic writing style has caused comment. A writing gimmick, used sparingly, is clever, often repeated becomes distracting, obnoxious, and causes you to wonder about the writer. Her health. Her qi. She can barely build up the steam to write a complete sentence. Fragments. Almost the whole book. She's okay when she's concentrating on scholarly evidence, and oh how she piles on the footnotes!
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Comment 36 of 43 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
I'm a fan of history. I'm also a fan of suspense. And I love a good "unsolved mystery." So there was no way I could pass up Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony. I've always been fascinated by the fate of England's first colonist in the US - where did they go? How could they disappear so completely - not just the people but their homes and their things? Were they killed? Kidnapped? Lee Miller attempts to answer those questions and others in her book - with mixed results.
On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and could not put it down. It was a fascinating glimpse into a side of Elizabethan and 16th century world history that I'd never delved into-the wars with Spain and the race to colonize the "new world." Her character sketches are detailed and, in my opinion, her detective work was well-researched. She manages to weave together an exciting tale based on 400-year old facts and some creative thinking. And it almost had me convinced.
Almost. While Roanoke makes for a suspenseful story filled with treachery, malice, double-dealing, and action on the high seas, it all seems a bit too complex for me. In my experience, the truth is often much simpler than the stories we create to explain things-perhaps the colonists moved to another area, perhaps they were abducted by the local Indians, perhaps, perhaps. It seems more likely that this was the case, more likely, say, than one individual setting a plan into motion that would eventually strand and kill over a hundred innocent people-all for the sake of getting back at a fellow courtier. I understand that people in Elizabeth's court were politically motivated and often cut-throat in their dealings with both friends and rivals (who were often one and the same). But this strikes me as a bit unrealistic.
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