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One of the most haunting mysteries in American history — The Lost Colony of Roanoke — comes roaring back to life in White Seed, with a compelling cast of characters, among them:
Maggie Hagger, indentured Irish serving girl, a victim of rape and intimidation,
Manteo, Croatoan interpreter for the English, inhabitant of two worlds, belonging to neither,
John White, ineffective Governor, painter, dreamer, father and grandfather,
Captain Stafford, brave and disciplined, but cruel soldier, and
Powhatan, shrewd Tidewater warlord who wages a stealthy war against the colonists.
From Publishers Weekly: This above-average historical hews closely to the record of Sir Walter Raleigh's second doomed attempt to plant the British flag in Virginia, but embroiders the who, what, when with enough... embellishment to create a riveting story. The focus is 17-year-old "wench" Maggie Hagger, whose passage on Raleigh's ship was paid by colony Governor Sir John White so she can serve his pregnant daughter. The ship's stormy passage to the New World -- during which widower White falls for Maggie, who is meanwhile evading unwanted advances from a scalawag -- establishes the many well-wrought characters, some noble (particularly real-life Native Manteo), others evil. The depiction of the colony's physical and moral disintegration between 1587 and 1590 -- as drunken, cannibalistic soldiers mutiny and brutalize the settlers they were meant to protect, and as colonists confront disease, starvation and madness -- evokes a harrowing sense of human fallibility. Readers with more than a nodding familiarity with American colonial history will experience a … déjà vu, but others less hip to what happened in late-16th century times will find this saga, which starts slowly but soon reaches page-turner velocity, to be both a dandy diversion and an entertaining education.
Spring, 1587, Plymouth England…
Maggie knew that this old man would do to her what the other had – if he could get her alone. She stood on the deck of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ship, the Lion, the afternoon sun burning through her simple gown of green linen, as she waited for her turn to be interviewed for a place in Raleigh’s New World Virginia Paradise. She had not eaten all day and the stench of garbage and pitch pine from the harbor threatened to make her retch. The old man, a sailor with a gray goat’s beard sprouting from his chin, sat at a table ten feet away, writing in a black leather-bound ledger open before him.
Maggie Hagger, seventeen years of age, had long, red hair and a fair, pretty face flecked with freckles. The ship, although tightly tethered to the quay, moved slightly on a swell. Maggie took her eyes off the man to look up at the looping white of the furled sails as they moved slightly across the blue vault of the sky. Like a graceful swan, this ship would take her far away to safety upon its downy back -- if she got a contract of indenture! And get one she must… or hang!
“Next!” the old sailor said finally.
As Maggie approached, she looked to her left at twenty-five or so common people dressed in plain brown woolens and homespun, whose terms of indenture had already been purchased. They waited in the stark sunlight with their belongings in shabby bundles about their feet. On the other side in the shade cast by stacks of wooden pens containing sheep and hens, about a dozen of the better sort, dressed in fine clothes and wearing hats of bright colors, talked softly. They were all watching Maggie expectantly.
He had an ugly voice like the bark of a dog, recalling to Maggie the bray of the man who had pursued her and Thomas halfway across England. She remembered their escape from the London warehouse in the blackness of night. They had crept along the slippery stones of the exposed banks of the Thames as a horrid, faceless man shouted after them, "Redheaded whore! Wherever you go I will find you. Hea
White Seed... hews closely to... Raleigh's second doomed attempt to plant the British flag in Virginia... Readers will find this saga, which... achieves page-turner velocity, to be a dandy diversion and an entertaining education. --Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Paul Clayton is the author of a three-book historical series on the Spanish Conquest of the Floridas-- Calling Crow, Flight of the Crow, and Calling Crow Nation (Putnam/Berkley), and a novel, Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam (St. Martin's Press), based on his own experiences in that war. Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam was a finalist at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards, along with works by Joyce Carol Oates (Faithless) and David McCullough (John Adams). Clayton's latest book-- White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke-- is a work of historical fiction. Paul currently lives in California, with his son and daughter.
At the beginning of his novel, White Seed, author Paul Clayton dedicates the work to Clavell, Michener and Follet, three writers of grandly landscaped, historically supported fiction. He doesn't disappoint.
For readers of American history, the barely known chapters, of Raleigh's ill-fated experimental colony have always sparked conjecture. White Seed does an admirable job in bringing together the realities of the late 16th century including class warfare, global politics and incomplete understanding of the reasons for exploration and colonizing the New World.
These powerful forces, often at odds, are fleshed out perfectly within the characters of this novel. White Seed leads the reader into the lives of indentured colonists, the landed gentry, the gang-pressed soldiers, poorly chosen leaders, the New World itself and those who pulled the strings affecting all their lives.
I was particularly appreciative of the full, rich characterizations of Native Virginians, who play major roles in this tale. The book held my attention and was an easy, very enjoyable read filled with emotion. It accurately expressed the longings and failures of each character without creating cardboard cliches. The scenes of conflict were also intimately crafted, very satisfying and completely without the excesses expected from the Hollywood treatment of warfare.
The fate of the colony, though foreshadowed early on, reaches a satisfying and very believable conclusion based, in part, upon reported witness accounts and thorough research. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good period read and particularly those who have always had questions regarding our earliest colonial history.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this take on the mysterious historical fiction of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, Virginia. The development of the characters is well done and the reader can easily become engaged with the book. The story is plausible, and it may have actually happened that way. No one knows. I especially like that the author wove fictional characters and stories in with real events and characters. It was very well done and highly recommended. I read the paperback version of the story.
At first, I only read the sample of this but I found even just the sample very unrealistic. In the very beginning, main character Maggie, while settling into the ship which will take her to the colony, confesses to a near complete stranger who she'd met no more than a few hours before that the reason she left London was because she was raped there (this is not a spoiler since it is mentioned in the book's summery). It seemed incredibly unrealistic to me that a woman would tell someone she just met the horrors of her rape for no other reason than to answer the question "why did you leave London?" It seems to me that such a private and humiliating experience is not something someone would so readily relive to a stranger who merely asked why they left the city. In my opinion, a believable character would have lied or avoided answering at all.
Furthermore, Maggie went on to confess a crime of her companion with no fear that if a higher authority were to find out, her companion might be punished. Why would Maggie so readily trust a complete stranger with so many private secrets?
I realize the author was probably trying to use the scene to explain the events preceding the beginning of the book but there are other, better, more believable ways to do so. Even at only $4.99 on Kindle (the price when I initially looked at it), I was not willing to buy a book with such unrealistic character behavior.
Then, after making these comments on the sample, I noticed the book was available for free. I decided to give it another chance, given that I didn't have much to lose.
Unfortunately, I was still not impressed. I felt the character were flat and there was more that didn't make sense to me or seemed unrealistic. For example, when Maggie was suddenly the colony's school teacher. She had mentioned in the beginning that she could serve as a child teacher but Maggie wound up being indentured as a maid, not a teacher, and it was not mentioned that she would be teaching... until suddenly she is. It's very disjointed.
*Spoiler* Then there came the scene where Maggie realizes that one of the men on the colony is the man who killed her father when she was a child. Not only does this seem far-fetched but I felt like if the book had been better written, there would have been no need for personal and unrealistic dramas like this. It's like the author threw this in to keep people interested because it was otherwise pretty boring, which is remarkable considering what should have been the fascinating nature of the subject matter.
Additionally, I was really disappointed by the ending. I realize Maggie had found happiness and feared going back to England but that's not a choice she should have made for everyone else by staying hiding when she saw White return. She always could have chosen to stay, no one would force her to go back to England. */Spoiler*
Some of these things may seem like minor things to some people because they don't really influence the plot but I just find it difficult to get into a story when such small yet obvious aspects are overlooked and don't make sense to me. It's a shame because I thought the story itself had potential and the one thing I thought was very well done was the portrayal of the deterioration of the settlement (not just in terms of their survival struggle but watching the break down of authority and civilized society), it just got bogged down by stuff that didn't make sense or seemed unrealistic.Read more ›
I was frankly surprised, after reading of the awards this book received, at the poor quality of the writing. The characters are single dimension and not believable, the writing is sophomoric. This untold story hasn't much to offer. The author creates dialogue in olde English style, then slips into it himself outside of the dialogue...and seems not to notice. Through the entire story, the natives encountered by the English settlers are referred to as "savages" without variation. The book is verry slow and should have been shorter. I finished it only because I thought it would come to life at some point... it never did. There is a thread of intelligent speculation on the fate of the Roanoke colony...but it's lost in the telling. It amazes me that this book would be seriously compared with Follett's efforts.
Dropping off the face of the earth, the lost colony of Roanoke has been the attraction of much wonder. "White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke" is a novel offering Paul Clayton's take on this lost colony of people who were abandoned by their countrymen on the shores of the uncharted Virginia. Telling a story of an abused Irish girl finding her place in this new world and finding love in the wrong places, and the plotting of local warlords, "White Seed" is a fascinating read that should not be missed.
Paul Clayton is the author of a three-book historical series on the Spanish Conquest of the Floridas-- Calling Crow, Flight of the Crow, and Calling Crow Nation (Putnam/Berkley), and a novel, Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam (St. Martin's Press), based on his own experiences in that war.
Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam was a finalist at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards, along with works by Joyce Carol Oates (Faithless) and David McCullough (John Adams).
Clayton's latest book-- White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke-- is a work of historical fiction.
Paul currently lives in California, with his son and daughter.
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