Roanoke, the Lost Colony by Angela Elwell Hunt

roanokeThe mystery of the Lost Colony is one of the most interesting stories in North Carolina history, and Hunt’s novel is an intriguing retelling of that tale.

Most North Carolinians are familiar with the basic facts about the Lost Colony, but in case you need a refresher, here’s a brief summary.  In 1587, during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, Sir Walter Raleigh sent a group of men, women, and children, led by John White, to establish an English colony in the New World.  Soon after their arrival at Roanoke Island, White returned to England for more supplies and additional colonists.  Among the colonists whom he left on Roanoke were his daughter and son-in-law, with their new baby, Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World.  War with Spain kept him in England for three years, and when he returned to Roanoke Island, all of the colonists had disappeared.  The fate of the colonists remains, to this day, a mystery.

This novel does not contradict the known facts about the colony.  However, Hunt could find few facts about most of the individual colonists – in many cases, only their names – and had to create their personalities and the facts about their lives from her own imagination.  As her main characters, she chose a minister, Thomas Colman, and his wife Jocelyn.

The voyage from England to Roanoke Island is long and dangerous, and, once the colonists have arrived in their new home, they struggle to avoid starvation or destruction by hostile Indians.  Meanwhile, Jocelyn learns that her beloved husband is a difficult man with a dark secret which he reveals only at the end of the book.  His decisions endanger, not only their marriage, but the survival of the colony.

Much of the story involves the period while John White is away in England.  This part is, of course, completely fictitious, although Hunt develops a story which ties in with some historical theories about the colony’s fate.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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