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Knowledge Base .: Archives Fiction and Non-Fiction Reviews .: Historical Fiction .: Reviewer: N. Goldman .: The Rising Shore: Roanoke

The Rising Shore: Roanoke

Author: Deborah Homsher

ISBN: 13: 978-0-9790-51560-9

           10: 0-9790-5160-6

 

 Inspired by true events concerning the first British attempt to establish a foothold in North America, Deborah Homsher’s  The Rising Shore:Roanoke presents a novel with compelling fictionalized details that probably surpass the actual facts that she briefly outlines  in the book’s postscript.

The tale focuses on the 1587 Roanoke voyage that was commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh in order to establish a permanent English settlement in North America. Roanoke Island is an island  about twelve miles long and three miles wide and lies along the outer banks of present-day North Carolina and although its history is lesser known than Jamestown, its lessons probably helped establish the latter.

Homsher’s saga zeroes in on two strong-willed teenage women, Elenor White who was married to a brickmaker, Ananias Dare and Margaret Lawrence. These two women were part of the company of men, women, children and servants who set sail from London in April of 1587 to North America. The voyage would take them through the Caribbean and ultimately end up in the Outer Banks region.

Elenor Dare was the daughter of John White, an artist of considerable merit and imagination. Raleigh had placed great trust in White’s leadership and organizational abilities and as a result he also appointed him Governor of the new colony. It should be mentioned, as Homsher indicates in her postscript, that the skeleton of her novel is based on actual facts that were recorded by John White in letters to his patrons and illuminated by historians, notably David Beers Quinn.

 

As for Lawrence, Homsher depicts her as Dare’s servant based on the fact, as she mentions in the postscript, that if she were the same person mentioned in the actual list of women who were part of the company, she would have been slightly younger than Dare and unattached. As Homsher notes, “an unattached woman of that age was probably a servant.”

While the tale reflects Homsher’s vivid imagination, it also raises some very interesting questions about the real lives of these two characters that came from very different backgrounds. Reading Homsher’s yarn, we can’t help wondering what motivated these women, as well as the others, to undertake such a venture when you consider, as we learn, that the settlers encountered all kinds of harrowing experiences including storms at sea, shortage of food supplies, inhospitable natives, mutiny, and sickness. And as for Elenor White Dare herself, it should be pointed out that she was pregnant throughout the voyage, eventually giving birth to the first English child born in North America.

What is more, due to his apparent weak leadership, White encountered considerable difficulties with his men particularly with pilot Simon Fernandes who refused to transport the group to Chesapeake Bay where they were eventually planning to settle. Consequently, the group was forced to remain on Roanoke Island and as there were limited supplies, Governor White eventually was obliged to leave for England in order to gather more provisions. It would be another three years before White returned to the Island and unfortunately what he discovered was an empty abandoned fort and the word “Croatoan” carved into a post. The colony was lost forever and its mystery left undisturbed on the coast of North America.

This is Homsher’s first foray into the world of fiction and make no mistake The Rising Shore: Roanoke is the work of a powerful talent whose elegant and lyrical words as well as her characters’ speech patterns and dialogue give the book much of its considerable strength.

Moreover, she shows great authorial control as she vividly captures the diverse feelings and musings of Elenor and Margaret, shifting fluidly between them as she devotes a chapter at a time to each. Her characters are realistically portrayed and historical personalities and facts are skillfully woven into the text.   

The Rising Shore: Roanoke also presents a stark, haunting portrait of humanity stripped bare as Homsher is unflinching in her descriptions of the cruelties that some of the company’s members suffered at the hands of their brutal masters.

There is no question of Homsher’s commitment to her subject matter and even though the novel is historical fiction, she nonetheless has succeeded in making her readers feel a part of a world that existed over four hundred years ago.

The above review was contributed by:  NORM GOLDMAN:  Retired Title Attorney: Editor & Publisher of Bookpleasures. Here are  Norm Goldman's Reviews       

 To read Norm's Interview with Deborah Homsher CLICK HERE

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