Wednesday, November 17, 2010

YA BOOK REVIEW- Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein

Lisa Klein is fast becoming one of my favorite YA historical novelists. I thoroughly enjoyed Lady Macbeth’s Daughter and was even more excited to read Cate of the Lost Colony to see what tale Klein could spin from the fate of the colonists.

Cate (or Lady Catherine Archer) is an orphaned young gentlewoman taken into Queen Elizabeth’s court to be a maid of honor. Catherine is grateful at first, and awed by her new surroundings, but soon finds the atmosphere at court stifling. It seems no one can even breathe except at the pleasure of the queen. Cate, who is independent minded, wishes she might earn the queen’s favor but is constantly frustrated by Elizabeth’s changeability and the unjust demands she makes of her maids. When Sir Walter Ralegh (author’s spelling) appears on the scene, Cate is smitten by the handsome courtier, and he is attracted to her pretty face and eventually also to her wit. Unfortunately, he is the queen’s favorite, and when Elizabeth is made aware of the budding romance, Cate is punished by banishment to Ralegh’s colony in the new world. There, amidst the hardship of daily struggle for survival and her frustration with the infighting of the colonists, Cate blossoms. Personality traits that doomed her at court serve her well in Roanoke. The new world offers freedoms she could never have imagined in the old one, including the possibility of a new love.

Knowing our history, we know the colony is doomed to fail. So what will happen to Cate?

This book just pulled me along. The story is told from Cate’s point of view and from that of Manteo, the Croatoan native brought to Elizabeth’s court to learn English customs and eventually act as a go-between. It also shows Ralegh’s point of view, primarily through letters and poems. Each voice comes across as authentic, but it is Cate’s that truly shines. She grows from an insecure but proud girl to a confident and wise young woman.
Just as an aside, the book reminds me of a novel published in 2006 that was somewhat similarly themed but for a younger age group, My Lady, Pocahontas, by Kathleen V. Kudlinski, which tells the story of the Jamestown colony. I reviewed this book for The Historical Novels Review, Issue 39, February, 2007. My review is as follows:

In grade school, we all hear the story of Pocahontas, the daughter of an Indian chief who befriends Captain John Smith and helps ensure the survival of the fledgling English colony established at Jamestown in 1607. But details of the relationship between Pocahontas and Smith are somewhat murky, and most times you never hear what happened to the "Indian princess." My Lady, Pocahontas, written for 10-14 year olds, tells the tale from the point of view of Neetah, a loyal Pamunkey girl whose very name means friend.

Pocahontas sees visions which lead her first to spy on the settlers in order to protect her people, then to believe she herself will prove a peaceful link between the two disparate cultures. Neetah stands by her friend through many trials, even when she begins to suspect Pocahontas’s visions might be clouded by love for Captain Smith. She remains steadfast when it appears Pocahontas’s machinations have not been protecting the Pamunkey from the newcomers but inadvertently bringing death and destruction.

Steady and true, Neetah understands Pocahontas’s heart and presents to young readers a sympathetic account of this Pamunkey woman whose life can be seen as both tragic and inspiring. Well-researched and engaging, this book is recommended, although it may be a bit mature for some ten-year-olds.

1 comment:

  1. This one is high up on my Christmas wish list, it definitely sounds like something that I would love! It's nice to hear your thoughts on it :)