Sir Walter Raleigh—soldier, explorer, adventurer, lover of Queen Elizabeth—emerges from the pages of history and myth, full-blooded, passionate, and profoundly human. After unjustly languishing for years in the Tower, Raleigh undertakes one final voyage in search of gold. On his doomed quest he contends with Spanish forces, mutiny, pirates, court intrigue, and disease, all under the shadow of the executioner's blade awaiting him back home. Along the way, he also recounts his storied rise from humble origins into ...
Sir Walter Raleigh—soldier, explorer, adventurer, lover of Queen Elizabeth—emerges from the pages of history and myth, full-blooded, passionate, and profoundly human. After unjustly languishing for years in the Tower, Raleigh undertakes one final voyage in search of gold. On his doomed quest he contends with Spanish forces, mutiny, pirates, court intrigue, and disease, all under the shadow of the executioner's blade awaiting him back home. Along the way, he also recounts his storied rise from humble origins into the Virgin Queen's favor and court--and ultimately her bed. This powerful and action-packed novel breathes life into the most dazzling yet most enigmatic of Elizabethans.
In his wry, inimitable style, Nye (The Late Mr. Shakespeare; Falstaff) delves into the mind, heart and soul of Elizabethan adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh as he embarks on his final voyage. Late in life, after suffering 13 years of unjust imprisonment in the Tower of London, Raleigh is released on the condition that he go in search of South American gold for greedy King James I. On his ill-conceived journey, Raleigh falls ill and is stranded off the coast of Trinidad. His son continues up the Orinoco River with half the expedition, but is killed in a battle with Spanish forces. Since Raleigh was forbidden on pain of death to fight the Spanish, he knows he is doomed if he returns to England. The subsequent chapters find Raleigh facing a fateful decision-to turn to piracy and raid the silver-laden Spanish "Plate Fleet" or set sail for England and face death by hanging at the hands of King James. Nye's narration is jittery in the early going as the author hops back and forth between the ill-fated expedition, Raleigh's memories of his infamous romance with Elizabeth I and his odd relationship with the spiritual but violent Guayacunda, an Indian who becomes Raleigh's aide and introduces the Englishman to the mysterious powers of the coca leaf. But once Nye finds his rhythm, he takes readers on a wild historical ride, probing Raleigh's life and character in scenes that range from the bawdy and profane to the reflective ("The voyage of my history. The tale of my life and fortunes. Descriptive. Expository"). The man who emerges is a tremendously flawed and vital being, perfectly suited to Nye's wise, richly imaginative and riotously entertaining brand of historical portraiture. (Jan.) Forecast: Though Raleigh doesn't have the same pull as Shakespeare, Nye is building a reputation in the U.S. among the PBS crowd, and this latest novel should make a strong showing. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Nye's richly detailed 1982 historical, previously unpublished in the US, charts the industrious and embattled later years of Elizabethan Renaissance man Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618). Raleigh himself narrates, during and following his expedition to Guiana in search of gold to swell the coffers of England's King James I. James had previously imprisoned Raleigh for "treasonable" complicity with Spanish interests, and has more recently pardoned the eminent statesman-soldier-poet, giving him this final commission. In a yeasty period style (sprinkled with excerpts from Raleigh's spare, eloquent poems), the former courtier recalls his earlier military and diplomatic assignments, the "affair" with the mercurial Virgin Queen Elizabeth, and the recent, needless death of his impulsive son Wat during a misconceived attack on a Spanish fortress. This is the novel's chief weakness: virtually all its actions are remembered or related by the mordant protagonist, in effect imprisoned anew aboard "a rotting ship on a stinking sea and no gold and my brains broken and my life in ruins." There's some variety in the imposingly dignified figure of Christoval Guayacunda, a Guianan Indian who has abandoned his Spanish confederates (and who, in several lengthy conversations with Sir Walter, refers erroneously-and ironically-to the former British monarch as "Elizadeath"). And the tale improves enormously in its concluding hundred or so pages, as Raleigh prepares himself to accept the king's newest reversed judgment (he now declares Raleigh a traitor for opposing the Spanish), abandons all hope of escape (after having rather ingeniously "counterfeited" leprosy), and moves from the Tower of London to his execution,seemingly "as free from all apprehension of death, . . . as if he had come there to be a spectator rather than a sufferer." Less immediately engaging than some of Nye's other fiction based on history or literature (e.g., The Late Mr. Shakespeare, 2000), but accomplished and engrossing nevertheless.