After reading Ophelia, I was eager to read another of Lisa Klein’s novels. I was not disappointed by Cate of the Lost Colony! This was another great read.
Catherine Archer is the orphaned daughter of a high-ranking soldier when Queen Elizabeth grants her the rare honor of becoming a lady-in-waiting. But court life – with all of its scandals, forbidden romances, and gossip – does not bode well for Catherine when she becomes romantically involved with the charming Sir Walter Ralegh. As Ralegh is one of Queen Elizabeth’s “favorites,” the jealous Queen banishes Catherine to the wilderness of Roanoke in retaliation.
Interestingly, this book is narrated not just by Catherine, but also by the two prominent male characters in the story: the ambitious (and fairly shallow) Sir Walter Ralegh, via his journals, letters, and various papers; and Manteo, a Native American man who aids the Roanoke colonists as an ambassador. When Cate arrives in the New World, the story is no longer about queens and castles and ladies-in-waiting, but becomes a sobering tale of poverty, war, death, and survival in the wilderness. What drives the story are Cate’s emotions, her willful, outspoken spirit, and her refusal to be ruled by any man. I really enjoyed this novel!
It is 1763, and Lozette, or “Zettie,” is the African servant to a French family in Province. She was bought to be a companion to Marie-Louise (“Ree”) Boyer. Companion slaves were somewhat elite, as they are well-educated, well-dressed, and taught the same as their masters, to make them fit for the company of the upper-class. When Ree’s father passes away, her cruel and reckless older brother Pierre squanders his inheritance. To pay his debt and keep out of prison, he plans to sell Zettie and betrothed Ree to an old banker. But with the help of some friends, Ree arranges an escape for her and Zettie, and they make their way from Spain to the North American Colonies to find Ree’s other brother, Jacques, who has been held captive by Indians in Delaware while fighting in the war. Thus begins Zettie and Ree’s new life in the New York Colony during the French and Indian War.
It did sometimes feel like the author was trying to write a textbook. A lot of the history and names recounted seem unlikely to be coming from a 13-year-old slave girl. However, one scene I found memorable was toward the end, when Zettie meets Lot, a former African slave, who remembers life in Africa before he was taken and sold. Lot knows the details of his African heritage and he shares his stories and reveals bits of Zettie’s own heritage to her.