Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony

by Lee Miller

Paperback, 2002




Penguin Books (2002), Edition: Reprint, 384 pages


The lost colony of Roanoke is America's birthplace and one of America's oldest mysteries. What makes this book unique is that every clue furnished by primary documents is treated as evidence. It answers the three questions essential to solving the mystery: Why were the lost colonists lost? Where did the lost colonists go? Why were the lost colonists never recovered?

User reviews

LibraryThing member lemuralley
Miller's argument about what happened to the lost colony on Roanoke island is interesting and unusual. But her writing style is horrifying. Fragments aren't sentences. Small children know this. Are taught this. In school. Miller, however, doesn't seem to know this. The entire 260-page book is written like that, I suppose, to add drama. Every now and then there are paragraphs written in complete sentences, and those paragraphs are like a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, those paragraphs are rare; I had to give up about a third of a way into the book. I'd have been smacked down in school if I'd turned in anything written the way this book is written.… (more)
LibraryThing member NielsenGW
Miller tries with all her might to make history intriguing. This tale of the lost colony of Roanoke has as much as any ethnohistorical book can. While the typography of the work can take some getting used to, it does mesh together primary accounts with historical extrapolation very well. Her non-linear narrative is the only thing I would change.… (more)
LibraryThing member CCMambretti
I usually read every word in books about the lost colony, but I couldn't get past about the first third of this one. I see there's a new 2006 edition, which I might look into. However, I much prefer [David Strick]'s [Roanoke Island: The Beginning of English America].
LibraryThing member rrees
Although an interesting subject I found the presentation style (mixing interpretation with quotation from sources) hard to get along with. It is also an investigation and "solution" that is almost entirely based on historical sources with no input from archaeological, natural history or genetic sources. I felt it was half of the story. Neither comprehensive nor a neutral overview of the subject.… (more)
LibraryThing member MarianV
Roanoke, the colony founded by Sir Walter Raleigh among others, is usually known as the "lost" colony. How a colony involving several hundred people becomes lost is an interesting story. It has been told before & probably will be again as new technology un-earths clues & evidence. This book, however dwells more on speculation than bringing new facts to light. It is interesting to read of the settlers' hardships & it seems amazing that any colonies were able to survive.… (more)
LibraryThing member natashaslove
Since I love the subject I really wanted to like this book, but just couldn't. As the author intended to write this as a detective mystery, the book is covered with sentence fragments for effect. That alone keeps the book from flowing. It may seem like a trivial complaint, but when you see that about 1/4 of the book is written in sentence fragments you will get the feeling you are reading someone's notes.
In addition, the author creates a whole different mystery (about powerful English nobles who set the colony up for failure) which may or may not be true but the real mystery is what happened to the colonists after they arrived on Roanoke Island. She does explain that (although I think not conclusively) but spends too much time on English politics that just isn't interesting to a non-specialist. Even in the explanation of what happened to the colony there is no reference to DNA, which would seem critical to solving the mystery of what happened to the colonists.
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LibraryThing member mscongeniality
This is one of the most poorly written history books it has been my misfortune to read. I regret having paid full price for it.
LibraryThing member JBD1
A poorly-written and unconvincing book.
LibraryThing member davidveal
Few history books that are well-written and documented can be called "exciting." This is an exception. No novelist ever did a cleverer job of hooking the reader into the mystery and carrying him along through the investigation to the sad and troubling, but unavoidable, conclusion. I am an incurable history buff and I must say, "This is one of the best history books I have ever read!"… (more)
LibraryThing member HaroldTitus
I read this book after having written a first draft novel about the attempts made by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish a colony on the outer banks of North Carolina. The draft remains shelved, but Lee Miller's book provided informed speculation about why the "lost colony" of Roanoke disappeared and where the settlers scattered causing me to consider resuming my project. I appreciated her background information about the miserable lives of ordinary Englishmen, the Queen's treacherous advisors, and the culture of the native Americans. My raiting reflects the vaule of the information she provides.… (more)
LibraryThing member goet0095
Overall, I thought the author presented a very well-researched and plausible explanation for what happened to the Roanoke Colony. It seemed like there wasn't much information available about the Colony, so I was surprised she was able to write an entire book about it. A few major complaints that almost prevented me from finishing the book:
- The first 2/3 of the book was pretty dry, and it finally picked up at the end.
- The author used italics to when quoting various sources, mostly in the middle of sentences. That prevented her from being able to use italics for emphasis, and I found it to be very distracting.
- The author had the worst editor of all time, who allowed her to get away with fragmented sentences...throughout the entire book. Here is an example: "Walsingham is the Queen's Principal Secretary. Secretary of State. Master politician. Machiavellian." It drove me crazy!
-The author presented the story of Roanoke like it was a game of Clue, which trivialized the events and made it seem childish (the cover looks like it was going for a middle-school demographic).
So if you can get past those things, I would recommend this book!
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LibraryThing member regularguy5mb
My second cruise read is actually a book I found on board the ship. It was sitting in the library, and with my interest in the Lost Colony, I knew it was a must read.

And I am absolutely glad I did. Miller does some intense research to figure out what might have happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Looking at the political situation in England, the religious climate, the situation between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, the war with Spain, what went wrong while Ralph Lane was in charge of the fort at Roanoke, how that affected relations with the Native American nations in the vicinity, the personality of John White, Walter Raleigh, and every other person at court possibly involved in the colonization project that sent 117 individuals to their doom in Roanoke.

Miller explores the history as a thrilling mystery to be solved. What happened? How did it happen? Why would someone want the project to fail? Why would they deliberately allow those colonists to come to harm? Why were they stranded in Roanoke when they were supposed to continue on to Chesapeake Bay? Who had the motive and the means? Did people really wish that much damage to Raleigh’s character? Why?

Like I said, some in-depth research goes into this book, and it is definitely worth a read.
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LibraryThing member Beammey
I give this 3.5 out of 4 stars. I would have given it more, but it reads like an essay and because of that I couldn't get into it and really connect with any characters. Still, it was interesting to hear her theory and it does make sense. Is this what happened? Who knows, but it does make you think. I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys American history or mysteries.… (more)


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