Day 265: Here Was a Man: A Novel of Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I

Cover for Here Was a ManI don’t think I’ve read anything by Norah Lofts before, but even though she was a prolific historical novelist, I would rate this effort as mediocre.

Here Was a Man attempts to draw most of Raleigh’s life in a short space and does so by a series of vignettes illustrating important events. Although I am not completely familiar with his career, I know that Lofts  has chosen to portray a couple of apocryphal events, in particular the cloak in the mud story, which I believe has no basis in fact. The other serious lack of the novel is any depth of characterization.

The novel begins with Raleigh as a teenager, listening to sailors’ tales and dreaming of traveling the seas. He is also full of ambition for worldly success, an ambition that sometimes works to his disadvantage.

We are told many times about Raleigh’s sense of adventure, but we don’t really feel it. In fact, he seems to spend more time in prison than on his adventures. It is curious, too, that although he has many enemies at court, at least in this novel he has done nothing to earn their enmity. I would doubt that was really the case.

Raleigh is probably a character who could support an interesting and exciting novel, but this is not it. To be fair, it looks like it may have been one of Lofts’ first works.

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