As England descends into civil war, John Tradescant the Younger, gardener to King Charles I, finds his loyalties in question, his status an ever-growing danger to his family. Fearing royal defeat and determined to avoid serving the rebels, John escapes to the royalist colony of Virginia, a land bursting with fertility that stirs his passion for botany. Only the native American peoples understand the forest, and John is drawn to their way of life just as they come into fatal conflict with the colonial settlers. Torn between his loyalty to his country and family and his love for a Powhatan girl who embodies the freedom he seeks, John has to find himself before he is prepared to choose his direction in the virgin land.
In this enthralling, freestanding sequel to Earthly Joys, Gregory combines a wealth of gardening knowledge with a haunting love story that spans two continents and two cultures, making Virgin Earth a tour de force of revolutionary politics and passionate characters.
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April 05, 2006
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Excerpt from Virgin Earth by Philippa Gregory
Winter 1638, at Sea
He woke to the sound of the moving ship, the creaking of the timbers and the aching sigh of the full sails spread, the sudden abrupt rattle of a pulley as a sail was reefed in, the drumming of booted feet on the deck just above his face, the holler of an order, and the continual attack of the sea ' the bang of the waves against the prow and the groan of the tiny ship as she climbed up one wave and then wallowed and turned to confront another.
He had slept and woken to this ceaseless din for six long weeks and now he found it familiar and soothing. It meant that the little ship was soldiering on through the terrifying expanse of wind and water, still headed westwards, faithful to the hope that westwards would be the new land. Sometimes J imagined their progress as a seagull might see it looking down, the vast waste of sea and the fragile ship with its lamps burning at dusk, headed trustfully toward where they had last seen the sun.
He had set sail in deep grief, in flight from grief. Even now he dreamed of his wife with bright joyful immediacy, dreamed that she came to him on board the ship and laughingly complained that there was no need for him to set sail, no need for him to run off to Virginia alone, for see! here she was on board herself, and it had all been a game ' the plague, her long days of dying, the terrible white-faced grief of their daughter ' all a May game, and here she was well and strong, and when would they go home again Then the noises of the ship were a terrible interruption and J would pull his damp blanket over his face and try to cling to the dream of Jane and the certainty that she was alive and everything was well.
He could not. He had to wake to the bleak truth that she was dead, and his business half bankrupt, his father hanging on to their house and their nursery garden and their collection of rarities by the old combination of luck and the love of his friends, while J played the part of the indulged son ' fleeing from all of it, calling it a venture, a chance at wealth, but knowing it was an escape.