The Brief and True Report of Temperance Flowerdew by Denise Heinze is a short (hey, the title doesn’t lie) and vibrant read about two women surviving in the starving Jamestown colony in 1609. Temperance Flowerdew and her maid, Lily, set out with the Virginia Company fleet to sail across the ocean for a second chance at life. Events bode ill when Lily, who posseses clairvoyant abilities, sees chaos and death in the journey ahead.
When they arrive at Jamestown, not all the ships have survived the terrible storm on the crossing. Supplies and settlers have disappeared to the bottom of the ocean, leaving the Jamestown colony to run on fumes through what we now call “the starving time.”
What this story comes down to is survival and friendship. What is a person willing to do to stay alive, no matter if it goes against her beliefs or morals? Can self-sacrifice and love outweigh the instinctual drive for survival?
This book reminded me a lot of a true story that stuck with me when I visited the site of the Jamestown colony a few years ago. Human remains were found in a trash pit during archeological excavations and after careful reconstruction, the face of a teenage girl emerged. She is known as Jane, most likely a servant, who willingly or unwillingly gave her life to physically sustain others. At the time I thought it would make for a great novel, and I still do.
Although this book isn’t about Jane, there are similarities–and Temperance Flowerdew was a real historical figure. If you’re intrigued by Jane’s story or about the history of Jamestown, this short novel is sure to entertain, although I think it could have been fleshed (no pun intended..?) out more.
The Brief and True Report of Temperance Flowerdew will be released in the US on Sept. 29, 2020