Marele Day is the author of the bestselling literary novel, Lambs of God, and the Claudia Valentine mysteries, including The Last Tango of Delores Delgado, winner of the American Shamus Crime Fiction Award.
It took a man of courage, strength, and integrity to map the Pacific and further England's scientific and geographical explorations in that vast uncharted region, and it took a woman of equal character and determination to support him. While Capt. James Cook was away on his voyages, his wife, Elizabeth, raised their six children and buried three. They had been married 14 years when he was killed in Hawaii, and over half of those years he had been at sea on his three famous voyages. What sort of woman could endure a widowhood that was four times longer than her marriage and outlive all of her six children by nearly 40 years? Australian novelist Day (Lambs of God) explores this question, but her fictionalized biography, while rich in historical detail, gives only a partial answer. It remains a better portrait of the age than of the woman, and the very details that make it so representative of the age rob it of its human element and diminish the reader's involvement with its heroine. Recommended for larger historical fiction collections.-Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In the epilogue of her fictionalised biography of Elizabeth Cook, Marele Day points out that a fountain in a southern Sydney park is the only known memorial in the world to the great circumnavigator's loyal wife. In Mrs Cook, she obviously sets out to redress the balance-doing so with historical insight and eloquence. Whilst James was discovering and charting new territory around the globe, Elizabeth (who rarely left London) bore and raised her children mostly alone, spending little more than four years with her husband in the first 13 years of their marriage. She was fated to outlive all six of her progeny and to mourn 56 years as a widow before dying in her 94th year. Day shows great versatility and meticulous research in this offering, so different in genre to her earlier works. Mrs Cook often reads like interesting narrative history, filled with insight into the Cooks' lives and presenting, as minor characters, contemporary celebrities such as Lord Sandwich, Benjamin Franklin and Dr Johnston. Alongside the historical facts are the imagined letters and conversations between James, Elizabeth and her circle, the two seamlessly woven together to give the reader the best of both worlds. Day provides fitting tribute to the little-known character of Elizabeth Cook whilst offering the reader a rollicking good yarn-at once a love story and historical drama. Scott Whitmont is the owner of Lindfield Bookshop. C. 2002 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors