The literary life of EDWARD JAMES, author,reviewer, occasional poet and former pension adviser to the government of Kyrgyzstan
A few weeks ago I gave you the Prologue to my forthcoming novel The Frozen Dream. Now I’ve added the first section of the first chapter.
You will remember that my story is based on one of the narratives in Richard Hakluyt’s Navigations first published in 1589. In the dying months of the reign of the boy king Edward VI a group of London merchants launch a daring new scheme to rescue England from its current economic crisis, to send a fleet of three purpose-built ships across the North Pole to open a trade route to China.
Hakluyt’s narrative begins with the meeting at which the promoters of the enterprise present their project to a group of potential investors. This seemed to me to be a good way to introduce the main characters, fictional and historical, to my readers right at the outset. Most of the people to whom I showed the draft disagreed, saying that to start with a company meeting was the worst way to start a novel. Jump in to the action, they pleaded, so I started with the storm that scattered the fleet in the Norwegian Sea, bringing in the land-based characters in flashback. However, I was unhappy with this and In my latest revision of the text I relented, and went back to the original structure, telling the story in the old-fashioned chronological way. I welcome your comments.
The snippet you will find on my page titled The Frozen Dream introduces my main female character, Kate Thomas, a young widow. I was told she was too assertive for a woman of the Tudor age, but there were women among the investors in the Cathay Company and some Tudor women, or at least widows, could be quite assertive. My own college at Oxford was founded by a woman (Dorothy Wadham) in the early years of the reign of James I, and she took a very active part in securing the royal charter and in selecting the fellows – and she was a Catholic. In the forthcoming political upheaval my fictional Kate becomes one of the main shareholders in the company.
Although Kate is a fictional character all the other main characters in the ensuing chapter are historical figures. The meeting, which actually took place, was probably held in London, but I have set in in Penshurst Place, Sir Henry Sidney’s newly inherited country seat in West Kent.
These first paragraphs are devoted to chit-chat among the audience before the first presentation, bringing out the sense of crisis, economic, social and political, as England heads towards a new reign.