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Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and…
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Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith (original 2001; edition 2002)

by William Vollmann

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204396,497 (3.72)7
"Half a thousand years ago, a young Indian "princess" named Pocahontas might or might not have rescued an English mercenary named John Smith from being executed at her father's command. She might or might not have been in love with him. Legend has it that thanks to Pocahontas, the colony at Jamestown was saved, and the English and the Indians became friends. Of course, they didn't. Massacres occurred on both sides until the Indians were dispossessed. And Pocahontas never married John Smith; kidnapped, brainwashed, and held hostage by the colonists, she found herself the bride of an ambitious tobacco planter who despised the culture she came from. Shipped off to England as a curiosity, she died young." "In Argall, William T. Vollmann alternates between extravagant Elizabethan language and gritty realism in an attempt to dig beneath the legend, and the betrayals, disappointments, and atrocities behind it, in order to imagine what the lives of John Smith and Pocahontas might really have been like. His array of characters also includes Pocahontas's loving and anxious father, the despot Powhatan, and her uncle Opechancanough, who knows how to hold his rage against the English until just the right moment; Smith's patron, Lord Willoughby, and Lieutenant George Percy, fourth president of the Jamestown colony, whose tainted nobility draws him into genocide. Behind all of them stands the terrifying figure of Captain Samuel Argall, who will kidnap Pocahontas, burn Indian towns, and bring black slavery to North America."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)
Member:asbkito
Title:Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith
Authors:William Vollmann
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2002), Paperback, 768 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:
Tags:To read, Vollmann (William T.)

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Argall by William Vollmann (2001)

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Argall! The third of the seven dreams, and the fourth that I've read. By now I'm fully committed to this series, as every book has been solid, and very different in style. So far The Rifles stands as my favourite book of the series, and also my favourite book by Vollmann. It also may just be my most favourite book.

I would rank Argall as possibly my least favourite of the four dreams, but note that I still really liked this book. It just so happens that Fathers & Crows was incredible, and The Ice Shirt was also fantastic. So you know, steep competition.

The first part, and the majority of Argall, follows John Smith, often facetiously referred to as Sweet John. The whole tone of this book is sort of facetious, or sarcastic... or something along those lines. This book, more than any of the others, is mostly from the point of view of the Europeans (Sweet John, Argall/Argull/Arkill, John Rolfe, etc.) and as such takes their sides on all matters - but again, this is done in jest.
John wants adventure, and will find it damnit, and will possibly lie about it later when he writes of them in his True Travels. He reads his Machiavelli in order to guarantee his meeting with Captain Fortune. After a failed romance and then fighting the Turkes and being captured (and another possible failed romance), and a bunch of other happenings, John is off to Virginia! Remember Roanoke.

John is captured and almost killed, but the great Powhatan's daughtor Amonute/Pocahontus/(and later)Rebecca saves him - and as imagined in this dream - because she finds him curious and wants him as a play-thing (but not in a creepy way...)
The colonists are awful at feeding themselves, so they go about getting the Indians to feed them... which understandably grows sour over time.

Eventually John is out of the story as he has an accident with some gun powder and is sent to England.

Our titular character Argall arrives (or did he arrive earlier?) Argall is given an almost mystical persona in this book...and I don't really understand why... but it was fun, so who am I to question? Argall is essentially a dastardly pirate, and eventually kidnaps Pocahontas in order to get the Indians to be obedient to the colonists. I really enjoyed this part of the book, about Pocahontas and the Reverand and John Rolfe. It's sad, obviously. Pocahontas becomes Rebecca and marries Rolfe.

Eventually Argall, Rebecca and Rolfe travel to England, and Rebecca and John have a last meeting, and then Rebecca dies.

Then some further history of Virginia (which was quite good) and so ends the tale.

Was all of that spoiler? Can we have spoilers in historical fiction?

The old-english style that this book was written in was annoying for possibly the first 100 pages, and then my brain just gave over and I didn't even notice it. It helps, I think, in reminding us that, having taken the colonists point of view for the majority of this book, he isn't being sincere when he feels sorry for the starving incompetant Europeans, or when he hails their victories against the Salvages.

Some highlights are: almost any of the many massacres - from both sides - that take place; Powhatan's memories of Amonute when she was a child; every section that Pocahontis is in...; and William the Blinds blind devotion to Captain Argall.

I wish this book had more of Vollmann's incredible prose on the natural landscape or people's thoughts... This book was a lot of "this happened, then this happened", instead of ruminating on it all with dense beautiful lyrical prose, as he does a lot more in The Ice Shirt and The Rifles.
I also wish this book had more of Vollmann's interuptions from the present to give his 5 cents. I love those 5 cents...

Anyways, great book from a great series. I still can't believe these have been written, and are still being written and published. What an undertaking.

Start from the very beginning, and read in order of publication, is my suggestion if you are wanting to dig in. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
Another massive installment of the Seven Dreams series. Anti-romantic. The ornate Elizabethan style reminds one of Mason and Dixon, which is also excellent, but wholly different in tone. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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"Half a thousand years ago, a young Indian "princess" named Pocahontas might or might not have rescued an English mercenary named John Smith from being executed at her father's command. She might or might not have been in love with him. Legend has it that thanks to Pocahontas, the colony at Jamestown was saved, and the English and the Indians became friends. Of course, they didn't. Massacres occurred on both sides until the Indians were dispossessed. And Pocahontas never married John Smith; kidnapped, brainwashed, and held hostage by the colonists, she found herself the bride of an ambitious tobacco planter who despised the culture she came from. Shipped off to England as a curiosity, she died young." "In Argall, William T. Vollmann alternates between extravagant Elizabethan language and gritty realism in an attempt to dig beneath the legend, and the betrayals, disappointments, and atrocities behind it, in order to imagine what the lives of John Smith and Pocahontas might really have been like. His array of characters also includes Pocahontas's loving and anxious father, the despot Powhatan, and her uncle Opechancanough, who knows how to hold his rage against the English until just the right moment; Smith's patron, Lord Willoughby, and Lieutenant George Percy, fourth president of the Jamestown colony, whose tainted nobility draws him into genocide. Behind all of them stands the terrifying figure of Captain Samuel Argall, who will kidnap Pocahontas, burn Indian towns, and bring black slavery to North America."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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