New Bern: 1710 in the Carolinas
This novel, dealing with the early settlers of New Bern in the Carolinas, some of whom include the author’s ancestors, is plainly a labor of love. Waters has a great affection for the state of North Carolina and its people, and he has a disarming sense of humor, as when he expounds upon the mosquito who took down a governor.
Unfortunately, New Bern doesn’t quite work as a novel. Too often, the author hijacks his own novel by adding commentary in his own voice, sometimes to expand upon the history behind the story he’s telling, other times to tell us a bit about his family history. This can be charming in a way, but it constantly takes the reader out of the story, as when the author interrupts his characters in mid-conversation to explain the background of the term “Jolly Roger.” Sometimes the digressions go on for so long that the reader forgets that he or she is reading a novel.
One almost wishes that instead of attempting to shape his material into a novel, Waters had simply presented it as a book of historical anecdotes. That being said, those interested in local history, and North Carolina history in particular, will find a great deal to enjoy here; for its historical tidbits, this novel would be a pleasant companion for a trip to the North Carolina coast.