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Dawn's Early Light (Williamsburg #1)

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  845 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
Colonial Williamsburg lives again in this rich story which is Elswyth Thane's first novel of American history in her bestselling series. Against a background of Williamsburg's quiet streets, the pomp and glitter of the Palace during the last days of British rule, and the excitement and triumph which swirled through the Raleigh Tavern, we see the people of Williamsburg whom ...more
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published August 31st 2007 by Amereon Limited (first published 1934)
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This is the first in a series of seven historical novels called the Williamsburg Novels, which follow the families of the Days and the Spragues of Williamsburg, Virginia, through over 160 years, many generations, and several wars (from the American Revolution in Dawn's Early Light through the beginning years of World War II in This Was Tomorrow and Homing). I have read them so many times (starting when I was about seven years old) that I practically have them memorized, as have most of the other ...more
After two of my Goodreads friends read this and enjoyed it, I knew I had to read it soon, so I picked it up anticipating something wonderful. And it lived up to, and passed my expectations so much that I had to make sure I had at least the next two books at my disposal.

This is the story of two friends, especially Julian Day.

Julian Day who has recently arrived in America from England, finds all the plans he and his father had laid for their stay in America to be useless and now he hasn't a clue
Jul 06, 2010 Misfit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Julian Day arrives in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1774. His father died on the voyage, but Julian soon makes friends including the Sprague family who take him under their wing. JuliaN finds himself torn between his loyalty to King George and his new friends who want freedom from the crown at all costs. Julian takes the vacant position of schoolmaster and the story focuses on his relationships with the Spragues as well as the two urchins he takes under his wing - Kit (Christopher) and Tibby (Tabith ...more
I found this book accidentally, when I searched "Williamsburg" in my hometown library's database, before making my first (of many) trips there. I didn't get a chance to read it before I went, but read it a couple of weeks after I had gotten back. There was definitely something to it, not reading the book before I went. I think I would have been disappointed had I not found Colonial Williamsburg the same charming, laid-back yet self-confident town that Elswyth Thane had so eloquently portrayed (t ...more
Sep 17, 2014 Hana rated it really liked it
Five stars for the history, two stars for the various 'romances'--for a weighted average of three and a half stars.

This would have been a much stronger book had Elswyth Thane chosen to simply tell the story of Julian Day, a young man who travels from London with his father who is taking up a post in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1774. When his father dies during the voyage, Day is bewildered--left without money or friends or purpose in this strange new land. Julian's story, his character arc, the t
Naomi Sarah
Aug 01, 2015 Naomi Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vintage-books
Okay. Where to start? This book is Amazing. I closed it with happy tears and I started it in fascination.

Elswyth Thane's writing style is beyond glorious. She writes so vividly, and so On Point. Like, the things her characters do and say are so natural and real. Seriously, I can SO see this book as a movie - I so desperately want there to be a movie. But even if there will never be a movie, that's okay, because this book is like watching a movie. You can smell the water when Julian stands on the
This is my second time through the Williamsburg Saga. I love historical fiction, romances, and books set in locales that I am familiar with. This book satisfies all three. I enjoy hearing the politics of Revolutionary War America "first hand" and getting to know some of the prominent personalities a little better. (Ms. Thane, I hope you did your homework and didn't invent these things out of wholecloth!) I love Julian Day and Tibby and their story. I love this book.
Jul 14, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
It seems that many book bloggers are reading or talking about this book of late. I'd never heard of it prior to this summer.

Dawn's Early Light is the first in a series about a family and begins in Williamsburg just prior to the American Revolution. Yes, it is considered a romance, but I found it focuses heavily on historic details, events and people and the romance takes more of a backseat to the battles and the politics. It's been a long time since I've read a historical fiction that focused mo
Oct 28, 2007 Jackie rated it it was amazing
This is historical fiction, based on the revolutionary war. Some romance, too! It was great!
This is what I call an easy reader. A slim volume with only 244 pages, it was a breeze to read! It is also chuck full of history! In the background of the stirrings of the American Revolution, Julian Day arrives from England. His father had applied for a teaching position in Williamsburg, Virginia but died on the voyage. To his surprise, Julian is given a splendid welcome, offered the position meant for his father and decides to stay a while.
He meets several women, the Mawes twins, one of whom i
Mar 13, 2012 Melee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh dear. I did so want to like this more.

Ms. Thane - I can, without second thought, accept a girl falling in love with a ghost - that's wonderful and perfectly unobjectionable! But an eleven year old girl falling in honest-to-goodness-love with a 21 year old man, on the other hand... Please, no. Actually, I found every aspect of Tibby's personality and actions unbelievable.

I'm going to keep reading this series, though; I'm a sucker for a good family saga and maybe I'll like the next installment
May 19, 2008 Lauralyn rated it it was amazing
I know hardly anyone outside my own family who has read these books, but I love them. I think I learned more history from these than from any history class I have ever taken. As I learn more history, things tie in to what I've learned from these books so that I remember better. Some things are definitely dated, such as the anti-German sentiments, but that makes interesting history of its own since those views were popular at the time the books were written. I own the whole series and reread it e ...more
Sarah Hearn
Aug 11, 2016 Sarah Hearn rated it really liked it
This is the first in the Williamsburg series. It tells the story of Julian Day, who travels from England to Virginia in the American colonies in 1774, just in time for the build up to the Revolution. The book is well written, the characters compelling, and the history accurate. The downside is that sometimes the description of battles or maneuvers detract from the story, although they are important to the plot. Here we meet St John Sprague, who becomes Julian's best friend, and who's family is s ...more
Lillian Madson
Oct 21, 2015 Lillian Madson rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 13, 2008 Michele rated it it was amazing
I love Elswyth Thane's Williamsburg series. Since this is the first & sets up the families that intertwine & appear in the subsequent ones it deserves five stars, even though it's not my personal favorite. I prefer less war, more history. Still, we wouldn't have the others without the original, so here's to the Spragues & the Days.
May 17, 2009 Barbara rated it it was amazing
My little 80 year old friend at church loaned me this book, because she heard me say that I really love historical fiction. This one is #1 in this author's series called "The Williamsburg Novels", and was written in 1942. As you can see by my rating, I loved it.
Jun 18, 2013 Pam rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this book. It was very well written and researched and she does a fabulous job recreating the ideals and attitudes of Williamsburg during the Revolutionary War. Some of the storylines were too pat for me, but it was an overall very lovely read.
Jan 13, 2016 Kristine rated it it was amazing
What a delight to discover Elswyth Thane! This book was set in Williamsburg at the onset of the Revolutionary War and contained history, subtle romance and a really neat cast of characters. I can't wait to read book 2 in the series.
May 31, 2007 Emma rated it it was amazing
I loved this book .The first in THE WILLIAMSBURG NOVELS starting from Colonial America to World War II. Tibby is one of my favorite characters of all time. I plan on reading all some day ( on my book shelf). OH THE TIME..............
Amy Edwards
Nov 08, 2014 Amy Edwards rated it really liked it
A favorite series since I first read this book in my girlhood. Fun read.
Jan 07, 2014 Shaina rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written historical fiction about the Revolutionary war. I have never read such a heartfelt account from the eyes of regular people. It is very well researched and delicately delivered. The romance threads are gently woven throughout--never mushy, long, or sappy, always sweet and heartwarming. A single glance or a simple long-awaited letter are always more powerful than the most passionate kissing scene if you ask me, and dear ole Elswyth rocks the subtle slow-grown love. It ...more
May 09, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
This is light historical/romance fiction, but with a bit more "heft" to it, not just fluff. This first book in the series takes place during the Revolutionary era of colonial America. Thane has incorporated plenty of historical figures, events, and settings--all fairly seamlessly--into the story line. Despite (or because of?) struggles and some poor choices in her personal life, Thane seemed able to pour a lot of energy and heart into her writing. Enjoyable cozy reading with some historical valu ...more
May 20, 2013 Emmy rated it really liked it
What a good book! It's been a while since I've read an older book like this and I think I had been missing this style of writing, where the merit is based on the writing as much as the story (these days I've been focusing solely on the story).

The book is packed with history. At times it did feel like info-dumping and I didn't always need to know the movements of every troop throughout the entire war, but you can't deny that Thane did her research. It can read heavy (at times) with all of that in
Beverly Gray
Jan 24, 2012 Beverly Gray rated it it was amazing
Elswyth Thane is an old "friend" and I have enjoyed her books from my teens when my Mother introduced her to me. DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT is the first book in her Williamsburg, VA series (seven books in total). This one brings to life the Revolutionary War. It should suit the tastes of those who enjoy historical fiction and family saga. Her works tend a bit to the feminine although I would not class the books as historical romance. Her research is impecable and her characters vivid and appealing.

Jul 17, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I picked it up at a library sale not knowing the author. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a fascinating look into the Revolutionary War era.
The story centers around a newly arrived young man, Julian Day, from England, suddenly left on his own by the death of his father on the journey overseas. He is immediately taken in with all kindness by St. John Sprague and his aunt who become a second family to him. The whole community is welcoming and
Maria Elmvang
Aug 04, 2012 Maria Elmvang rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maria by: Wyyknot
A 2.5 star review.

It has taken me ridiculously long time to finish this book, and I do feel bad about giving it such a low rating, but considering how long I've been reading it, I can't in good conscience claim that it was any better than ok.

The book is split up into three parts. The first part where Julian arrives to the USA and get settles I really liked. That part was a breeze to get through. I loved reading about his friendship with St. John and his job as a teacher - not to mention Kit and
May 02, 2016 Roberta rated it it was ok
I remember devouring the Williamsburg novels when I was about 11 or 12. I thought they were so romantic and I loved the historical setting. Funny rereading one of them now. Very simple and straightforward, with clear roles for women and men. I think it was the family that drew me. I wanted to be part of that family and follow my beloeved off to war. Now I see the bias, especially against women and indigenous people and the casual assumption that the American (read Christian) way was best.
Jan 19, 2012 Mallory rated it really liked it
The Revolutionary War is one of the most fascinating time periods in history for me. This novel brings Williamsburg to life during that turbulent time and peoples it with characters both real and imagined. We get to see this land through the eyes of Julian Day, an Englishman just off the ship who has come to teach school. He is immediately overwhelmed by the beauty and vitality of Virginia, a place he had supposed to still be backwoods wilderness. He is also astonished by the talk he hears again ...more
Dec 12, 2014 Ellen rated it liked it
I decided to read this after seeing the many positive reviews on Goodreads, but unfortunately, the novel fell short of my expectations. It was a decent book, but I felt as though the language went from flowery to stilted rather abruptly, and a good chunk of the characters irritated me in some manner. I was drawn to the story because I heard the words "Williamsburg" and "Revolutionary War" - sadly, those alone weren't enough to make me fall in love with the book, unlike so many other readers. I d ...more
Jun 25, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Thane is most famous for her "Williamsburg" series of historical fiction. The books cover several generations of a single family from the American Revolutionary War up to World War II. The action moves from Williamsburg in later books to England, New York City and Richmond, Virginia.
More about Elswyth Thane...

Other Books in the Series

Williamsburg (7 books)
  • Yankee Stranger (Williamsburg, #2)
  • Ever After (Williamsburg, #3)
  • The Light Heart (Williamsburg, #4)
  • Kissing Kin (Williamsburg, #5)
  • This Was Tomorrow (Williamsburg, #6)
  • Homing (Williamsburg, #7)

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