To Hell & High Water

By Tanya Landman

1. Abi: This was another book about a boy losing one of his parents and looking for them. I just did not enjoy the book, partly because at the beginning the main character, Caleb, was pretty pathetic as he could not do anything without his father. At the end of the story he was well rounded and very brave, which seemed an unrealistic transformation. There was some mystery in the book, which is was I normally enjoy, but for some reason this did not appeal to me this  time. The book left me unsure of the time period but I assumed it was in the Georgian period. I did like that we found out what happened to Caleb’s father and I was pleased that he died as it made the story more realistic. The ending was successful as it tied up all of the loose ends. Overall I failed to enjoy this book.

2. India: 15 year old Caleb lives on the streets with his Pa, dealing with looks and remarks of disgust at the colour of his skin everyday. To get by, they perform their handcrafted puppet show daily to get a few scraps of money. When one day a theft takes place, Calebs Pa finds himself framed for the crime and is arrested as a prisoner to be taken away to sea. Caleb is left alone with only the promise that his father will return come hell or high water. Following his Pa’s instructions, he journeys to his Aunts cottage by the seaside to receive a cold and shocking welcome. But, soon he adjusts to the life he now lives with his aunt and her family. When he is taking a walk along the beach to collect some fire wood, he sees a washed up body on the shore. Intrigue and mystery forces Caleb to investigate. Soon enough he realises that the poor corpse is somebody much closer to his heart than he realised. A fight for justice began…

Critically, I found the book to be a good topic to read and find out about but it didn’t actually tell you a lot about the black discrimination. Personally, I think at parts it was quite boring and I didn’t struggle to put the book down. I feel like Tanya could have elaborated a lot more when the plot thickened and became more intense, but instead it just fell flat. The story line had a good basic, but it wasn’t described as well as a gripping story should.

I wouldn’t recommend this boom if your looking into learning about black discrimination as it doesn’t tell you much about the specific period. In parts it describes some spitefulness from the white community, but that was it. I would like to find out more about the black slavery etc., but this book hasn’t caused me any extra interest in the subject. Overall, it didn’t have great description or grip to the plot, and in addition it didn’t have a lot of historical element.

3. Justin: Hell and high water is a story about a boy called Caleb, who finds his Pa dead, washed up on the shore of a beach. Everyone says he’s being silly and that it can’t be his father, but he is determined to prove that the body was his father’s.

This book was very interesting as I was gripped from the very beginning to find out what happened to Pa. I also enjoyed finding out the backstories of some of the different characters and theorising how Pa was killed and his body washed up on shore. My favourite character has to have been Benson, Sir Robert Fairbrother’s lap dog, for the only reason that he’s a complete narcissist and he was completely loyal to his master, even when his life was at risk. This proved to be fatal for him in the last chapter where he was hung for not talking about his master’s whereabouts. It was quite satisfying to see the man who kept insulting and threatening Caleb and his family finally die, but it was also sad that he didn’t have a larger role in keeping the secret of Pa, as I could see Landman developing him further.

As far as the history goes, I think the story was very accurate as I can imagine real people having the same twisted, evil plans that Sir Robert Fairbrother had in the story. Also, in the author’s note, Landman writes that numerous characters, such as Fairbrother, were real people, which I thought was a great addition to the story as it means you can find out more about the characters and obtain a greater understanding of the story.

4. Zaina: This wonderful book is a tale is about a young man‛s attempt to clear his father’s name. When his father is arrested and transported to the Colonies, Caleb is left alone. After a desperate journey in search of an aunt he‛s never met he receives a strange, cold welcome. Then a body washes up on the nearby beach and Caleb is caught up in a terrifying net of lies and intrigue. Soon he and his new family are in mortal danger. This powerful story holds the reader in suspense as it charts the growth of a frightened boy into a brave young man.

To Landman‛s credit, she does not try to ‘dumb down‛ her writing to make it appeal to younger readers, instead preferring to write simply and honestly, keeping her description well within the historical context – this is not one of those novels that simply seem to lecture their audience! At the same time, though, she manages to explore ideas such as racism and stereotypical gender roles in such a way as to leave the reader with a sense of injustice and the absurdity of them. For example, Caleb is rubbish at rowing, throwing up as soon as he steps off dry land, whereas Letty, a seamstress, has been prevented from following her dream of becoming a rower by the restraints of being ‘ladylike‛. I think it‛s an amazing heart touching novel which left me lost for words. Everyone should read it. I am now encouraged to further books by Tanya Landman, as I thoroughly enjoyed her novel.

5. Nizaankan: Caleb and his father are inseparable, two showmen bound by the tie of their new puppet theatre. Caleb’s life was never better, the audience being generous and his father protecting him from any fights about Caleb’s mixed race. Then his father is sentenced to transportation, accused of stealing a purse, and Caleb knows he was framed.

Caleb was alone for the first time in his life and he goes to his aunt he never known he had. He had a cold welcome. Later on his father’s body washes up on the beach and the family pull together to fight the trickery. I really this part of the book because the story was unpredictable. When Caleb saw the body, it had made the story tense and interesting.

Caleb is a character who is strong and brave no matter what he faces and he still remains honest no matter how untruthful his surroundings are. I would want to read more of the author’s book because the book was fantastic and really intrigued me. I would recommend anyone to read the book. 

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