Monday, 26 October 2015

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman: A fast and furious tale of adventure on the high seas


In a wicked world, can an honest man survive?

1752. Devon. England.

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.


Review by Rhian Ivory
I read Buffalo Solider on holiday this summer (once I’d got it back off my husband) and found myself talking about it, in fact I couldn’t shut up about it. My mum ordered it the next day and had finished it by the weekend and the one thing we all kept coming back to was THAT VOICE. Tanya Landman writes with such conviction that it feels as if someone is sitting next to you whispering their story into your ear so when Hell and High Water landed on my door mat I was excited but also nervous. Would I have the same intimate reading experience with this book as I’d had with Buffalo Solider? Surely she couldn’t pull it off again and would I really care as much about Caleb in Hell and High Water as I did about Charlie in Buffalo Solider? Reader, she did pull it off and I cared just as much, let me tell you why.
The opening scene features a Punch and Judy show which is described in such detail you feel as if you are part of the audience, watching the show build with the same sense of anticipation as the crowd. It is clear that Landman has seen a show or two in her time because she evokes the scene in a skilful and detailed manner. But this isn’t to be a straightforward story about a father and son touring the county, polishing their puppets and handing around the cap for coins because disaster soon strikes when Caleb’s father is wrongly accused of theft. Caleb is left alone in the world without his guide, his best friend and his companion to not only show him the ropes of the trade but also take care of him in a world which is prejudiced against a boy of mixed race.

Caleb knows of one person who may help him, his father’s sister who is a maid in North Devon. Caleb is forced to find his way alone to his aunt’s house, knock at her door and place himself in a vulnerable position. His character is the backbone of the book and the reader is with him every step of the way as he fights injustice, mistrust and judgement all based on the colour of his skin. He tries his best to find work locally but isn’t given much of chance. Landman plays with gender and convention cleverly by giving Caleb the traditionally viewed feminine skills of a seamstress and Lettie (his aunt’s stepdaughter) the more masculine traits of a seaman. Together they make the perfect pair but get off to quite a bad start.

What stayed with me long after I finished the novel is the burning sense of injustice, the lack of equality for Caleb and Lettie and the class system is once again examined under Landman’s microscopic lens exposing the differences between the rich and the poor, the corruption that power can bring and the lack of agency Caleb and Lettie suffer from.

But happily there’s hope, phew!  The hope comes from Caleb and Letty’s strength of character, intelligence, bravery and overriding sense of justice all neatly tied up in a tender and delicate love story binding the themes together throughout this fast and furious tale of adventure on the high seas.

About the author
Tanya studied for a degree in English Literature at Liverpool University before working in a bookshop, an arts centre and a zoo. Since 1992 Tanya has been part of Storybox Theatre working as a writer, administrator and performer - a job which has taken her to festivals all over the world. She lives with her husband, Rod Burnett, and two sons, Isaac and Jack, in Devon.
Tanya had no ambition to write until Waking Merlin popped into her head a few years ago; but now she can't seem to stop writing! She says it's the best job ever - being allowed to spend hours staring into space, daydreaming...
Follow Tanya Landman on Facebook
and twitter @tanya_landman 
Tanya's Carnegie speech

About the reviewer

Rhian was born in Swansea but moved to the Brecon Beacons where she went to school until 11. She then moved all the way across the border to Hereford. She returned to Wales to study English Literature at Aberystwyth. She trained as a Drama and English teacher and wrote her first novel during her first few years in teaching.
 She got her first publishing deal at 26 and went on to write three more novels for Bloomsbury. She took a break to have three children and during this time taught Creative Writing and also a Children’s Literature course for the Open University. 
The Boy who drew the Future is her fifth novel, she’s finished writing her sixth and is halfway through her seventh.
She is a National Trust Writer in Residence, a Patron of Reading and  a WoMentor. 
You can follow Rhian on Twitter and on Facebook.


1 comment:

Penny Dolan said...

Have heard great things about "Hell and Highwater" and your review certainly confirms this, Rhian.

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