Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
|Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper|
|Reviewer: Margaret Young|
|Summary: Susan Cooper takes us to the New World where once again the dark battles the light, but this time it is the darkness of greed, ignorance and bigotry.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: August 2013|
|Publisher: Bodley Head|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted for the 2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal
I loved Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising Sequence, but as surprised as I am to say this - this book is far better. While still suitable for older children, this is definitely a book that adults will want to read as well. The book is more mature than her early works, and while obviously gifted from the start, Cooper's talents have matured as well. This book is nothing short of a masterpiece.
This will be a difficult book to review because there is a brilliant twist to this story which I would never risk spoiling. The story focusses on two boys. Little Hawk is 11 years old when the story begins. As part of the custom of his tribe, he must face three months alone in the deep of winter with only a tomahawk, a knife, and his bow and arrows. This ordeal will test the boy to his limits, and if he survives he will be counted as a man. But as trying as this time will be, what awaits him when he returns will be far worse.
The other protagonist, John Wakely is only seven years old when he meets Little Hawk. His innocence and openness touch Little Hawk, who while still young has lost all traces of childhood. John Wakely is part of new settlement of Englishmen in what was once the Native American village of Patuxet, but with original inhabitants wiped out by plague, the English settlers have taken the land, renaming it Plymouth. Wakely's happy childhood comes to end soon as well and both boys' fates will be interwoven as will the fate of their people.
In the beginning the Native Americans are helping the white settlers, who seem too weak and foolish to survive without assistance, but as more and more settlers arrive and their demand for land grows, so do the tensions between the different groups of people. Self righteousness rears its ugly head, and horrible crimes are committed by men who believe God is on their side. Cooper does not take a naïve or romantic view of either side. Instead this is a very thought-provoking examination of human nature and the good and bad within us all. Cooper addresses prejudice and hatred and devastating results of this but despite some horrific events, this is not a dark or depressing read. The book has an undeniably strong moral message - the requirement for good men to stand up and do something even if outnumbered and with little hope of success. Ghost Hawk resonates with the need to refuse to go quietly into the dark, but it also leaves the reader with hope in the goodness of man as well.
But while you read the book, you will not be thinking of the morals or the messages. Cooper completely transports the reader to another place and time. She makes both the characters and the location come completely to life so you become an active participant as the events unfold. Reading this book I can each character clearly in my mind and feel their hopes and fears. I can hear the bustle of the village or the wind through the trees of the marshy island. I can imagine the grey seas, and the changing colour of the leaves. This is one of the most moving and most memorable books I have ever read.
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