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Review of Castor's AwayMay 28 2003
- Published on Amazon.com
Hester Burton's forte is English Historical fiction, written for young adults. Her research is impeccable and she has the ability to get inside the minds of the young people living through an intense and important time in history, telling what they were thinking and feeling, and how they met the challenges with courage and integrity. Castor's Away is about the battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic wars and features the Henchman family: the father, who is a family doctor, his wife, and their three children. The family has come to spend some of the summer holidays with their aunt, who lives on a farm near the sea. After a great storm the children find a soldier who was washed ashore from a transport ship which was wrecked by the storm. The other soldiers had been rescued, but this one was apparently dead, so no one had attempted to rescue him. The children run for their father, who gently examines the soldier and when he detects a warmth about the soldier's heart and he decides to try to resussitate him. They carry the soldier back to the farmhouse kitchen, and using a kitchen bellows, warm cloths, and hours of pressing on his chest and lifting his arms to expell the air, the soldier actually revives. The whole family is deeply touched by this miracle that they have been privileged to participate in, and the young man himself is endearing. To their horror, when his regiment captain comes to reclaim him, they find that he is charged with being drunk on duty and sentenced with 200 lashes, which in his weakened condition, will surely kill him. The Doctor pleads for his life, and the injustice of sentencing a man so harshly when he has just been revived, especially as he believes that the soldier is mischarged. The captain is adamant in position, and refuses to consider the Doctor's requests. The children are determined to rescue their soldier. This they manage to do, with some surprising results. This book is well written, fast paced, sometimes intense, and based on an actual event in history, although the children themselves are created by the author.