Mohawk Valley

Written by Ronald Welch
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1755. When young Alan Carey is wrongfully accused of cheating at cards, his father, Lord Aubigny, sends him to Ashwater, the 3000-acre family estate in America. It’s on the Mohawk River north of New York, and its cash crop is furs. But it’s doing suspiciously badly and needs sorting out.

This is a coming of age book: Alan is large, clumsy and hot-tempered. He also lacks self-confidence. But he’s willing to learn; on board ship, he learns to climb the rigging and does gun drill with the crew – useful when a French privateer attacks. Once in Boston, he’s introduced to backwoodsman, Jake Winter, who will teach him how to survive in the forest. But Jake does not think much of this young nobleman. Can Alan earn his respect? And does Alan have what it takes to dismiss the dishonest Ashwater bailiff? The story moves on to General Wolfe and the British army’s attack on Quebec; if they can capture it, it will spell death to the French hold on Canada. Naturally, Alan is in the thick of it.

Having visiting Quebec and seen the sheer cliff face of the Heights of Abraham scaled by Wolfe and 5000 men in 1759, I know that Ronald Welch has done his research. His account of early British history in America and Canada is thrilling – even if part of one doesn’t approve (Alan’s intention to fell the entire forest, for example). I also enjoyed the way that the tragic story of Duncan Campbell meeting his ghostly nemesis at Ticonderoga – celebrated in R. L. Stevenson’s poem – gets a look in. And William Stobbs’ splendid illustrations deserve a mention, too.

Boys of ten plus should enjoy Alan’s deeds of derring-do, and, at the same time, learn about a neglected bit of our national story.

Ed. note: To purchase this title, which is not available on Amazon, see the publisher’s site.