Mosquito Mansion and My Adventures in Mudland

Written by Christopher Hedgethorne
Review by Jo Barton

When twelve-year-old Alexander Drabb, also known as Sandy, is sent to the strange land of mud to live with his uncle George, he has little idea of where he is going or for that matter why he has been sent to a sugar plantation halfway across the world. Sandy’s arrival at the plantation, which is incongruously named Better Hope, or rather more aptly nicknamed Mosquito Mansion, is something of a disappointment to him. His first impression of mudland is of an outlandish and unwelcoming place.

What then follows is well written and lively coming of age story which sees Sandy’s introduction to plantation life and to the concept of slavery. The tentative relationship he develops with his uncle George is fascinating but it is Sandy’s thought-provoking association with the plantation slaves where the real focus of the story lies. His burgeoning friendship with Quaneva, a young slave girl, who is only a little older than himself is nicely thought out and adds weight to the story. The description of life in a nineteenth century Caribbean sugar plantation is well portrayed and the imagery is bright and intense. A real sense of adventure and excitement persists and throughout the story I was reminded of boys-own adventures where everything is done at gung-ho pace. The difficult subject of slavery is tackled in a pragmatic and easy to understand way which neither over dramatizes nor overly sensationalises the difficulties faced during a time when slavery was taken as normal practice.

Aimed at the juvenile market with content that is entirely appropriate for young adult readers, this book sits comfortably within its genre and I have no hesitation in recommending it as an interesting historical read.