Eve Cartright, twelve year-old English-born girl of African origin lives a precarious life with her mother in Elizabethan London. Hunger threatens continually. No one can be trusted. Exploitation is a constant threat. Eve’s mother is an excellent swimmer and diver, and saves Eve from drowning when a boat capsizes in the Thames. They then set out on a series of terrifying adventures in the hope of finding security by means of extremely hazardous diving for treasure.
This is a powerful novel based on historical reality, such as the fact that divers of African origin were used to search for treasure from sunken ships. The story is full of tension and excitement. Physical sensation is powerfully conveyed. The issue of racism is realistically confronted. One of the most moving and convincing aspects of this book is the depiction of the periodic bouts of profound depression that overwhelm Eve’s normally strong and resourceful mother. Described appropriately as ‘sinking’, when they strike mother-daughter roles are reversed and Eve must become provider and protector.
There is one historical figure in the novel, African diver Francis Jacques, who is a beacon of hope for Eve and her mother. But like all the other characters in this fascinating book, he is not stereotypical. Realistic characterisation is one of the great strengths of Lawrence’s writing here.
The book is one of a series from Scholastic designed to retrieve the contributions made to English history by immigrant people. A very timely enterprise indeed.