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Sellars, Walter
St. John's, Breakwater, 1992. 93pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 1-55081-014-6. CIP

Grades 6 to 9/Ages 11 to 14

Reviewed by Anne Kelly

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

Hard Aground is the story of Ralph Eraser, a Canadian who was posted to Goose Bay, Labrador, during World War II. In 1965 he returned to Labrador to get to know the people better and to solve a wartime mystery.

Why had his station received messages from a German submarine/located inside Labrador? Ralph is joined by two others who are also seeking the answer to the riddle ex-airman Frank Baird and Karl Runsted, grandson of the submarine's commander.

The story is written in the first person, and this is one of its major weaknesses. The use of the first person does not give readers any special insights, but it does limit our background information. Historical details not known to Ralph (or the reader) can be provided only through dialogue; as a result, much of the dialogue in the book is stilted and unnatural. The characters do not have conversations; they tell stories, much as a documentary TV show would do.

The theme humanity and compassion do exist even in wartime is a touching one. The basic plot the search for a lost German submarine twenty years after the end of the war is a good one. Unfortunately, the search is too easy, the characters too pat, the events too coincidental. The three searchers being in Goose Bay at the same time that the lone survivor of the submarine decides to tell his story is highly unlikely. The relationship between Ben and Jenny, two young Labrador residents who help in the search, is trite, sentimental and unrealistic. Hard Aground is well researched. It is not well written.

Hard Aground is a mediocre book; it has a strong theme and good research but is oversimplified and shallow in plot.

Anne Kelly is a substitute teacher for the Dartmouth District School Board in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

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