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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE HILL (article first published : 2005-08-22)

The Hill by Craig Higginson is a book that is easy to read. Perhaps it is because the story is packed neatly and well-written. Perhaps it is because it relates to parts of the reader’s psyche; and I am sure any reader would be able to identify with this story in some way or the other. Or perhaps it is because Craig Higginson has told a story so well that it is able to absorb you?

Whatever the reason, The Hill is fiction that contains elements of a cinematic quality, keeping you interested and involved from beginning to end.

The tale of Andrew Hughes is told with sensitivity, honesty and harsh reality. This 11-year-old’s world is opened up for inspection, and the reader is witness to his most personal thoughts and experiences, at time enlightening and at times unbearable.

The focus on its Drakensberg setting adds scenery to the story that makes it all the more real. Higginson uses a good dose of descriptive elements for the landscape, taking the reader deep into the wilderness that Andrew experiences as his sanctuary. This is pinnacle as you focus on Andrew’s relationship with nature, his tolerance of relationships other than those deemed ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ for a boy his age.

Andrew remains the evergreen protagonist, keeping the reader engrossed while a slideshow of events take place; his relationship with the boys at school in 1980’s South Africa is as dynamic as the politics of the day, swinging from the cruel world of bullies to the bonds of best friends and their dependencies on each other. Then there’s the bizarre relationship with Mr Griffin; a twisted tale of boyhood trust complicated by adult desires and manipulation. Andrew’s relationship with his mother and sister are numbed by the truth underlying the façade, while his quest for freedom and a sense of reality drive him over the edge.

A great story well told, The Hill is published in paperback by Jacana ISBN 1-770009-051-7 and retails at R95.00. - Ruby Bernard




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