Book Review: Call upon the Water, a novel by Stella Tillyard

Sitting here, Medium streaming on the Fire Stick, just trying to figure out what to write about. I highly doubt anyone is interested in hearing how the dishes beckon to me, urging me to get them washed before dinner. I’m absolutely certain you couldn’t care less about the fact that the dryer is buzzing at me as I type, reminding me I still have yet another load to wash.

Book reviews are always a hit

Maybe you’d like to hear about a book I read. Though my reading has majorly slowed as a result of my thyroid crashing, I did manage to finish one not too long ago. It was an ARC I won in a Goodreads giveaway.

I am an engineer and a measured man of the world. I prefer to weigh everything in the balance, to calculate and to plan. Yet my own heart is going faster than I can now count.

In 1649, Jan Brunt arrives in Great Britain from the Netherlands to work on draining and developing an expanse of marshy wetlands known as the Great Level. It is here in this wild country that he meets Eliza, a local woman whose love overturns his ordered vision. Determined to help her strive beyond her situation, Jan is heedless of her devotion to her home and way of life. When she uses the education Jan has given her to sabotage his work, Eliza is brutally punished, and Jan flees to the New World.

In the American colonies, profiteers on Manatus Eyland are hungry for viable land to develop, and Jan’s skills as an engineer are highly prized. His prosperous new life is rattled, however, on a spring morning when a boy delivers a note that prompts him to remember the Great Level, and confront all that was lost there. Eliza has made it to the New World and is once again using the education Jan gave her to bend the landscape—this time to find her own place of freedom.

Call upon the Water, a novel (aka The Great Level) by Stella Tillyard

I finished this book weeks ago while waiting at the clinic. I’ve struggled to give it a review because I’m not sure just how to review it. I enjoyed it. If I was assigning it stars, I’d give it four [which I will do on Goodreads and Amazon].

As for how to write an actual review, I’m just not certain. Thoughts on the table? Alright. Here we go…

part journal/ part love letter

Have you ever written a letter with no intention of mailing it? Have you ever journaled as a way of talking to someone you’ve been missing? That is what Jan does in Call upon the Water, a novel.

Historically accurate

Call upon the Water, a novel left me feeling like a voyeur delving into the private diary of a young Dutch engineer working on his first project far from home.

Jan pours his soul into each entry

I was acutely aware of his triumphs and failures. I felt his heart soar, and I felt it break. I followed along with his progress on that first project, and I was invested in its success. I wanted him to do well.

Maybe I was a little too invested

I was disappointed by Jan’s New Amsterdam entries. Admittedly, I think this had more to do with the story not playing out how I had envisioned it. I was so certain I knew what was still to come.


When I found myself suddenly reading Eliza’s diary, I was more than a little caught off guard. Though unexpected, it was nice to have her side of the story. Her words did nothing to thwart my expectations.

life exactly as it always is — unpredictable.

The final entries of this voyeuristic journey weren’t what I was expecting. They did, however, leave me ready to tear apart grandma’s attic for more of Jan’s journals. You’ll have to pick up a copy and see for yourself.


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