5 stars out of 5.
Austria, 1944. Jakob, a gypsy boy – half Roma, half Yenish – runs, as he has been told to do. With shoes of sack cloth, still bloodstained with another’s blood, a stone clutched in one hand, a small wooden box in the other. He runs blindly, full of fear, empty of hope. For hope lies behind him in a green field with a tree that stands shaped like a Y.
He knows how to read the land, the sky. When to seek shelter, when not. He has grown up directing himself with the wind and the shadows. They are familiar to him. It is the loneliness that is not. He has never, until this time, been so alone.
‘Don’t be afraid, Jakob,’ his father has told him, his voice weak and wavering. ‘See the colours, my boy,’ he has whispered. So he does. Rusted ochre from a mossy bough. Steely white from the sap of the youngest tree. On and on, Jakob runs.
Spanning from one world war to another, taking us across England, Switzerland and Austria, Jakob’s Colours is about the painful legacies passed down from one generation to another, finding hope where there is no hope and colour where there is no colour.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.
The story told, takes us across England, Austria and Switzerland spanning the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s telling the tale of Jakob (an eight year old Gypsy Boy), his English Mother Lor and his Roma Father Yavy through separate yet interwoven story arcs that focus on the childhoods of Lor and Yavy, how they meet and the subsequent building of their relationship and finally the plight of Jakob and his Romany family during The Porrajmos (Gypsy Holocaust).
Jakob’s Colours is a book that is divided into five parts with each part advancing the chronological story arcs of the intertwining stories and timelines with all chapters having headings of ‘This Day’, ‘Before’ and ‘Long Before’ allowing the reader to easily transition from one arc and time frame to the next. This is a very character driven read. The story and narrative are occasionally slow and it’s never fast paced but it is far from boring and the pacing feels just perfect for the story being told through the interwoven arcs and timelines with the right amount of both setting and character development throughout.
The story shows you the light and the darkness in the world, the good and the bad in people and both the best and worst of humanity. The individual acts of kindness shown to Jakob throughout the book in the worst of times show you that not everyone in the world is evil and cruel. That people are prepared to self-sacrifice and help others and that there is hope to be found amongst the despair if you look for it and a glimmer of light in the darkness, no matter how small. That is what I felt to be the meaning of the book, hope, wonder and that colour canbe found where there is no colour.
I really enjoyed this book, it truly is an amazing, emotive read but after writing that sentence I feel that I’m doing the book a disservice by merely saying ‘I enjoyed it’ as while true, the subject matter isn’t something you enjoy reading about as genocide and persecution are abhorrent subjects. For me Jakob’s Colours was so much more than the simple enjoyment of a story well told. I found it to be an emotional journey that you take along with Jakob and his family. Lindsay Hawdon pulls you into her tale right from the first page through to the last putting you many times through the emotional wringer during the process of reading this heartbreaking tale. Jakob’s Colours is beautifully written with a poetic prose that both easily saddens and makes you smile and when needed bleeds emotion from the pages.
I’m a fantasy fan, those of you who read this review and are kind enough to follow my blog know that it’s my chosen and favoured genre of book, particularly the Grimdark subgenre. I do however read other genres and occasionally like to venture into finding a completely different book to read and Jakob’s Colours falls into that category as it’s not something I’d normally choose to read, but the cover and synopsis lured me in and I’m glad they did as I feel privileged to say I’ve now read this book, it’s an important, poignant read highlighting the atrocity that is the little known Gypsy Holocaust of WW II and also feels relevant to todays society.
There’ll be booklovers out there who like me, have a favoured genre of book that they read but sometimes read a variety of others to and then there’ll be those booklovers who simply read one genre and won’t read anything else, no matter how much praise, plaudits or recommendations a book gets. And to you all in both categories I write that this is a book you should read, it’s a captivating, engrossing, thoughtful, sometimes heartbreaking, harrowing, unforgettable story that deserves to be added to your TBR list. The highest praise I can give Jakob’s Colours is to say that I think it’s a book everyone should read and that from now on if I am asked by people for reading recommendations it willbe high on that list.
A thought provoking book that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
On a side note, I let my Mother read my copy of Jakob’s Colours. I’m glad to report I now have it back in near enough the same condition I leant it to her in, it’s a hardback so she couldn’t crease/break the spine like she has a tendency to do with paperbacks! She to thoroughly enjoyed Jakob’s Colours and found it to be a thought provoking and emotional read, her favoured type of book is the crime/thriller genre so that goes to show, Jakob’s Colours is a book everyone should read!
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