Jakob’s Colours – Lindsay Hawdon
I pretty much fell in love with the way this was written within the first three pages. I was sent this by the lovely people at Hodder and Stoughton via Bookbridgr and I wish I’d had it in time for Holocaust Memorial Day because this is a remarkable story about an often forgotten group of people affected by the atrocities of the Holocaust.
This heartbreaking and tender novel will appeal to readers who loved Sophie’s Choice, Schindler’s Ark, and The Book Thief. 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 colors, 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.
Jakob’s Colours is not like anything I’ve ever read before. I like reading historical fiction, but no matter how well written historical fiction is, it is always a little bit drab, a bit dull. I always find reading historical fiction to be a lot like looking at old photos from the seventies, you know the ones. The ones that are all sepia and browning. This was not sepia, this was a rainbow, it isn’t called Jakob’s Colours for nothing. It is a deliciously rich, poetic story about one family and their attempt to escape the horrors of Europe during the Nazi regime. It was also unlike anything I’ve ever read before because usually when you come across a book about forties Europe it is usually the plight of Jewish protagonists, which of course is an important story to tell, but I’ve never found a book that deals with the other victims of Hitler’s insanity.
This is a non linear narrative following Jakob, an eight year old boy of Romani descent running for his life across Europe, he has been separated from his family and all he can do is as his father told him, to run and to see the colours in the world. The story jumps from Jakob in the present to his mother and father in the past and culminates in how they ended up being separated and what it is that Jakob is running from. The whole thing is told in a wonderfully whimsical and poetic way, it’s decadently descriptive. Lindsay Hawdon writes the way I image a painter would create a picture, there are colour splashes all across the story, you see as Jakob sees, the oranges of the trees and the blues of the sky. It is a juxtaposition of beautiful story telling and a brutal story.
I haven’t done this in a while, but I think this deserves the Nick Fury Seal of Approval.