Jakob's Colours by Lindsay Hawdon
Published by Hodder & Stoughton 2016 (Paperback)
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
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 am trying to try out new genres of books, as I feel like I need to branch out and try new things, so when the chance came for me to read Jakob's Colours I jumped at the chance. With it being a Historical Novel about a little known subject during World War Two it was definitely different to anything I had read previous. However, I kept a clear head and soon dived right in.
Jakob's Colours follows Jakob an eight year old half Roma, half Yenish gypsy boy who is wandering the woods, fending for himself. How did he get there? and where are his parents? Throughout the book we find out how he got there and what really did happen to those that he loved. The book moves back and forward in time 'Long Before', 'Before' and 'This Day' from the perspectives of Jakob, himself, his mother, Lor and his father, Yavy. We learn about their struggles in life, how they became the people they are and how they battled being Gypsies through the war.
Although I found it really hard to get into this book to begin with I was soon engrossed in each characters story. Although it is fiction, I found it hard to believe that the things I was reading about actually did happen in real life. I loved Jakob as a character, although only being eight, he was wise beyond his years. I feel that he is seen as a sign of hope to other characters he comes across, especially Cherub and Loslow. His relationship with Markus, who hides him for several months is something of a Grandfather/Grandson relationship. Markus's caring side really shone through with Jakob and you could tell that he thought greatly of him.
There are some harrowing and upsetting scenes throughout the book and I admit I did shed a tear or two at some of them. The scenes that got to me the most however, were the scenes where Lor was in the Institute. It really got to me how they treated mental health in that time, and I found myself feeling deeply sorry for her. I almost leapt for joy when Yavy came and rescued her and took her away from that dreadful place.
The colours mentioned throughout the book I feel were to distract Jakob from fear and also to bring a slight brightness to a somewhat bleak time of life. Whenever a colour was mentioned I felt myself perk up slightly, sensing hope and tranquillity.
Although it wasn't my typical genre I did enjoy Jakob's Colours thoroughly. I'm not sure if I would re-read it, but it really brought to my knowledge about how Gypsies were treated during World War Two, something that I didn't know anything about, which I'm sure I'm not alone with. It will make you cry, but it will also bring you hope, hope for Jakob.