“I was the eldest, I should have stopped it.
It wasn’t my idea but I still feel like it was my fault.
There’s a difference and the difference is guilt”
– Captain Jesus
Well folks we are almost to the end of a year that has been like no other in recent times, a year when the world stopped and is now one that is very difficult to recognise as the place where we once had so much freedom, and spontaneity was something we all took so much for granted.
I’ve been honoured to read some amazing books in 2020 and today, as I put together my thoughts for one final review this year, I just want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support over the last twelve months. It is so appreciated and is something that I never ever take for granted. I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts as well as the many wonderful and generous guest-posts and extracts that I have shared here in 2020. Maybe you discovered some new books and authors that otherwise might have passed you by.
Wishing you all a very peaceful Christmas and let’s raise a glass to 2021, a New Year filled with hope and optimism for a better future. This too will pass……
So what have I chosen as my final book of the year to review?
[ About the Book ]
When three brothers find a dead magpie and peg it to the washing line, the resurrection re-enactment becomes a portent of tragedy to come, and a reminder of past guilt and trauma.
In Captain Jesus we see a family struggle to cope as loss rips through their lives; through the teenage eyes of their mother, twenty years earlier, we glimpse the events that shape her response.
The icons, influences and family histories that define faith connect the two narratives as the family gradually heals, thanks to the quietness of love and the natural world.
[ My Review ]
Captain Jesus by Colette Snowden will be published January 28th with the wonderful independent publisher, Bluemoose Books, based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.
‘If you want brilliant stories that have travelled from Hebden Bridge, across the border into Lancashire, down to London across to Moscow, Sofia and Budapest and into the United States, Australia, India, Colombia and Greenland, Iceland and Bosnia Herzevogina then Bluemoose is the publisher for you.’
– Bluemoose Books
An absolutely beautiful and very affecting read, Captain Jesus is a story of grief, atonement, acceptance and of family, much of it told through the eyes of Jim, a ten-year-old boy. When I first started reading this last week, I commented that the writing style felt very familiar. Colette Snowden has given a voice to childhood and given it a platform to express itself with its own words, its own feelings as it tries to put a shape on the world, especially at its most upsetting.
Captain Jesus is the story of one family and the most tragic of losses that was to befall them. The story begins with three young rascals of brothers who hang a dead magpie on their clothes line one summer’s day. It was a momentary decision. Not knowing what to do with it, they decided to play a joke on their mother who was in the kitchen preparing snacks for them. It was the perfect day. It was a bit of youthful messing, a bit of fun…
‘We stood back and looked at it. When the breeze blew softly, moving the washing on the line and making pink snow drift across from the cherry blossom, the bird moved with the line, flying through the snow.
“It’s like we’ve brought it back to life”, said Gabe. He crossed himself like we do at church.
“Yeah, but it’s still dead though”, John-Joe said. “It’s not like Jesus and we’re not miracle workers. We can’t do a proper resurrection…”
Little did any of them know that shortly after this eventful day their lives would be shattered, forever altered as tragedy struck in the most cruellest way imaginable. But in the moment, after their mother got over the initial shock, the boys decided an official funeral was the only appropriate ending for this magpie, whom they named Captain. Never to do anything by half, the boys wrote cards and held a proper home service in the garden with their neighbour, Jenny, invited to join them for prayers when their Dad came home from work. The innocence of this scene is beautifully depicted, ending with their mother going into labour and the boys left with Jenny as they await the exciting news from the hospital.
Captain Jesus contains two parallel stories. Jim narrates one story and his mother, Marie, narrates hers. But it is Marie in her youth that we are introduced to. As the chapters unfold, the reader is slowly given an insight into Marie’s rather strict and quite religious upbringing with a mother who had many highs and lows. Life in her teenage years was difficult, leaving Marie very much an outsider among her peers. They wasted no time in letting her know that she was not cool enough, not trendy enough to ever be invited to parties or sleepovers. Marie was frustrated with the humdrum of life with her mother and, like any teenager, she needed to rebel. Those formative years were to have a very significant impact on Marie’s life in the future but back then her priorities were very different indeed.
Captain Jesus is an extremely poignant and emotional read. Colette Snowden’s writing from the perspective of a ten year old is just exceptional. There is no condescending tone, no sense that an adult has written this narrative. Jim is an extraordinary character. His story is tragically, yet stunningly composed, as is Marie’s story. Reading Captain Jesus left me quite emotional but, on closing the book, also enlightened. Regret, grief, loss are all handled with an extraordinary sensitivity and there is a sense of hope that jumps out of the pages, uplifting the reader in the most remarkable of ways. Throughout Captain Jesus, I was marking sections on almost every page, with the most exquisite quotes pieced together by Colette Snowden, but there is one particular one that really struck me
“That’s the dangerous thing about memories; no matter how well wrapped and hidden we keep them, one small chink of light on the most obscure corners of our carefully archived experience can cast a floodlight so powerful that the drip becomes a trickle and then a torrent before we know it..”
In keeping my review deliberately vague, I am hoping to entice many of you into picking up a copy of this remarkable read when it is published in January. In Captain Jesus, Colette Snowden has captured something very tangible, something that most readers will connect with. Although Jim and Marie’s stories are very much theirs, each person will adapt at least one chapter to some event in their own lives.
An intense, profound, beautiful and very engaging novel, Captain Jesus, with it’s simply drawn, yet very effective, cover is a book I highly recommend. One that is sure to capture the heart and soul of every reader.
[ Bio ]
Colette Snowden was born and raised in Manchester and read Medieval History in St Andrews and Bordeaux. After spending a year in Bulgaria teaching English, she returned to Manchester and began a career in public relations.
Colette’s short story BLUE was broadcast on Radio 4 in 2002 and her first child was born soon afterwards, at which point she stopped writing fiction for several years. She began writing again to enter a First Three Chapters competition with Manchester-based writer development organisation, Commonword. She won the competition and completed the novel, which became THE SECRET TO NOT DROWNING.
Colette lives in Manchester with her three children and works as a freelance PR and copywriter.
Twitter ~ @colette_snowden