‘It is only when we matter, when we are seen and truly loved, that we know what it means to fully live.’
Every so often a book comes on your lap that just draws you right in.
Jacques by Tanya Ravenswater is one of those books. Published by Twenty7, an imprint of Bonnier Zaffre, Jacques is a beautifully written, coming-of-age novel about a young French boy.
I loved this book and hope you will too. I received my copy from Bonnier Zaffre and NetGalley in return for my review. I do hope you read it and please let me know what you think.
‘This is the story of Jacques Lafitte, a young French boy who finds himself orphaned and torn away from everything he knows. Forced to move to England to live with his guardian – the pompous and distant Oliver – Jacques finds himself in a strange country and a strange world.
As years pass Jacques becomes part of the Clark family. But then his feelings for Oliver’s daughter Rebecca begin to surpass mere sibling affection. A development that has the power to bring them together, or tear the family apart . . .
Jacques is Tanya Ravenswater’s beautiful and touching coming-of-age novel of loss, longing, falling in love and finding a place to call home. And, most importantly, of the power of the relationships that help us along the way.’
Jacques Lafitte. Even the name alone conjures up images in your head.
‘There are few people to whom we really matter. To most people our lives are like facts: noted, skimmed over, quickly forgotten. They might feel some sense of responsibility if we collapsed on the street, or if we asked them directly for help. Otherwise, to the majority of those we come across, the quality and details of our lives are largely irrelevant.’
Thoughtful words. The opening sentences of the prologue written by Jacques twenty years after the events that changed his life forever.
Born in Neuilly, a Paris suberb, Jacques Lafitte was the beloved son of adoring parents, who were both tragically taken from him at a very young age.
‘My whole world had been built on what I trusted would be the unshakeable ground of their presence, my daily life framed by proof of how much I was cherished.’
Jacques’ care was left to the guardianship of Oliver Clarke. Moved to London, to start a very different life, this book tells us the story of a very special young boy and the changes he has to adapt to in order to survive.
Oliver Clarke and his wife Anna are not happy. Their marriage is crumbling at the seams. Oliver is a very strict disciplinarian, with little love handed out to his family. Jacques becomes very aware of the differences between their marriage and that of the cherished memories he holds of his parents love. Reality for Jacques sets in fast.
‘My king and queen were dead. I was just a helpless little boy, stripped of everything, even his mother tongue.’
All is not lost for Jacques though as Rebecca, Oliver’s daughter, is intrigued by the young French boy in her home. They develop a very beautiful, trusting, special relationship as the book progresses and as each reaches different stages in their lives.
Tanya Ravenswater writes almost poetically about Jacques, his feelings, his friendships, his thoughts. He is a very deep and introverted young man who adapts to his surroundings but I feel always holds back a little of himself.
He attends school. He is a master at piano and an artist aswell. His talents are very private to him. In later years, many try to persuade him to use these talents as a career, but to Jacques, his music and paintings are too personal. Financial gain is never the attraction for Jacques. He is much more interested in enjoying the moment and finding happiness in the small pleasures of life.
Rebecca and Jacques’ relationship changes over the years as does his relationship with Anna and Oliver.
‘It seemed hardly any time since Rebecca and I had been so close and open with each other. Now, however, as each day passed between us we seemed bound to ruin the simplicity of our friendship. And perhaps it didn’t matter so much to Rebecca. But it mattered to me.’
Time moves on, circumstances change. There are some sad, some melancholy, some beautiful chapters in this book. We see life through the eyes of Jacques as he progresses through puberty to adulthood.
Jacques is a beautiful coming-of-age novel written with a gentleness of phrase and a expressiveness in every sentence. I could quote sections of this book in this review. In fact, if I could, I would quote the whole book but I will leave you with this beautifully written description from a graveside….
‘I looked at the bouquet of lillies that had decorated the coffin, now on the grass, close to the mound of soil that would eventually fill in the grave…..they would escape the darkness, if only for a few more days. They would be on guard, like some loyal, graceful dogs with their chins against the earth, pining, eventually dying, realising their wish to be with him again.’
A stunning, impressive debut, Jacques should not go unnoticed. I highly recommend Jacques as a completely different alternative to many a book currently on the market.
Sorry I just cannot help myself 🙂
Here is one last quote from this absolutely charming book…
‘Some experiences bring us awareness we can’t ignore. They become touchstones, deeply embedded in the valleys of our psyche. Whether we want to or not, we can’t help measuring everything else in our subsequent life against them. Such knowledge has the potential to lead us to despair, as well as to the path of authenticity.’
I do hope you enjoyed my review and please look out for Jacques next time you are looking for a beautiful read. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Tanya D. Ravenswater was born in County Down, Northern Ireland. She graduated in modern languages from St Andrews, Scotland and later gained an M.A. in Counselling Studies from Keele University, Staffordshire. She has worked as a general nurse, as a counsellor and in counselling education.
Tanya writes fiction and poetry for adults and children, and has facilitated numerous writing projects within an educational context, including creating nature and place-themed anthologies for schools. Her short stories have been published among short-listed entries for the Cheshire Prize for Literature, and her poems have appeared in poetry magazines, such as, among others, Orbis and Obsessed with Pipework.
Tanya currently lives in Cheshire with her husband, two teenage children and an alpha Jack Russell.