Jakob’s Colours by Lindsay Hawdon
The Last Word Review
A story that will break your heart in two but also gives hope. A beautifully written book that demands to be read.
Over the last year or so I have been privileged and at the same time trusted in reviewing books on the Holocaust a subject that is close to my heart.
One aspect of the Holocaust that is less often spoken about is the gypsy Holocaust it is estimated that over a million European gypsies were murdered in death camps as a result of the Nazi persecution of the gypsy and Romany populations, as the laws passed in Berlin that applied to all Jews at the same time they also applied to others groups including the gypsy populations and so it began the ‘Porajmos’
Many books have been written on the Holocaust both fiction and non-fiction and now adding to the list comes Jakob’s Colours by Lindsay Hawdon in what is an important addition the historical fiction accounts of the Holocaust.
The story centres around an eight-year-old half-blood gypsy boy called Jakob who is fleeing the Nazi tyranny. It is Austria 1944 Jakob is clutching his only possessions which include a pebble and a box. Jakob is hiding in the woods he is alone so very along and frightened.
The book is divided into the current as we find Jakob running and hiding and the past and we meet his mother Lor and father Yavy the story weaves back and forth between Switzerland and then to 1920’s Somerset, which helps build the story and how we get to the current time where Jakob is running. The story of Jakob’s parents I found fascinating and gave a real insight into how their lives came to be and how they found themselves in Austria. Sadness grows as the reader already knows what history is about to unleash on the family.
This is slow starting story but that is not a negative it is purely the writing style of Hawdon that that at times is poetic and also builds a story that just captures the reader. At times especially as you move further into the story it will break your heart as we read in detail and will shock some readers as the Nazis start rounding up the gypsy populations, deeply harrowing as we read of the shocking violence that took place.
As much as this is deeply heart-breaking and harrowing story we must seek hope where there is no hope and colour where there is no colour. This is poignant and will challenge the reader and for some will uncover a part of history that they may never have knew about.
At the end of the Second World War trials took place at Nuremburg and those still alive were prosecuted for War Crimes against humanity. To the shame of those prosecuting the Nazis they ignored the gypsy Holocaust and it was not until the mid-1990’s that any form of commemoration took place.
I commend Lindsay Hawdon on a brave, haunting and important debut novel that tells of little-known part of history.
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and Bookbridgr for a review copy.
Jakob’s Colours by Lindsay Hawdon published by Hodder and Stoughton is available through all good bookshops.