Author: Tanya Ravenswater
Genre: Family/Coming of Age/Romance
Review: The opening to Jacques is very profound with Jacques as an adult talking about what it means to live, and he perceives that by “dying” he can carry all his cherished memories with him through life, a form of living in the past rather than looking ahead. After this short prologue we are moved back in time to when Jacques is a young boy dealing with the death of his mother. In the early chapters of this book Jacques talks about his parents and how their each individual and combined deaths affected him as an 11 year old child and how he came to be in the care of Oliver Clark who he refers to as Uncle Oliver. He also talks about moving from France and everything he knows to England an unknown and foreign country he knows little about and really he has no desire to leave but he knows he must.
Jacques feels that moving to England has stripped him of everything including his mother tongue as he is forced to speak English at all times despite the fact several members of the family speak fluent French. He is also given no time to grieve as he has already been enrolled in school and is expected to go and learn. He makes several comparison between Anna and Oliver to his own parents and how much he misses them, but he also sees Rebecca is different from the other stern members of her family with the same childish curiosity that Jacques has and he forms an almost instant bond with her. Jacques slowly begins to settle into the Clark’s way of life even though he still feel different he’s not alone because he has Rebecca, his only real friend in that strange country. I feel really sorry for Jacques as he has had to deal with so much heartbreak alone but he sees Rebecca as his light in the darkness. I like watching Jacques and Rebecca interact as it relaxed and natural rather unlike the façade he has to wear at school and around his guardians to appear like her belong. Jacques and Rebecca confide in each other often but Jacques is ever aware of emotional changes he feels towards his friend and he moves into his teenage years. He also gets close to Anna especially when he plays the piano as it reminds her of her mother and another life. It is about this time in the novel Anna and Oliver get divorced after he has had numerous affairs, this affects all the children; Matthew is distant and withdrawn and can’t wait to go to university, Rebecca becomes increasing violate towards her father favouring her mother because she is there and Jacques starts to feel like more of an outsider especially around Oliver or Matthew, he seems to fit better with the women of the Clark family as he did with his own mother.
As Jacques and Rebecca they seem to unconsciously distance themselves from each other knowing that a relationship would be complicated given the strange nature of the home they grew up in. Jacques becomes very moody when Rebecca announces she is going to Chester with her boyfriend and tries to get Jacques to ask her friend out which he declines, as he still harbours feelings for Rebecca that he feels he cannot voice. As Rebecca leaves for university leaving Jacques alone with Anna in the home they grew up in he is increasing frustrated as he doesn’t want her to leave as they were beginning to become close again after her break-up with Sam. Rebecca encourages him to find a girlfriend but Jacques having never been in a relationship has no desire for anyone but her, but he does find himself become closer to Anna as they talk after his piano lessons even indulging in sharing a bottle of wine every now and again. After Rebecca’s departure Jacques find the only true friend he has is Stephen, this only makes his suicide more difficult to comprehend but Jacque having already faced death several times understands that Stephen lived his own lifetime and honours him decision to return to nature where he was most at home and himself. Jacques begins to have an indemnity crisis unsure of who he is and what he wants to do but he does become more social attending parties and even beginning a relationship with Jane; Stephen’s younger sister.
Jacques is pleased to have done so well in his A-levels but this is once again overshadowed by sadness as he finds out Jane has been seeing someone else behind his back only weeks before he leaves for university. It seems everything good thing that happens to Jacques is overshadowed by something bad happening but he never gives up and he never loses hope. As he progresses through university Jacques feels extremely restless leading him to drop out of university and get a job in a local pub much to Oliver’s distaste but Jacques enjoys the work and the distraction it brings. Rebecca and her boyfriend Ben come to visit where Jacques and Rebecca make up after not having spoken for so long, but neither confesses their feelings to the other. Jacques deep down just wants Rebecca to be happy and for his heart to be free. As Jacques becomes more confident in his career choice moving to a new job in the same area he gets some shocking news from Rebecca that she is pregnant and Ben has told her she has to have an abortion or he will leave her. Having learned about Rebecca’s views on abortion thorough the novel we know this isn’t going to happen, Jacques immediately steps up telling her he will always be there for her but she seems to have closed herself off to him. Soon after the news of Rebecca’s pregnancy tragedy strikes twice over as Rebecca miscarries and Anna is diagnosed with breast cancer within a few weeks of each other. Jacques tries to put the feeling of sadness and heartache out of his mind by throwing himself into his work where he runs into Wheelie an old friend who is getting married and he begins to thinks about how lonely he really is as he can’t sustain a relationship while harbouring all these feeling for Rebecca. He tells his boss and friend about these feelings and earns a small seal of approval as they aren’t related by blood or marriage but Jacques doesn’t even know how Rebecca feels about him and he is just too frightened to ask as he fears it may destroy their fragile friendship.
In the Christmas holidays Rebecca comes to visit for the first time since the miscarriage, together with Jacques and Anna they seem like a close family. It is here that Rebecca and Jacques confess the way they feel to each other but Rebecca still hasn’t come to terms with the ghosts of her past in order to move forward will Jacques but being who he is Jacques is content to sit patiently and wait for her to be ready as he has done since he was a boy. As the holidays festivities progress Anna and Peter become increasing close and feel so happy for her after all the heartache and loneliness she must have felt being married to a man that didn’t love or respect her. Jacques and Rebecca also move forward in their relationship although they haven’t mentioned it to Anna yet as her surgery is looming and neither want to burden her with more worry. Rebecca returns to Edinburgh much to Jacques’ disappointment as well as her own but she does promise him she will return soon.
The final chapters of this novel are great as Rebecca and Jacques agree to a relationship and are going to try to create a life together from the ashes of their respective pasts. Jacques now feel completely at home with Anna and Rebecca, he no longer feels like an outsider he feels loved and cherished something he had allowed himself to feel for a long time. The epilogue is tinged with joy and sadness. Jacques and Rebecca marry and are hoping to start a family soon, but they as well as Peter lose Anna to breast cancer several years later. I liked the fact Jacques and Rebecca return to the home they grew up in and the home Anna died in and use it as their soon to be family home.
Jacques in essence is a tale of love and loss, it will make you laugh and make you cry more than once. I can honestly say I have steered myself away from this particularly genre for no apparent reason and this book has totally changed my view and I can’t wait to read more from Tanya Ravenswater.
This Book was sent to me for review by Bonnier Publishing
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