Austria, England, Switzerland – Jakob’s Colours – Lindsay Hawdon

Jakobs-colours

Why a booktrail?

Inspired by the real life but little known period of history – the story of Europe’s gypsies during WW2

Story in a nutshell

Austria, 1944. Jakob, a gypsy boy – half Roma, half Yenish – runs and runs as he has been told to do. With bloody feet, a stone in one hand and a box in the other, he runs towards hope for there is nowhere else to go.

Ever since he was born, his parents have taught him how to read the land and the sky and to see the colours of everything around him, the colour of the trees and the flowers but also the colour of good in the midst of so much evil.

“Run if you can, always if you can

For to run is to live”

From one world war to another, this is the story of those forgotten by history – the Romany gypsies and their stories at the hands of the Nazis

Place and setting

Locations – Austria, England and Switzerland (with places in Poland significant to the history)

 GERMANY - Buchenwald Memorial, 99427 Weimar, Germany The first genocide of the holocaust where Romani children were taken and killed AUSTRIA - Lackenbach an internment camp for gypsies AUSTRIA - Burgenland Officials in Burgenland in 1933 call for the withdrawal of all civil rights of Roma POLAND - Lodz Gypsy camp set up in the jewish ghetto of Lodz in Poland POLAND  - Auschwitz Where many Roma ended up. When the camp was liberated only one was found alive.

GERMANY – Buchenwald Memorial, 99427 Weimar, Germany
The first genocide of the holocaust where Romani children were taken and killed
AUSTRIA – Lackenbach
an internment camp for gypsies
AUSTRIA – Burgenland
Officials in Burgenland in 1933 call for the withdrawal of all civil rights of Roma
POLAND – Lodz
Gypsy camp set up in the jewish ghetto of Lodz in Poland
POLAND – Auschwitz
Where many Roma ended up. When the camp was liberated only one was found alive.

The novel spans a period from the 1920s to the 1940s and is based mostly in war torn Austria and Vienna in particular. But the story of one family is traced back to their roots back to Switzerland and England.

The horror of the situation slowly unfolds although the Background section at the back of the book puts the historical context into stark contrast –

“The Porrajmos is the Gypsy Holocaust. It means the Devouring”

Austria

The unfolding horrors of the Nazi genocide on the Romany population takes place here. The towns of Chelmo, Lackenbach and Lodz tell of their horrors of their place in history.

But Jakob’s story transcends this to explain how the real horrors were not revealed or known to the general population until it was too late. Jacob’s world is a vague one but a carefully crafted one to minimise the hurt for a young child and his parents’ wish to protect him.

At a days journey from the German border-

They move across a field, keeping to the shadows and a dip in the eastern hedges. They stumble down a slope to the broken-tiled roof of a small, low farmhouse, the land long since taken from it on a day when soldiers had arrived and claimed it as their own”

Switzerland

The origins of the word Yenish ( a word of Swiss origin meaning traveller) and the organisations set up to support children from these communities  – Pro Juventute – are also referred to in this story to show background and historical accuracy. In a Swiss hospital, Lor meets Yavy, the gypsy who becomes Jakob’s father.

England, Somerset Valley

Lor, Jacob’s mother is from here and we go back to England of 1929 in order to see how she and Yavy meet.

This is not a landscape that you can image colour to exist in but Jacob’s father, despite the horror and the brutality of their reality has always painted a picture of the world full of colour.

“Don’t be afraid Jacob, his father has told him. See the colours, my boy”

Jakob’s journey in search of survival is a long and difficult journey

Run if you can. Always if you can

For to run is to live

This is  a story of a group of people who were caught up in war and in a situation they had trouble in understanding. They had no means of escape and so to tell Jacob to run has an overriding sense of heartbreaking finality to it. for he is running for his life away from the Nazi genocide slaughtering his people.

Brutal yet poetic. A glimpse into a past not widely documented in literature.

Bookish musings

The author is a well known travel writer who herself has lived  and worked in several countries far and wide writing about them for her newspaper columns – An Englishwoman Abroad for the Independent or ‘Have Kids Will travel’ for the Sunday Times. I think this is how you can really appreciate the language she uses and the ways she paints a picture quite literally with her words. Apt in the circumstances.

A dream like quality pervades this book and the character of Jacob is one which was both poignant to read about and intriguing to learn of his world of colour.

A fascinating journey told in five parts in three voices – Jacobs story, his father and his mother and all coming together as one. The chapters ‘ Before’  Long Before’  and ‘This day’ helped to shape the novel and the experiences of what was to come.

A real think about read and one I’m pleased to have the honour to have read. And the shame I knew so little about the historical background. The stunning cover says so much with its vibrancy and poignant meaning.

Moving and poignant despite the sad and tragic background. Humbling.

Broadchurch – Dorset and Somerset – Erin Kelly

Broadchurch

Why a booktrail?

How will a successful TV series transform into a book? Erin Kelly shows us how it’s done. 

Story in a nutshell

One hot July morning in Broadchurch, Dorset, Beth Latimer realises that her eleven-year-old son, Danny, is missing. She frantically searches for him only for his body to be found on the beach later that day. Who could have murdered a child? And in such a nice sleepy place as Broadchurch? The national press decamp on the unsuspecting town and nobody’s life will be the same again. For the killer could be one of their own, someone who they know, and before long it seems that everyone has something to hide…

Place and setting

Charmouth, West Dorset Beach - One scene. West Bay, West Dorset Beaches, Harbour, Pier, Promenade, Cliff Tops and Coastal Scenes. Freshwater, West Dorset Susan Wright's Caravan - Freshwater Caravan Park.
Charmouth, West Dorset
Beach – One scene.
West Bay, West Dorset
Beaches, Harbour, Pier, Promenade, Cliff Tops and Coastal Scenes.
Freshwater, West Dorset
Susan Wright’s Caravan – Freshwater Caravan Park.

Since Broadchurch is fictional, the locations to visit in order to experience the beauty of the television setting and to visualise the book are those in both West Bay Dorset and Clevedon, North Somerset. The beach scenes and the caravan park are located here with different names for obvious reasons whilst the town scenes are recreated in Clevedon such as the homes of The latimers and the Miller family and Broadchurch High Street.

With the murder of a young boy on the beach in your mind as you see the location in real life, standing beside the imposing cliffs can be both poignant and impressive at the same time. Was the boy thrown from the cliff? Who placed him on the beach? Who was on the boat seen that night? And when dawn broke and that poor boy was found there, the town and its people came to a standstill and their lives were never to be the same again. Such brutality in such a beautiful place.

Miller Family Home - St Andrew's Drive. Latimer Family Home - Lavington Close. Hill Road - the high street of Broadchurch
Miller Family Home – St Andrew’s Drive.
Latimer Family Home – Lavington Close.
Hill Road – the high street of Broadchurch

Clevedon is situated in North Somerset and Hill Road was the setting for the High Street, the newsagents shop and the newspaper offices. the friendliness of the palce belies the story’s web of secrets and lies but it makes for a fascinating trip as Clevedon is now quite firmly on the literary and TV map of locations that you should visit to experience the lives of DI Hardy, the Millers and the Latimers.

Perhaps the most iconic and somewhat eerie setting of all is the caravan park and the thought that you might bump into Susan Wright. Even if you haven’t see the TV show, you’ll be nervous about that name after reading Erin’s book.

Bookish musings

Loved the TV show and loved the book. Erin Kelly  has really mastered what I thought twas going to be tricky art of writing a novel based on a TV show. This both complements the TV show as well as acting as a standalone. When reading this I could visualise all the locations and characters and really get my teeth into the story. i felt I had spent more time with the characters and had a different and unique view.

The amount of work this must have taken – with such high expectations from readers – but the plots, the characters, the links and lies, the hidden secrets and even the sarcastic comments from Hardy are all here and then some.

I found this a new reading experience – reading and seeing the book at the same time instead of imagining it. And it really worked. Made me buy the ebooks Erin wrote on the individual characters after each episode of the second series – but that is another set of reviews…

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Devon to Berwick – Rachel Joyce

harold-fry (1)

This book with its ready made map in the beginning is just crying out for a booktrail! It is a booktrail ready made!

Story in a nutshell 

Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.

He walks all the way from Devon to Berwick for one reason and soon discovers that the journey throws up many questions and thoughts and that is before he has ever got to his destination!

This is such a sweet and uplifting story but never saccharine sweet or overdone. You will laugh and cry and moan at Harold but you will always will him on and encourage him to get to the next place. Extremely well written and people well observed – a character study and a tale of hope if ever we read one!

The booktrail to beat all booktrails!
The booktrail to beat all booktrails!

Well if this not the ultimate booktrail and tour of the UK by a literary character then we don’t know what is. Harold walks from the south of the country to the North in search of his special friend Queenie Henessey and it takes him through some of the most lovely cities and places in the country.

Follow the map and see the main parts of Harold’s journey – from Devon right up to Berwick on the border with Scotland via Exeter, Bath, Sheffield and the city of York.

Harold Travel Tips

He buys 4 table mats from the gift shop at Bickley Mill – “which offer laminated views of Devon” – http://www.bickleighmill.com/

Tries a Regency bath cream tea in a Bath tearoom and also stops for a rest in Bagley Green, Somerset. 

The reason we loved this book was its simplicity and overriding message of hope. As Harold himself says in  a letter to Queenie: “I am on my way. All you have to do is wait. Because I’m going to save you. I will keep walking, and you must keep living.”

This was a charming novel for many reasons – the way in which Harold set off in flimsy shoes to walk all the way to Berwick to do what he thought was right, to see his love and respect for Queenie, to understand the problems in his life and what he thought about them, and to learn of the people he meets along the way – those that tell their own stories or help him to achieve his.

have-you-seen-harold-fry

Along the way Harold thinks a lot about his life and how he has acted with certain situations and with his family. It’s only when he talks to others along the way that he soon realises that other people – those he meets on the way are also struggling with inner turmoil – struggling to put one foot in front of the other both literally and figuratively.

It’s very sad in parts but ultimately this is not a sad read. I cheered for Harold! I smiled as I imagined him and the dog running along side him, I was sad when he injured his feet – I thanked those who gave Harold hope and encouragement. But all the while I wanted to hug him and tell him to carry on as so many people were right behind him.

Harold could be any one of us – a simple normal person with regrets, a threadbare marriage and a dedication to a true friend. I often wondered what Queenie would make of all this – did she realise what was going on?

Happily Rachel has written Queenie’s story which we booktrail next- back to the world of Harold Fry? Yes please

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: a trip to Somerset, England

A trip to Somerset
A trip to Somerset

I first came across this book in a Paris bookstore at the start of a long Sunday walk up to Montmartre The book being in hard back was a must read for me but should I be sensible and buy it later? It was a steep climb to the top you see. Well, as fellow book addicts will agree, there is no such thing as being sensible when you’re just dying to read a new book. I also thought of my TBR pile in French but then decided an English break was what I needed (any excuse). So I bought the book, carried it around Paris for an entire day and tucked in to my literary feast as soon as I got home.

 

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is  fascinating account on a crime which occured in 1860 and which shocked the whole of England. 3 year old Saville Kent, son of a well to do British Government Official was found murdered, his small body stuffed in an outdoor privy. The man leading the investigation was Mr Jonathan Whicher. It was the sensationalist tabloid story of its the time and everyone, it seemed, had an opinion on it. It was one of the most infamous murders of the 19th century; Constance Kent was arrested for the murder of her 3-year-old half-brother.

Some people have found the book long and laborious to read but then it is a lot of detail and investigation in it. However I would advise you not to be put off – it is written in such a captivating way that it is definitely worth persevering with since it is effectively also the story of how forensic investigation first came into being. It was also the springboard to so many new literary journeys for a new breed of character : the literary detective. Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot were the literary descendants of Mr.Whicher.

Road Hill House
Road Hill House

Road hill house

My first visit back to the UK after the book and where did I do? Well, I had to really didn’t I?

Road Hill House is now known as Langham House and can be found in the pretty village of rode in Somerset. Beautiful and quaint you might say, was it not for the infamous murder of 1860.

Back in 2010, it was the 150th anniversary of the infamous child murder at Road Hill House and the owners of the house gave a rare opportunity for the public to see the gardens Unfortunately,  I was not able to visit the gardens nor the house but I did get to catch a glimpse of it, and its every big and imposing as it appears in the novel.  The house has seen an increased level of interest since the publication of Kate Summerscale’s book but whilst in Rode, I stumbled across another book on the subject  : Paul Chambers’ ‘Murder Most Foul’ has also been  published about the Rode murder. So, I found myself buying this one too for the journey back!

If you come to Rode looking for the backdrop to a literary mystery you will most certainly find it. I found a lovely corner of a park, picked up my Mr Whicher and started to reread on site. A visit to Rode Chapel on the high street was particular reminiscent of the novel’s events too. A spot of lunch in the local  Cross Keys pub made my literary journey complete and to be honest, most of the village I walked around looked exactly like I imagined it would have back in 1860. I was in the novel; I was there and saw the book come to life right before my very eyes.