Title: The Hawkman
Writer: Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Publishing House: Amberjack Publishing
Date of Publication: June 5th 2018
Rating: 4 stars
“Bridgetonne was not without other misfits: old maids who, in an earlier time, might have been mistaken for witches, and bachelors who, likewise, would have been called out as warlocks. But by no means was the village haunted.”
It seems that books set during the Great War or a few years later have become really fashionable recently. Not that I am complaining because this is a very interesting era but there are many examples of such novels that are more melodramatic than meaningful. Magical Realism is also a trending genre and one of my literary obsessions so “The Hawkman” ticked quite a few right boxes. And although it wasn’t perfect, it was really, really good. And look at this beautiful cover….
The plot is inspired by a reading of the Grimm Brothers’fairy tale “The Bearskin” and by recorded experiences of POWs in German prison camps during the First World War. The action is set in a sleepy county and we follow Eva and Michael, two characters with many demons to defeat. It sounds simple enough but trust me (if you want, that is…) when I tell you that there is much to be discovered and much to think about in the course of the novel.
Jane Rosenberg LaFarge certainly has a way with words because the prose is beautiful, mystical and yet accessible. She chooses to start the story with a powerful, peculiar scene of a death on a wedding night, reminiscent of Victorian fables. What seems initially a mystery novel with elegant touches of Magical Realism (more felt than seen, though), quickly becomes a story about courage and acceptance, about society and the stupidity that rules over it. The writer decides to compose a story out of a number of themes and she succeeds, in my opinion. An interesting point is the conflict between the English and the Irish which causes major implications in Michael’s life. His own compatriots prove to be worse than the German soldiers in a society that is eager to ostracize the ones who “fail” to meet its criteria of “acceptable” behaviour. So Michael is easily brandished as a “turncoat” and Eva becomes the “naive woman from the other side of the Atlantic”.
Through the snippets of Eva and Michael’s lives with their families, we come to understand them as characters and care for them. Eva loves stories as a means to escape and Michael sacrifices his voice and identity to protect his life. But what kind of life can he lead under these circumstances? And then there is Christopher and his father, Lord Thornton, a horrible creature blinded by the stereotypes of the English upper class during the early 20th century. If you allow me a personal note here, I must confess I fully identified with Eva. She shows to everyone that there are limits to one’s kindness, understanding, patience and respect. “Respect”. Such a violated word…She accepts different people, different opinions but to everything there is a limit. When the others offend her principles, when they refuse to respect her as an equal, she stops “respecting” and returns the favour. She is straightforward and avoids conflict but when she sees that they try to play her for a fool, she strikes. So, I saw myself in her. In my experience, when patient people witness the other’s hypocrisy and double-faced words, they become ruthless and send the parasites out of their lives.
My one complaint is the length of the novel. I found it too short, I felt that the relationship between the characters wasn’t fully developed and the implications of certain actions weren’t explored to the end. The protagonists were excellent and I wanted to see more of them. Still, I’m not one to complain about “distant” narrations (…let us be serious….) so my final conclusion is that I enjoyed it, right until its beautiful, bittersweet end. I just wanted it to be more powerful and memorable hence the 4 stars.
Many thanks to Amberjack Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange of an honest review.