I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Jacques, the beautiful novel by Tanya Ravenswater, I am sharing my review and am excited to have the lady herself here talking about the five things she can’t write without. So, I will hand you over to Tanya…
Five Things I Can’t Write Without
When I first started writing, I used to always make notes and write first drafts on paper (in black gel pens), then type them up and continue to revise on the computer. I now tend to write most of the time directly onto my laptop. I find that the act of sitting in front of it can put me into a more focused frame of mind and even when I’m not feeling so inspired, I can usually write something which might be the seed for something else. The ease of deleting gives permission to freely experiment and also appeals to my obsessive attachment to a tidy page! When writing on paper, I honestly don’t like the visual ‘clutter’ of a lot of scoring out. Call it writing hygiene, housekeeping, whatever. Or perhaps it’s got something to do with the fact that I had my hand smacked on my first ever school day for day-dreaming and enjoying drawing in my Writing Book? I genuinely thought my teacher would be proud of my lovely work, but she wasn’t. Still, we live and learn, sometimes by growing our own shells and neuroses.
Quietness and Space
While I enjoy listening to music and it can put me in a creative mood, when actually writing I need a quiet background. Ideally, I prefer to be alone, though working at home with family around, I’ve got used to getting into the zone and blinkering myself from everything else going on in the circus arena. Even if the ring-master sometimes has to call me in.
Table and Chair
I’ve recently started working in a shed down the garden, which I love. It’s a quiet place apart, with minimal distractions, a simple desk, power-point, high-backed office type chair and a simple white table for spreading out books and papers. Otherwise I move to wherever’s quiet in the house, often to the kitchen table by the window. Sometimes, more at weekends, I’ll write in bed as soon as I wake up or last thing. I do think the relaxing feel of staying under the duvet in such a personal space can help loosen up ideas. The odd cigar and bottle of champagne works wonders as well. Churchill, Twain and Proust, among others, apparently did the same.
I want plenty of natural light and a view – somewhere to look and take regular screen breaks. I think I could make myself write in a room without a window, but I’d always be much happier with one.
Food and Drink
I write better these days with plenty of Yorkshire Tea and Colombian coffee. Home-made iced coffees more recently. My husband’s a Yorkshire man, iced coffee is my agent’s favourite drink, so there could be a rationale there? If totally absorbed, particularly at first draft stage, I can go for a long time without thinking about food, but during redrafting and editing I tend to graze a lot. Chocolate, bread and salted peanuts are often on my mind, though I try to go for celery, apples and oranges instead. And iced green grapes can do the trick. Even if it hasn’t been a productive writing session, there’s still something to feel good and virtuous about!
‘It’s only when we matter, when we are seen and truly loved, that we know what it means to fully live.’
This is the story of Jacques Lafitte, a young French boy who is orphaned and torn away from everything he knows. Forced to move to England to live with his guardian – the proud and distant Oliver Clark – Jacques finds himself alone in a strange country, and a strange world.
As years go by, Jacques becomes part of the Clark family and learns to love life again.
But then his feelings for Rebecca – Oliver’s daughter – become stronger.
And this development has the power to bring them together or tear the whole family apart…
For fans of Boyhood, Jacques is a moving and unique coming-of-age story about one boy’s struggle to find his place in the world.
‘…sometimes in a confined space, within limitations of the present, we can have everything.’
Jacques is a beautiful coming of age novel in which loss, grief and love intertwine to make an enthralling read and it’s beauty comes from it’s depth and simplicity.
Jacques’ world is turned upside down when his parents die and he has to move from France to England to be cared for by his legal guardian. I was not surprised to learn that Tanya worked in bereavement support as she captures the feelings of grief and loss perfectly and writes about them with empathy and acute sensitivity.
The prose is gorgeous – poetically philosophical – and I found myself re-reading paragraphs just to take in the words again. Tanya is a very talented writer and she evoked such emotion within me while I was reading Jacques. Despite this, the book has a peaceful feel about it and is a book you want to read slowly in order to take it in and appreciate it.
‘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.’
Jacques is a wonderful character, he is sensitive, intelligent and emotionally intuitive. You cannot help but adore him and feel every nuance of his thoughts and feelings. Anna also stood out for me, initially a character that is difficult to warm to, Tanya demonstrates through her how experiences can affect a person’s character. As the story progressed, I began to feel a great affection for her. In contrast, Jacques’ guardian, Oliver, is a self-centred, arrogant man who has little empathy for those around him and seeks to gain sympathy from others to justify his own bad behaviour. I loved the different character’s within Jacques who Tanya has brought to life wonderfully.
Jacques is a remarkably uplifting book, despite the themes of loss and grief it never comes across as melancholy. Jacques’ views on life and his resilience in the face of adversity make you think and contemplate those things you maybe take for granted.
An intelligent, thought-provoking, moving, beautifully written book I cannot recommend Jacques highly enough. You need to add it to your to be read list!
Thank you to Tanya Ravenwater and Carmen at Bonnier Zaffre for the copy in exchange for my thoughts.
About Tanya Ravenswater
Tanya Ravenswater was born in County Down, Northern Ireland. she graduated in modern languages from St Andrews University. She has worked as a nurse, in bereavement support and counselling education. With a love of words since childhood, inspired by nature and fascinated by the diversity of our inner worlds and relationships, Tanya writes fiction and poetry for adults and children. She has published a collection of short stories for women, and has also been short-listed and published in the Cheshire Prize anthologies. Her children’s poem, Badger, was the winner of the 2015-15 Prize for Literature.
Connect with Tanya via Twitter at @starlingbird
A huge thank you to Tanya for taking part with a great post and to Carmen at Bonnier Zaffre for including Bloomin’ Brilliant Books on the blog tour. Catch Tanya’s other guest posts on the rest of the Jacques blog tour…