Title: The Hawkman
Author: Jane RosenBerg LaForge
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: 3 Stars
I received and ARC copy of The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War by Jane Rosenberg LaForge in exchange for an honest review. Thanks goes to NetGalley and Amberjack Publishing for this advanced reader copy which was released on June 5, 2018.
Dear fellow Babblers,
This book, just shy of 300 pages was gruesomely painful for me to get through, and I’m using the kindest words possible to explain how treacherous a trek this read was for me. It took me a whole four months, probably the longest I’ve ever spent reading a single novel. If it takes you this long to read a rather short book there is either a serious problem with your comprehension or you simply prefer to be happy than to put yourself through the pain of 280 pages filled with a story you simply, no matter how hard you try, cannot get absorbed into.
I was intrigued by The Hawkman by the cover art to be quite honest, with mystical creatures and alluring fonts. Even the synopsis, promising a tale of the world during the Great War, infused with a fairy tale imagination seemed promising of an instant classic. However, despite some interesting parts hear and there, The Hawkman proved to be a disappointing and tedious read for me.
A great war, a great love, and the mythology that unites them; The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War is a lyrical adaptation of a beloved classic.
Set against the shattering events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at the tale’s heart are an American schoolteacher—dynamic and imaginative—and an Irish musician, homeless and hated—who have survived bloodshed, poverty, and sickness to be thrown together in an English village. Together they quietly hide from the world in a small cottage.
Too soon, reality shatters their serenity, and they must face the parochial community. Unknown to all, a legend is in the making—one that will speak of courage and resilience amidst the forces that brought the couple together even as outside forces threaten to tear them apart.
Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s The Hawkman is written within the context of the disastrous events that turned the world upside down in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The story unfolds around two individuals from opposite realities but whose paths unexpectedly meet and are doomed to a helpless intimacy. Eva Williams is an American school teacher living in a small cottage in the English village where she works. Michael, or rather, the Hawkman is an Irish musician suffering post traumatic stress following his experiences during World War I. Eva tellling stories, and the Hawkman humbly begging charity in the streets, are living rather peaceful and uneventful lives at the time that the story begins. Eva meets this estranged man whose experiences in war have left him thinking he’s a bird, and tries to restore him. Their lives change and are turned over when Eva comes across the Hawkman on her way home one day, after having heard disturbing, yet misleading tales about the depressed figure. Eva takes the Hawkman into her home and the two live quietly in sync with each other’s lifestyles up until the skeptical community breaks apart the serenity the two have built together.
If the complexity of the story had been left at that I would have thoroughly enjoyed and finished it months ago. But no. There’s more, so much more going on than a fairy tale during the Great War. So many more stories unfold and blur together, making it at times extremely difficult to follow and almost entirely impossible to concentrate on. At unpredictable points the story would wander off into fairy tales that were pages long, leaving me confused at times, being left to meet new characters and make connections between the multiple stories I was reading at once. There are also snippets of Eva and Michel’s past lives. There were even points that yet another story would unfold within another like during the stories of Eva’s mother who would tell Eva stories as a child. From here, time, context, narration would change and the story would become a dramatic and in depth portrait of the lives of soldiers during the war.
The way the book was mapped leads me to believe that perhaps even the writer wasn’t sure what story she was telling. I adore the concept of a schoolteacher escaping war to a new world getting by fairytales and whose life changes when a man who thinks he’s a bird becomes a part of it. It’s charming, intriguing and makes for a legendary tale. However a book not even 300 pages should not attempt a writing technique that is more fit for a more Proust-length sort of novel. The short page count compared with the complexity of the novel left much of it seeming undeveloped. We are introduced to characters who seem important to the protagonists of the main story, Eva and Michel, but then some distraction happens and we are never brought back to know how their story ends. This is really the main reason I didn’t like this book. I found it difficult to relate to the characters because the narration, context and ideas are constantly changing, leaving old ones forgotten and rather misunderstood.
Despite the story alternations the writing style remained lyrical and beautiful throughout. LaForge’s descriptons are beautiful and telling. A clear portrait is designed of each of the characters in a poetic and masterful way. The writing is so romantic, if I was only reviewing the writing my rating would be an easy and bright five stars. The visionary style of the novel reflected the magic and imagination of the story, resulting in an overall beautiful effect on the reader.
The Hawkman is a poetic read with interesting features. However, it requires an extrmely dedicated and concentrated reader. The magical realism and historical context infusion is aluring and sure to attract readers of both genres. Unfortunately the inconsistently and undeveloped plot, or plots left me disappointed in the end.
(Book image credits go to Goodreads)