I got an early copy of House of Rougeaux from NetGalley in exchange for feedback. My impression of books from sites that give away books for review is that the books there are not always ‘wow’. The covers are enticing, the blurbs even more so. But then the stories mostly turn out to be narratives where the authors simply don’t know what they are doing. (I was new to the Netgalley scene at this point and the whole intro seems so tone-deaf, to be honest. XD But I’ll keep it for self-introspection sake. :P)
House of Rougeaux was one book that lived up to what it showed on the cover. It has an enticing cover and the blurb got me interested. So I requested for a copy. And here I am, writing about it.
The book starts off without preamble, plunging into darkness and leaving a forlorn feeling in the stomach. Set in Martinique, an island in the Caribbean, House of Rougeaux is the story of the origins of – you guessed right – the Rougeaux family. Adunbi and Abeje are slave children living on a French estate with their mother. When Iya dies, no thanks to the ‘Monsieur’ of the estate, Adunbi and Abeje are crushed. Abeje becomes an Obeah, a great healer, and earns a reputation across the island. Adunbi works hard, and even marries. He and wife Olivie have a child they call Ayo.
Thus forms the correct beginning of the Rougeaux family.
House of Rougeaux spans over 150 years, across six generations in the Rougeaux family. Each generation has its own set of problems to overcome, and its own brand of happiness. Author Jenny Jaeckel makes sure her research into the ways of time works well in this family account. She is thorough and knows when to twist what and how to do it perfectly.
There is an explanation of the family tree early on in the book, to help the reader understand the family better. But when I tried to draw the tree, there were so many characters that the paper just didn’t seem to be enough. The relations are confusing, too. I couldn’t go beyond a couple of generations without getting blinded a little. This, in a way, dampened my hopes a little. I thought that the book would be a touching read, but with so many characters, I just didn’t know how the author would do it.
But oh, boy! How wrong I was! And with every cell in me that judges me smugly for doubting it, I can proudly admit that yes, I was wrong and I don’t mind it one bit!
Jenny Jaeckel uses her characters to the fullest in this beautifully scripted story of a colored family who find their way into the thick of accepted society. She knows what she is doing when she takes the issue of the prejudice against colored people and uses it according to the times the characters come in. She has sections written for the most prominent characters and their experiences throughout their narratives. It rhymes with the ambience of the time and transports you into a world as you don’t know it. A world that was just on its way to today.
The narrative is so engaging that you feel you are in there, experiencing the emotions that the characters are going through. And more than once, the one phrase, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” crosses your mind. Smarter people than me have used this phrase, so I can be exempted from mockery. 😛
House of Rougeaux has a simple story. But in this simplicity lies a heartbreak and warmth that cannot possibly be explained in words. As the book progressed, a heaviness settled in my heart. There is no pronounced bad guy in the entire story. Yet the heart clenches, and the gut wrenches in pain. The amazingly beautiful writing style makes you go ever the closer to crying, but it doesn’t actually bring tears.
The reason probably is that the book as a whole is not made of sorrow, but of hope. The whole point is the poignancy of the words snaking through the pages. The characters do get into tight spots, but they accept it if they are to be blamed. This might seem to make them a little too eager to be accepted, but read the book, and you’ll see that that’s not what it is.
As the title of this article says, House of Rougeaux is a spellbinding, heartbreaking, heartwarming account of the Rougeaux family. And if you like stories of hope and love, this is the one for you.
Because as one of the characters says at one point, Some people talk a lot without saying much, and some people say a lot with just a little. That is exactly what this book does. But this is just secondary, as the most important thing is that it helps you reconnect with family amidst the pangs you feel during the story.
Absolutely love it!
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Until next time, keep reading and add melodrama to your life! 🙂