The Haunting of Jessica Raven (German title: Schattenträume – Shadowdreams) is the third book from the four I planned on reading before this weekend and the second one by Ann Halam amongst them, as part of the Book-Week it’s also review number four.
What is it about?
Jessica‘s older brother Adam is fatally ill and every little bit of time they have, is spent together with the family. On one of their trips to France she meets the mysterious Jean-Luc and the scary, shoddy-looking children that follow him wherever he goes. On this meeting she acquires something he had lost.
Back in London she nearly forgets this first encounter until one evening she sees him again and it is like a dream. With each meeting she sees glimpses into his memories in France and finally she learns what she has to do with the treasure she had found. A treasure whose meaning is way more important than she had initially imagined.
The reading experience
Like the other one from Halam did this book have rather large chapters – I would even go as far as to say, it had even longer ones -, but proper endings of sentences at the end of the page made it another well fit bus-reading-book.
The narrator this time wasn’t the main character but a third person narrator, which is my preferred narrator and made the whole read even more enjoyable. Most of the things Jess came across (a crown, the people, etc.) were described pretty detailed, while other things were left to the imagination. I don’t agree with every time a description was or wasn’t given, but I can live with that.
As a huge part of the story takes place in France are there a bunch of French phrases included. Unfortunately did this book not come with an attached glossary of what they mean, but most of them were translated right away, but there are still a few where I have no idea what it translates to.
Jessica was again a female character that knew what she wanted. Studying hard and striving to look for a cure for her brothers’ disease and not even the mysterious young man could drive her away from that. She had her moments of “I want to see him again”, but it didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream to become a Microbiologist. I always consider this to be a good trait in a female lead.
Jean-Luc most of the time felt like a ghost. Sometimes he acknowledged Jessicas presence, on other times he dragged her along without realising who she is. His affection for her didn’t feel like forced romance, but more like genuine sympathy and joy to see her again.
Adam is a bit more present, even if it is just Jess talking about him and his condition at times. Still, the supportive older brother in a wheel chair isn’t really something you read in every novel you come across. With wits at least as good as his sisters a worthy counterpart for her.
Similar to The Fear Man were other characters mentioned and portrayed (their brother and parents, friends, etc.), but not as much as the thoughts and doings of these three were described – though thoughts only for Jess.
All characters had a look into their emotional depths. The despair, anger, fears, exhaustion and what not were always shown and not even the nasty details were skipped. As I said early is Adam the sick wheel chair – or crutch – using big brother. I can imagine the general take on this would have been to show the good things, but Halam went on and showed the bad things, like reactions within the family whenever Adam felt worse. It felt like a proper look into a family like that, without everything being glamorised.
The story line was quite interesting, not captivating, but an interesting concept. I really enjoyed that it wasn’t focused on the romance, even though Jess did have an obvious crush on Jean-Luc. But I guess everything else would have been difficult to explain with the conclusion, which by the way was a nice twist.
It was clear that there would be a connection to Adam’s illness, but the how was nicely done.
On occasion the (detailed) descriptions became repetitive and after the third time reading that the children are “evil”, the thought of “I know…” became more and more prominent.
Jessicas meetings with Jean-Luc are like dreams, according to the German blurb and it is heavily hinted at it throughout the story. Regardless of the the connection being somewhat explained in the finale would I have liked a little more about how that actually worked. Not even the epilogue gave much away on this and on the other happenings.
Stuff I’d like to add
Thanks to the narrator and the other things I’ve mentioned did I enjoy this one more than the other by the authoress. After reading and pretty much enjoying two of her books, I guess I wouldn’t mind reading more by Ann Hallam/Gwyneth Jones.
© For the cover belongs to its rightful owner.