Jack is a book set in Charleston in the 1800’s, which tells the story of mischievous schoolboys. Jack is the rebellious leader who delights in winding up his school master and setting up his schoolboy friends for a fall. The book does remind me of the work of Mark Twain, there are many similarities but enough differences for this to feel like a new work. In a way I think this is a homage to Mark Twain.
The tone of this is humorous, although I think as it gets further in quite serious and shocking when describing the abolishment of slavery and treatment of the people. I think on that subject this book suddenly becomes more appealing and the dynamics change with other characters introduced to us.
The conversation between a schoolboy and the master when speaking of the slaves and their freedom, I felt tension and empathy because of their differences in opinion. It is odd to read something like that, as now slavery is not even a matter of opinion or discussion. Black or white, we are all equal beings and that makes this into an fascinating historical novel. Jack has a setting with plenty of story opportunities.
The personal background story of the school master is a nice touch and almost elevates this to fairy-tale status as he chucks in teaching and returns to his former occupation, thanks to Jack. He could have easily became a caricature of the idea that we have of schoolmasters of old, who bully their pupils and rap their knuckles with a ruler. The character of Jack becomes more well rounded too as the book reaches its end and you start to understand him a little more.
This is a rollicking read.
Buy the first volume here and look out for the second part, to be published soon!