Book Review of Jacob Have I loved by Katherine Paterson

Name of Book: Jacob Have I loved

Author: Katherine Paterson

ISBN: 0-06-440368-8

Publisher: Harper trophy

Type of book: 1940s, twins, Rass, attention, desperation, good vs evil, religion, crabbing, small community, indifference.

Year it was published: 1980


"Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated..." With her grandmother's taunt, Louise knew that she, like the biblical Esau, was the despised elder twin. Caroline, her selfish younger sister, was the one everyone loved.

Growing on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island, Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Louise began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island where they lived. SHe dreamed of working as a waterman alongside her father, but she found that her dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach.


The main characters are  Louise Bradshaw who is the elder twin whom everyone took for granted, along with Captain, Call, the parents and Caroline, along with the grandma that I didn't like. I should have been able to connect to this novel because who hasn't been jealous of a sibling? But in truth I couldn't and even now I'm still scratching on my head, wondering how in nine hells did Caroline wrong her sister? What was so selfish about her? How has everything got stolen from Louise? The characters aren't rounded and the change is very abrupt without warning, at least in particular to Call and Louise. Caroline, for all the prominence she plays, isn't visible. I also couldn't stand the character of Call either and could barely understand any jokes that Call often tells Louise, or why couldn't Louise have any other friends?


I have no idea what I should have learned from the book, honestly.


I have to admit that I found the story and setting a bit boring. I sort of wish for more beautiful nature descriptions that she sees sometimes, and am saddened that the author didn't take advantage of that. While the community is fascinating, somehow I found their lives to be boring and I couldn't wait until I could get done with the book. There is no resolution in all honesty, and I couldn't understand neither the moral nor the twin story at the very end.

Author Information:

Katherine Paterson
Author profile

October 31, 1932 in Qing Jiang, China



Children's Books

Evelyn Husband

About this author
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From author's website:

People are always asking me questions I don't have answers for. One is, "When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?" The fact is that I never wanted to be a writer, at least not when I was a child, or even a young woman. Today I want very much to be a writer. But when I was ten, I wanted to be either a movie star or a missionary. When I was twenty, I wanted to get married and have lots of children.

Another question I can't answer is, "When did you begin writing?" I can't remember. I know I began reading when I was four or five, because I couldn't stand not being able to. I must have tried writing soon afterward. Fortunately, very few samples of my early writing survived the eighteen moves I made before I was eighteen years old. I say fortunately, because the samples that did manage to survive are terrible, with the single exception of a rather nice letter I wrote to my father when I was seven. We were living in Shanghai, and my father was working in our old home territory, which at the time was across various battle lines. I missed him very much, and in telling him so, I managed a piece of writing I am not ashamed of to this day.

A lot has happened to me since I wrote that letter. The following year, we had to refugee a second time because war between Japan and the United States seemed inevitable. During World War II, we lived in Virginia and North Carolina, and when our family's return to China was indefinitely postponed, we moved to various towns in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, before my parents settled in Winchester, Virginia.

By that time, I was ready to begin college. I spent four years at King College in Bristol, Tennessee, doing what I loved best-reading English and American literature-and avoiding math whenever possible.

My dream of becoming a movie star never came true, but I did a lot of acting all through school, and the first writing for which I got any applause consisted of plays I wrote for my sixth-grade friends to act out.

On the way to becoming a missionary, I spent a year teaching in a rural school in northern Virginia, where almost all my children were like Jesse Aarons. I'll never forget that wonderful class. A teacher I once met at a meeting in Virginia told me that when she read Bridge to Terabithia to her class, one of the girls told her that her mother had been in that Lovettsville sixth grade. I am very happy that those children, now grown up with children of their own, know about the book. I hope they can tell by reading it how much they meant to me.

After Lovettsville, I spent two years in graduate school in Richmond, Virginia, studying Bible and Christian education; then I went to Japan. My childhood dream was, of course, to be a missionary to China and eat Chinese food three times a day. But China was closed to Americans in 1957, and a Japanese friend urged me to go to Japan instead. I remembered the Japanese as the enemy. They were the ones who dropped the bombs and then occupied the towns where I had lived as a child. I was afraid of the Japanese, and so I hated them. But my friend persuaded me to put aside those childish feelings and give myself a chance to view the Japanese in a new way.

If you've read my early books, you must know that I came to love Japan and feel very much at home there. I went to language school, and lived and worked in that country for four years. I had every intention of spending the rest of my life among the Japanese. But when I returned to the States for a year of study in New York, I met a young Presbyterian pastor who changed the direction of my life once again. We were married in 1962.

I suppose my life as a writer really began in 1964. The Presbyterian church asked me to write some curriculum materials for fifth- and sixth-graders. Since the church had given me a scholarship to study and I had married instead of going back to work in Japan, I felt I owed them something.


Even when I picked this book up for a sixth grade or seventh grade reading, I couldn't get past it. I found it boring within mere few chapters! Thinking that I have grown up and perhaps this book wouldn't be as bad, I have chosen it to be part of my book challenge. Apparently my younger self was a lot smarter than my current self. The summary is very misleading because honestly I couldn't see of how Louise was robbed of everything like the summary claims, (aside from the Captain that's even older than her grandmother...) Louise suffered more of an indifference rather than anything else. All she does is also whine and whine about Caroline, and I never got a chance to see or hear Caroline's side of the story.The only person that didn't like Louise is the grandmother, but then I didn't like the grandmother either. I wish I could have found the life on island more interesting because the author was trying to make it fascinating, but in truth the whole biblical along with fishing and whatnot bored me. (Postscript I hated the cover that I have. I loved previous covers.)

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


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