This is a specialist study of the novel “The Day of the Jackal” by the superb storyteller Frederick Forsyth.
The novel itself is weird, to say the least, but weird in a very “right” way. I enjoyed reading it and if this doesn’t drive you to read it yourself then I’ve done a very poor job of explaining how entertaining it is.
The novel is an account of how the “Jackal”, hired by Colonel Marc Rodin of the O.A.S., planned and carried out the assassination of President Charles De Gaulle of France.
Not until the Jackal accepts the commission is the reader told that De Gaulle is regarded as being “the safest person on the planet”. With this point, the book is confirming how precise and cold-blooded the “Jackal” is in trying to assassinate such an important and protected character as De Gaulle.
From the book’s title you are intrigued to understand ‘Who’ the Jackal is. Yet the novel starts by keeping the identity of the Jackal a mystery. In the early stages of this novel the author keeps us in the dark, actually, to be more precise, he doesn’t explain what the Jackal is like; all the information given is that he is a”Blonde Englishman” with a serious interest in very important political characters, and mainly in how to “disable them indefinitely”.
As you read through the novel you begin to understand that the Jackal is more of a machine than anything else. He has no emotions, he is precise to the point of obsession and he is ruthless to the point of killing anyone who obstructs him from his ultimate goal.
He is referred to as the Jackal through the book and his real name is only revealed about three quarters of the way through.
In the story the Jackal appears to be a fascinating and entertaining character, but there is someone in this book that is almost as entertaining as him: I give you Inspector Claude Lebel.
This humble looking little man is told two things: 1.Someone is trying to assassinate the president of France and 2. If this is not stopped, he will be held responsible. Now this is a rather alarming thing to be told but this man manages NOT to have a nervous breakdown. He actually handles this rationally and with precision comparable to the Jackal’s. He is the one that ultimately is the only threat to the Jackal, and the only one o think along the same lines as him.
Not to mention the third character, Marc Rodin.
Rodin decides to hire the Jackal; not just decides on hiring a killer but he does a great deal of research and comes up with the Jackal as the prime and chosen subject out of three possible candidates.
He spends most of the time in the novel literally hiding in a hotel in Rome waiting for a contact or news from the Jackal. He is also the man that starts the biggest wave of crime ever in France to fuel the huge demand of the Jackal’s fee for the “incapacitation” of Charles De Gaulle.
When he describes the Jackal he describes him as “France’s only hope” and hates him for not being a Frenchman but in fact foreign and most of all an Englishman.
The most important technique used by Mr Forsyth is the detailed description by different points of view like the investigator Claude Lebel, the employer Marc Rodin and the Jackal himself. Also the cleverness of the actual plot and twists in such the makes the book almost read itself. He arranges it in such a way that you truly feel the plot unfolding as you read it but draws you to read more as you go along.
The thing I found most perplexing about this is the use of actions to describe the characters. The only character that is described in the traditional way is Claude Lebel and even he’s described through the eyes of another man.
I found the actions of the Jackal strange at first, which is probably exactly how Fredrick Forsyth meant it to be; Forsyth keeps this up until the last minute pulling you into reading more.
The Climax itself is somewhat disappointing due to its brevity. Yet it seems to hit when you think back on the book – after you have finished it and have already turned your bedside light off. It’s amazing how he achieved this effect because all the people I know that have read the book feel the same way.
I was surprised by how quickly I read this book and how much I enjoyed it; it is different from the books I normally read (e.g. Terry Pratchett) which are light hearted and a rather “easy read”. This book is not light hearted at all, because the actual plot is an assassination and the main character is a calculating, ruthless individual clad in mystery and cruelty.