From one of the U.K.'s most dazzling authors comes a brutal and funny novel about a pair of fraudulent psychic mediums that is itself an elaborate con game between fact and fiction, life and death.
Beth boards an ocean liner with Derek, her almost-fiancé, and encounters her past in the form of Arthur, a not-quite-ex lover. The sea voyage churns up fraught memories of the shady life she and Arthur led, acting as spiritual mediums to fleece the vulnerable. The Blue Book is a haunting meditation (per the Telegraph) about "how love is a private language, a set of codes, to which the outside world ought not admit impediment; about the rightness of doing wrong by false love when true love is waiting down the companionway." Mysterious, virtuosic, and ultimately heartbreaking, The Blue Book is A. L. Kennedy at the height of her powers.
The Blue Book is definitely a unique, artful book, though it lacked character development and a certain heart, making it hard to bond with the characters. There is just too much emotional weight to wade through. The characters are hyper-realized and deeply explored, but rather than creating more intimacy, the information overwhelms.
Kennedy creates a puzzle for the reader and its work to get through, which isn't a problem if there is a bang finish. The finish, though, is merely a whimper, and I was disappointed. To use an analogy that the magician characters in the novel would appreciate, I was waiting for a full-bloodied rabbit to emerge from the top hat as I read to the end, but I found only a tissue paper bunny instead. The lead up and hype of the riddle and structure does not justify the conclusion. It's a nice concept, but more needed to be done with the story to make the style and structure worth it.
"[T]his riddle of a book, from a playful and intelligent writer, is worth a read." - Publishers Weekly
"With a ferocious and probing style, Kennedy examines love and pain and the whole damn thing." - Kirkus
"A. L. Kennedy is almost unique among British novelists for her ability to write fiction that is at once challengingly experimental, luminously beautiful and utterly readable. It helps that she is fiercely observant and very funny... If you want a guide to the rough contradictions of the heart, AL Kennedy is your woman." - Evening Standard (UK)
"An amazing conception, one that will make you want to turn back and start again the moment you have finished... the writing is as taught and thrilling as Kennedy's prose always is and there is her usual wry laughter chuckling within it all." - New Statesman (UK)
"This is a masterful novel, imaginatively crafted, shaped by big, precisely articulated emotion." - The Times (UK)
"Kennedy is a fine stylist and single passages are exquisite." - Financial Times (UK)
"Offers the pleasures of a work in which form and content dovetail with extraordinary skill, and in which narrative tricks are utilised to enlarge on the theme of deception rather than for the sake of tricksiness itself." - Sunday Times (UK)
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A.L. Kennedy was born in Dundee in 1965. She is the author of 14 books: 6 novels, 5 short story collections, and 3 works of non-fiction. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Her next book All The Rage a new collection of short stories will be published by Jonathan Cape in 2014. She is also a dramatist for the stage, radio, TV and film.
She writes for a number of UK and overseas publications and has a regular blog with The Guardian online.
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