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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 23 May 2021

"The Colours We See" by Kaisa Winter

Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. A troubled girl flees from her domineering mother to go travelling in the USA. She becomes a singer with a touring band and falls in love with the troubled front-man. 

In many ways this is a classic 'Hero's Journey' novel with the flights to and from America representing the entrance into and exit from the magical realm where possibilities are boundless. The call (not very robustly refused) is to sing on stage and to join the rock group. The companions journey together through the land on the magical tour bus. There are trials (letters from the hero's mother, drug-taking, a funeral), there is a near-death experience and there is redemption. 

In other ways this has a classic three act/ four part structure with pivotal moments occurring at the 25% (Liam, rather symbolically, falls from the stage), 50% (an acid trip leads to an epiphany), and 75% marks; this makes the pace even and allows the story to enthral the reader throughout.

But mostly this is a brilliant character portrait of a troubled musician, seen from the point of view of a narrator with troubles enough of her own. 

In short, I was impressed. This is an independently-published novel which is markedly better than a number of the commercially published books I have read recently. The author can write complex characters and she can create a story that interests all the way. The prose is well-controlled. There were moments when I worried that it might become purple but it never did. Instead, descriptions were infused with emotional import:
  • "I looked out over the fields that seemed to stretch forever around us, draped in the soft chartreuse of springtime." (Ch 1)
  • "The world felt wild and immeasurable, and here I was, free to partake in the dance. I didn’t have to be the person I had been." (Ch 4)
  • "I opened my mouth and my voice spilled out the way blossoms open suddenly at dawn, and floated through the air like a twirling satin ribbon." (Ch 9)
But the author was particularly good at using the minutiae of everyday life carry the story:
  • "I am shading a baby elephant poised over a watering hole. In the background, Mummy Elephant looms so large that I couldn’t fit her on the page." (Ch 7)
  • "I’m gonna fuck it up oh my god I HATE SHOELACES!" (Ch 8)
  • "It was all coming to an end. I turned my attention to the buttons on my sleeve. They seemed to have no purpose, just put there for decoration. I tugged at them until I noticed one was coming loose." (Ch 32)
She can also put an emotional issue succinctly:
  • "the sad fact is, everyone is broken. Everyone is mired in pain, and it spills over to their kids." (Ch 9)
  • And I get the feeling that in your story, you’re barely even the main character." (Ch 11)
  • "He felt like a shard from a broken vase; forever cut off from the shape he could have been a part of, unable to find his place in the great puzzle, his edges dangerously sharp." (Ch 17)
  • "If anything, my mother loved me too much, a love so overbearing it threatened to choke me." (Ch 21)
  • "using your child to feed your own ego, be that suffering artist or self-righteous saviour, that’s abuse. ... Loving your child only on a narrow set of conditions, that’s abuse. Emotional neglect.” (Ch 21)
  • "How typical, falling for the tragic anti-hero and neglecting to notice the wonderful boy-next-door." (Ch 22)
  • "Here I was, the ragdoll abandoned, stitches coming undone." (Ch 23) I think is an amazing image.
  • "I thought of all the Franks he had been in his lifetime. How many facets there are to a single person: one for each of our ages, one for each of our identities, one for each person who knew us. What a great black hole we leave behind when we go." (Ch 24)
  • "It was just too easy. And why have it hard when you can have it easy? But easy doesn’t always come cheap." (Ch 26)
  • "We’re still alive. Don’t we owe it to the dead to make the most of it?” (Ch 36)
Other great moments
  • "Did I have other plans? Umm, let’s see… Nope!" (Ch 9)
  • Musicians are like tigers. Too large to contain, too wild to tame." (Ch 17)
  • Art is just escapism ... It’s just a way to make life seem more beautiful than it actually is. To lend it some kind of meaning that isn’t really there.” (Ch 17)
  • "I looked at Lawson again, surveying his features. “Your eyes…,” I began. “Oh my god, are they still there?” He put his hands to his eyes, pretending to feel for them." (Ch 22) I liked this moment of humour ... which is brilliantly juxtaposed with a moment of high drama.
  • "the comforting scent of root vegetables and oil." (Ch 22) I've never seen this in print before ... and it is a very comforting scent.
  • If life is the universe divided, maybe death is the place where the opposites combine." (Ch 26)
A well-plotted, well-written story with a great character at the centre.

May 2021

This review was written by

the author of Motherdarling 

and The Kids of God

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