Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flatteringly deceptive, 4 May 2013
This review is from: The Missing Shade Of Blue (Paperback)
Edgar is translator of mixed Scottish - French parentage, raised in a Paris bookshop and working at the Sorbonne. He has been seconded to Edinburgh to translate some essay by David Hume, while Blandford, a member of the faculty in Edinburgh has gone to Paris. The two have exchanged homes for the period. On arrival in Edinburgh, Edgar falls in with Harry Sanderson, another member of the faculty who has just written a book on happiness. Sanderson is a man in moral and physical decay: his body, career, family life and moral compass are coming apart. He is married to Carrie, a former student of his, now a highly regarded artist, who has son from a previous relationship, Alfie. Alfie became schizophrenic at adolescence and is now institutionalised. Harry teaches Edgar how to fly-fish; lectures him about philosophy; they discuss their backgrounds.

There is a lot going on in MISSING SHADE OF BLUE, and not all of it is good. There is a lot outright philosophy, Socratic Dialogues between Sanderson and Edgar: likewise, a lot of talk about translations and reading.

Virtually every character either suffers from, or has close personal connections to, mental illness.

There is a Parisian childhood. There is the meaning of happiness, and some standard, ho-hum extramarital affairs, as one expects from novels set in academia.

The work has a definite French feel to it and resembles - in style at least - Julian Barnes' similar cross-channel endeavors, but BLUE is nowhere near that bad. I was reminded of Sartre and Balzac, and not just because the author overtly brings them into the narrative, but there is a very clear attempt to mimic the style of the French intellectual novel. The feeling of high academic life has shades of AS Byatt and even CP Snow.

Erdal's style in adequate, sometimes excellent, but the whole work plods along a little. I found the plot eventually quite disappointing. Yawn.

The plot is carrying an enormous weight of erudition on its shoulders and ultimately is not strong enough to support it all. Much of the philosophy does not really tie in with the events in the story and one sometimes has the feeling that one is reading a primer rather than a novel: I felt lectured to.

All the elements and themes don't really seem to come together enough. Great ambition demands great execution. I was left wondering what it was all about really.
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