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The Blue Book Paperback – 2 Aug 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099555468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099555469
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"AL 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" (Jane Shilling Evening Standard)

"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" (Joan Bakewell New Statesman)

"This is a masterful novel, imaginatively crafted, shaped by big, precisely articulated emotion" (The Times)

"Kennedy is a fine stylist and single passages are exquisite" (Financial Times)

"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" (Edmund Gordon Sunday Times)

Book Description

An extraordinary story of love, loss and the act of deception from one of the finest novelists in contemporary British fiction.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Beth and Derek are on a cruise - the youngest people aboard by far. Derek has planned to propose but is miserable and confined to his cabin with seasickness, instead. Beth wanders the decks and meets up with Arthur, a successful fraudulent psychic. It soon becomes clear their meetings are not the result of chance: Beth and Art have a secret history, but what is the truth of it (and them) and will their future be together or apart?

I found this book quite infuriating. Large chunks of the narrative are told in the second person, which in itself was not a problem, but the laborious verbosity was: there are whole swathes of tortured, pretentious, pseudo-philosophising nonsense obscuring what is actually a good story. After the first 50 pages I was on the cusp of giving up. I managed to keep going, though, and by page 100 I had discovered enough of Beth and Arthur to want to learn what had and would happen to them.

As the novel progresses, more and more of their story emerges. It is captivating, and is interrupted by fewer and fewer of the irritating second person interludes which do not add anything to the story. They do, however, slow down the exposition and make the reader keener than ever to get back to the real `action'. This is not an action-packed story; it is about how people get under one another's skin, it's about guilt, power within relationships and it's about love. The tension is expertly built, and the ending leaves the reader hanging. I guessed the reason for Arthur and Beth's separation but its revelation was still wrenching and I was surprised how much I could care about these characters who were kept at such a distance for so long.
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Format: Hardcover
For anyone thinking of giving up near the beginning, as a number of reviewers here have said, don't, persist and you will be rewarded.

I almost put it down somewhere around the 30-50 page mark where there's a long dense stream of conciousness, I persisted through this mainly due to the tantalising opening section where the book talks to you and /reads you/ rather than vice versa. It then opens into a multi-layered set of revelation with the whole coming together with a moving, clever and ironic ending that solidly ties the whole of the book together. I'd like to comment and discuss the ending more but it would be a dreadful spoiler.

If anyone can give any detailed insight into the the specific meaning of page numbering in the body of the book I'd be interested to hear.

Also mine was a library copy, I was supposedly the first reader but a number of the pages were dog eared, which made me wonder if this was another trick in the printing of this fine physical volume.

Was my first A.L.Kennedy, I'll be reading out more.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Other reviewers and the Amazon blurb have already outlined the plot so I shall skip that. In any case, this is not a plot-driven novel, though there are discoveries to be made, some devastating, about our protagonists.

If you've never read A.L. Kennedy before (as I hadn't) then you need to know that she's an extremely clever, post-modern writer - something which had put me off her previous books. But I'm very happy to have been proved wrong as I liked this very much and found it surprisingly moving, not something I usually expect from tricksy, clever-clever books.

The narrative flips between a neutral narrator, a more typical 3rd person narrator from Elizabeth's point of view, and a stream-of-consciousness in Elizabeth's head: the latter is written not in fragmented, unpunctuated Woolf/James Joyce style but as proper sentences, albeit in italics. The reason for this does become clear at the end.

I liked Elizabeth's sharp, sometimes slyly funny voice ("being annoyed is almost indistinguishable from being right-wing... if State Socialism had been more sensible, it wouldn't have generated all those queues" p.10), but thought this was going to be a book which held me at arm's length, cold and detached.

Instead, beneath the tricksiness, the book transforms into something far more intimate, almost desperate and needy. There are points at which the story is unashamedly cruel, but it is also true and tender with, at its heart, one of the most lyrical evocations of love I have ever read.

So this is definitely a book which belied my preconceptions. The title, the tricky page numbering (I'm not sure this would work on a Kindle), even the beautiful look and feel of the hardcover edition itself, all become crucial to the story that is being told. This isn't an easy, throwaway read - it demands your attention and concentration - but I ended up loving it. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Some books are wonderful, but uncomfortable reading. This is one of them.

The Blue Book is ostensibly the story of Elizabeth, a woman who is on a cruise with her boyfriend, Derek where she is forced to confront her past life as a fake medium, with Arthur, an ex-boyfriend whom she has now left, but still sees on and off for no-strings attached sex. But please don't be put off by the summary on the jacket, because AL Kennedy's beautiful and complex writing breathes life into the story and characters in a way that made me feel really alive.

This is a story about doubt and how it eats away at people- Elizabeth's frenetic, innermost thoughts are told in italicised text. This is a story about settling. This is a story about love and how we want to keep things from those that we love, so much that we come to believe the fictions we have invented. Kennedy's characters are not necessarily sympathetic ones and frustratingly they often do not make the choices that would resolve their problems and make them happy -at one point Arthur says "what is the point of all this over-thinking if we never do anything with it?"- but that pig-headedness is what makes them, if not likeable, at least real and human.

I don't want to say too much, because some of the story does rely on the plot, and details are revealed gradually, but this book is worth reading purely for the description of how terrifying it can be to fall in love with someone. Kennedy's writing is poetic and wonderful and, as expected, the boat setting provides the opportunity for plenty of dark comedy.
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