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Songs of Blue and Gold Paperback – 7 Aug 2008
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"Evocative and beautifully written" (Katie Fforde)
A timeless love story set in a lush, richly imagined Corfu, Songs of Blue and Gold is the gorgeous new novel by the author of The Art of Falling.See all Product description
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I ordered this book years ago from Amazon for holiday reading, but once I received it, I felt it was going to be too lightweight and romantically sentimental for me and I have, until now, put off reading it. Having finally got around to it, I'm sorry to say that I was right in my assumption - but I can't explain more fully without revealing too much of the story and spoiling it for those who have yet to read it. In addition, the author makes a point of stating at the beginning of her book that although she based Julian Adie on Lawrence Durrell, she has "played fast and loose with his chronology… to give an impression of the author's life without providing in any way an accurate portrayal" - which made me wonder why she didn't just create her own character and left herself even more free to go wherever she wanted to with this story. That said, Ms Lawrenson's descriptions of Corfu and the south of France were beautifully done and parts of this novel were enjoyable to read and for those looking for a light, undemanding holiday read, this might just fit the bill.
Songs of Blue and Gold by Deborah Lawrenson brought the best of Corfu back me. This is the story about two women: Melissa, an unhappily married archivist, and her mother Elizabeth, who on her death bed presents her daughter with a startling and mysterious key to her past: a copy of Collected Poems by Julian Adie, Lawrenson's fictional version of Lawrence Durrell. On the title page an inscription by the author reads: 'To Elizabeth, always remembering Corfu, what could have been and what we must both forget.'
So begins Melissa's journey from England to Corfu to the South of France in search of her mother's past relationship with Adie as well as an internal exploration of her own unhappy personal life. Structurally complex, the novel moves from Melissa's investigations to passages of Elizabeth's time spent on Corfu with Julian Adie to fictional biography book excerpts detailing Adie's many lives and loves. A timeless character who seduces all those around him both in life and after death, Adie acts as a bridge between Elizabeth's past and Melissa's present. His biography makes Melissa question the biographies of others, including her mother Elizabeth's, and the revelation that past events shape as well as influence the lives of those in the present tense.
Lawrenson's description of Corfu, and particuraly of Kalami - both past and present - is thoughtful, delicate and beautiful. Her words paint the island at its best. Take this passage, which I can easily read over and over again: 'Each time she walked the tiny main road, effectively barely more than a lane, she noticed more: the powerful scent of jasmine escaping over a wall; bright globes in orange and lemon trees; the violent trumpets of morning glory winding through wire fencing; and everywhere the ancient gnarled olive tree, each composites of several intertwining trunks, some so holed and intricately braided you could see right through them.'
Ah, Corfu! Equally impressive, Lawrenson delves deep into the tricky and highly subjective world of time and memory, and the gaps which break as well as the bridges that bind the two together. In this way Songs of Blue and Gold can be classified as a work of literary fiction. Then again, the portryal of Melissa's investigations into her mother's past while searching for answers in her own personal life often reads as a cat-and-mouse game, a mystery which needs solving in the most literal sense through clues found in conventional scenes and conversations. A commerically viable technique, perhaps, however I couldn't help but feel let down by the scores of standard plot-moving dialogs. On whole, however, I appreciated the major issues and themes this book explores. I have the feeling that if the real Julian Adie (Lawrence Durrell) read Songs of Blue and Gold, he would smile.
The story revolves around Melissa. Melissa is in her 30s and her life seems to be heading nowhere. Her mother Elizabeth recently died after suffering from dementia for some time. Elizabeth gave Melissa a book just before she died, from the inscription it is clear that she had spent time on Corfu in the early 60s. Melissa knew nothing about this and is drawn to discover more about her mother's secret life.
Melissa arrives on Corfu and tries to find out more about the mysterious author who obviously knew Elizabeth intimately.
Lawrenson describes the lush and beautiful island of Corfu perfectly, from the beaches, the plants and most especially the people. The friendliness, the nosiness, the generosity and the secrecy of the small village - all are beautifully drawn.
This is an engaging story, written so beautifully.
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