'Out of the Blue' is wonderfully funny, well-written novel about a self-deceptive thirty-something TV weathergirl who is bored with her marriage. Faith is an endearing but naive woman; she is the mother to two intelligent, lovable but rather unusual teenagers; she owns an almost-human dog, Graham (my favourite character); and she is married to a long-suffering husband, Peter. She is also the best friend of the glamorous, if rather ruthless and selfish, Lily who sows the seeds that lead Faith wrongly to suspect her husband of infidelity. Wolff throws into the mix two supremely manipulative characters (Faith and Peter's new partners) to spice up the plot. Full of wonderful set pieces, including a side-splitting St Valentine's Day restaurant scene, this is a novel about deception and self-deception that is full of wit and pathos. The characters seem so vibrant, real and warm. They are instantly recognisable as people we all know. Wolff's most intriguing character is Lily. This beautiful, witty editor of an upmarket women's magazine drives the events of the novel. And she also happens to be black. I take my hat off to Wolff who must be one of the first UK writers, if not the first UK writer, of mainstream commercial fiction to include a strong and interesting black female protagonist. She has been particularly courageous in choosing not to make Lily 'nice'; the character is instead driven, ambitious and sharp just as any highly visible successful career woman would be, no matter what her colour. Where black women exist in commercial fiction, they are usually 'nice' victims who serve to emphasise the moral uprightness, compassion and (left-wing) social conscience of the white protagonist(s). As a professional black woman who is making her way quietly in the world without flourishing a shoulder-hugging chip, I find Wolff's characterization of Lily refreshing. Hurrah for Lily! Hurrah for 'Out of the Blue' and hurrah for Isabel Wolff!
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