Wednesday, 13 June 2012

'The Missing Shade of Blue' by Jennie Erdal

In Jennie Erdal's brilliant memoir Ghosting (2004) she 'came out' as the ghostwriter for the flamboyant, larger than life Naim Attallah. I remember loving this book and telling everyone to read it. So when Peregrinations mentioned The Missing Shade of Blue to me, Erdal's first novel under her own name, I was intrigued, but  with my mother having been ill it took me even longer than usual to finish, my customary stopping and starting more stopping and stopping.

And I confess I have mixed feelings about this one.

I loved the reflections on the role of fiction and the art of translation, and the gems of information on David Hume - I didn't know about 'the missing shade of blue' - but I found Edgar, the rather limp half French, half Scottish translator who narrates the novel,  unconvincing  and prone to some terribly clunky sentences - perhaps because English is supposed to be his second language - I'm not sure - but 'a worm of panic wriggled in my gut' is hard to forgive. I also found the main female characters - Carrie and Alice - two-dimensional, and  Carrie's 'dramatic' secret feels wholly contrived (as well as there being too much telling and not enough showing).

However, I loved Sanderson, Carrie's husband, the philosopher academic, whom we come to know entirely through Edgar - he's a big, colourful, rude presence and you want more of him, he lights up the book. And in spite of not really caring about Edgar, I did find myself wishing him happiness as the novel gathered pace,  I must've been more engaged than I thought.  So I give this 7 out of 10. Definitely worth reading. And a gorgeous cover.


Lesley said...

Yes, I think I agree with you. Edgar was limp as well as limpid. I especially liked the references to well-kent bits of Edinburgh and especially the decaying David Hume Tower. I did wonder, though, if perhaps I was missing some important allusions to Hume's philosophy through pure ignorance.

nmj said...

Hey Lesley, Damn, I meant limp, glad you said this, that's my crappy concentration - I will change to limp! Also, I think local references can be a little annoying unless you are living away, then they are more fun. Most of Hume was new to me, and I enjoyed those aspects but as a novel it just didn't work entirely, esp the women, who are for the most part rather dull and cliched. I was going to give it 6, but have found myself thinking about the characters after finishing, so am giving it 7 instead. A good summer read though!

nmj said...

..and I just realised where I prob got limpid from, in my own book there is a woman with limpid blue eyes early on, and I have blue in my head with this title!