Words in deep blue – book review

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Sometimes I feel that it is my job to find beautiful books and tell others about them because I feel their lives will be enriched. Cath Crowley’s young adult novel, Words in deep blue, is one such book.

The story is told in first person, alternating between Henry, who has finished year 12, works in his family’s secondhand bookshop and has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Amy – and Rachel, his ex-best friend, moving back to the city after being away for three years and who lost her younger brother when he drowned at sea.

The setting had me at hello – a secondhand bookshop with a letter library. The letter library section is full of secondhand books which can’t be bought because anyone is welcome to come in and underline or highlight or write notes about their favourite lines or paragraphs. The result is layer upon layer of annotated messages between strangers, friends and lovers. People also leave letters between the pages of their favourite books for strangers, friends or lovers to find. The letters form part of the story.

The characters are well-read, appreciate nuances, discuss books, write well and care deeply. As older teenagers, they are also caught up in their world of girlfriends and boyfriends, friends, music, books, going out, lack of money, jobs, fitting in, parents, school, social media.

Here’s a passage from Rachel:

Henry read me ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ once, on a night in year 8. We were lying on the floor of the bookstore, and I’d told him that I didn’t like poetry. ‘I can’t understand it, so it never makes me feel anything.’

‘Hang on,’ he’d said, going over to the shelves.

He came back with the Prufrock. The poem did sound like a love song. As I listened I stared at a mark on the ceiling that looked like a tear-shaped sun. The mark somehow got mixed with the words.

I didn’t know exactly what ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ was about, but lying there next to Henry, with his voice so close, I wanted to disturb something. I wanted to disturb us, shake us out of him seeing me as just Rachel, his best friend. I loved the poem for making me feel like disturbance was possible. And because it said something to me about life that I wanted to know, but didn’t understand.

I stayed up way too late to finish this book, and found myself crying at one point. Because this book had disturbed me – in a good way. It holds characters with dreams and pasts, a bookshop with fluid connections between the living and the dead, the possible and the imagined.

What’s the latest (good) disturbing book you’ve read?

 

 

10 comments

  1. Thanks Karen, this was on my wish-list so will buy now after your glowing review.

    I recently read “The One-in-a-Million Boy” by Monica Wood. I would highly recommend this book. This isn’t a spoiler, the boy of the title has died, and we learn about his life as well as his parents’ and his elderly friend’s.Some funny, funny moments and some heart wrenching ones as well. The chapter at end of book where we hear about his final day had me in tears.

    Terri.

    1. Thanks for your recommendation, Terri – I’ve heard about that book, too, so will look out for it now. I like the combination of heart-wrenching and funny moments.

  2. Words in Deep Blue sounds lovely.
    I like the idea of the letter library.
    I’ve just read The Course of Love.
    Didn’t love it but it was an interesting and different style for a novel. I think my daughter- in- law will like it.
    I’ve started reading A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald. I know I’m going to love it already.
    Thanks Karen for your reviews.

    1. Pleasure, Kathy, I’m glad my reviews are helpful! I loved the letter library – I’m seriously thinking about slipping a few notes into my family’s favourite books.

  3. Wow Karen, it’s on my to read list. I think the latest book I’ve read that disturbed me (great description) was One by Sarah Crossan, but a book that continues to disturb me and disturbed me deeply for months was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Great post.

    1. Renee – I have ‘One’ sitting on my bedside table thanks to your fabulous blog review! Haven’t heard of ‘Never let me go’ – will look out for it. A book that disturbs for months sounds intriguing.

  4. Looks like there is some beautiful writing in this. I think the last book I read that disturbed me, in the sense that it brought a tear to my eye and made me think about the world differently, was Reckoning by Magda Szubanski. The love she expressed for her family and also the isolation she felt growing up. I think I finally understood the importance of diversity in our books and on our screens.

    1. Thanks for your recommendation, Carolyn – I have looked through Magda’s book in the bookshop – will have another look now.

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