There were so many books that I got at YALC, I’m still trying to work my way through all of them. I picked up a copy of The Taste of Blue Light after a workshop with the author, where we used art postcards, clippings from magazines, and other things to create short works. It was great, really interesting, and walking away clutching the bright red proof copy of The Taste of Blue Light left me looking forward to reading it.
An incandescent, soul-searching story about a broken young woman’s search for a truth buried so deep it threatens to consume her, body and mind.
‘Since I blacked out, the slightest thing seems to aggravate my brain and fill it with fire’
These are the things Lux knows:
She is an Artist.
She is lucky.
She is broken.
These are the things she doesn’t know:
What happened over the summer.
Why she ended up in hospital.
Why her memories are etched in red.
‘The nightmares tend to linger long after your screams have woken you up …’
Desperate to uncover the truth, Lux’s time is running out. If she cannot piece together the events of the summer and regain control of her fractured mind, she will be taken away from everything and everyone she holds dear.
If her dreams don’t swallow her first.
Lux was a hard character to like in this book. Traumatised by some unknown event at a party, she’s desperately trying to find the old Lux, and go back to what she was before.
I read most of this in a single night. After starting it when I was in the Lake District for the weekend, I only got about a chapter in, then put it to one side. A few weeks later, when I picked it up again, I devoured it.
I was drawn in by the imagery of this book. At once savage and beautiful, from the opening sentence, this book just grabs you and refuses to let go. Lux is completely traumatised, and doesn’t know why or how or what happened to make her like this. She’s lost the time between going to a party and waking up in a hospital bed, and is desperate to get it back.
But actually, Lux doesn’t really… engage with the people trying to help her. She ends up alienating her parents and her friends, as well as the faculty around her, as she fights to regain her old self, but doesn’t really know how to go about it. Although it was frustrating for me to experience that with her, it felt very real – I can totally imagine being the same way, trying desperately to solve a mystery but having no idea how to go about it.
I did have a few complaints about The Taste of Blue Light, though. The title and synopsis made it sound like it would deal with synaesthesia, and it really didn’t. Also, Lux’s school, Richdeane, was entirely implausible, in that they teach only Art and Art subjects. There are mandatory subjects for GCSE in the UK, aren’t there? I suspect that English and Maths are two of them… so I was pulled out of the book by that.
Finally, although on first reading I was blown away by the reveal of what happened to Lux to make her nightmares turn red, the more I thought about it, the less impressed I was with it. It came completely out of the blue. I mean absolutely out of nowhere. It wasn’t flagged anywhere what the traumatic event might be, and in fact, there was a fair amount of misdirection. So when it was revealed, it felt kind of jarring. Then the latter parts of the book, as Lux deals with the revelations that ensue, felt so unlike the first parts of the book as to be quite disconcerting.
Loads of potential here, and a hugely interesting story, but didn’t quite hit the mark for me.