Sunday, February 12, 2012

blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

 

                         

                   

  • Paperback: 527 pages.
  • Genre: Psychological Thriller.
  • Publisher: Blackswan
  • Source: Given to us by a friend in the UK.
  • First Sentences : ‘ Once there was a widow with three sons and their names were Black, Brown and Blue. Black was the eldest, moody and aggressive. Brown was the middle child, timid and dull. But Blue was his mother’s favourite. And he was a murderer.
  • Review Quote: ‘An ingenious and gripping read, it terrified the living daylights out of me’ Daily Express.
  • My Opinion : Very clever and well written but I simply did not enjoy this one.

     

    I have been reading and generally enjoying, sometimes loving the writing of Joanne Harris for a long time. This time with blue eyed boy after reading all 527 pages I am left wondering why I  bothered. It was not the writing as that was up to her normal high standards. No this time I just could not get my head around this somewhat strange story.  The fascinating aspect of the story and possibly the reason I kept reading was that Synaesthesia plays an important role in the story. Also interesting is that it is written in the form of an online journal.  If you have read Gentleman and Players you will recognise the setting for this novel as it is also set in the Yorkshire town of Malbry.

    Once upon a time there were three brothers, Black Brown and Blue as they were known by their widowed mother. Blueeyedboy is single, early forties and living at home with his mother. He has a mundane job and no social life apart from his virtual one. He spends a vast amount of time online, on a website he set up it seems to play out his fantasies.       Most of his online interaction is with Albertine, with whom in the real world he shares a troubled past. The scenarios he talks about in his web journal are of dark murder. Our protagonist plays out his life on the internet so we slowly learn of his dysfunctional family background and his connections to Emily the blind child prodigy who was also part of his childhood. His mind games will lead you to a conclusion that will not answer all your questions but leave you with something to think about. This I believe was the author’s intention.

    It seems I am not alone in my thoughts, as opinion on this novel seems to be very much divided and I quote Joanne Harris : ‘Never has one of my books received such a “Marmite” reaction. Love it or hate it? What kind of reader are you?’   I am not I do not think of a sensitive disposition and I was not terrified as the back cover suggested I might be, I just simply did not enjoy it! Disappointing as after enjoying Gentleman and Players her first psychological thriller, I expected more from this one. Joanne Harris’s writing has in the past tended towards the dark side of human nature but this time I found it just too heavily weighted. Love, Like or Hate this novel will certainly give food for thought especially about the darker side of how one can portray oneself on the internet.

    If you have read this I would be very interested to know what your Marmite reaction was.

     

    Image of Joanne HarrisAmazon author photo.

    About Joanne Harris (courtesy of her official website)

    Joanne Harris was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and was a teacher for fifteen years, during which time she published three novels; The Evil Seed (1989), Sleep, Pale Sister (1993) and Chocolat (1999), which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

    Since then, she has written eight more novels; Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Gentlemen and Players, The Lollipop Shoes and Runemarks, and most recently blueeyedboy which was published in March 2010, plus; Jigs & Reels, a collection of short stories and, with cookery writer Fran Warde, two cookbooks; The French Kitchen and The French Market. Her books are now published in over 40 countries and have won a number of British and international awards. In 2004, Joanne was one of the judges of the Whitbread prize (categories; first novel and overall winner); and in 2005 she was a judge of the Orange prize.

    Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as: “mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion of the system”, although she also enjoys obfuscation, sleaze, rebellion, witchcraft, armed robbery, tea and biscuits. She is not above bribery and would not necessarily refuse an offer involving exotic travel, champagne or yellow diamonds from Graff. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16, is currently studying Old Norse and lives with her husband Kevin and her daughter Anouchka, about 15 miles from the place she was born.

    For more fascinating facts visit 101 Facts About Joanne Harris.

     

    Videos do not contain any spoilers.

    Uploaded by transworldvideos on Mar 9, 2010

     

    Uploaded by transworldvideos on Apr 18, 2011

    Information, photo and video used in this post is with thanks to the following websites.

    YouTube - Joanne Harris – blueeyedboy

    The Joanne Harris Website

    Amazon Profile

  • 28 comments:

    1. I also enjoyed Gentleman and Players - and you and I often enjoy the same books Linda I don't know if I would like it or not. I recently read @before I go to Sleep' by S J Watson which seems to have enjoyed by almost veeryone - I really wasn't that keen.

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      1. I am guessing if you find your opinions on books often agree with mine, then this one will probably not appeal!

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    2. I didn't either love or hate this one - I was just disappointed. Unlike you, I didn't think the writing was up to her usual standard. There was far too much pinned on 'unreliable narration' - which to me smacked of not tying up threads properly. The ending, in particular, was very unsatisfying. This was largely a problem caused by the first-person narrative, and could easily have been solved by bringing in another narrator. In the interview at the back of the book Joanne Harris said that this book had come out of depression and writer's block (I summarise, but that's the basic gist), and sadly it shows. Not up to her usual standard at all.

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      1. Katja thanks so much for taking the time to leave this interesting comment. My edition did not have an interview included and I had no idea about the depression and writer's block. This does explain a lot,I have never had one of her novels disappoint me before!

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    3. I totally agree with your opinion. And I'm also only commenting so the author will read this. Harris, your tweets are daft.

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      1. Thankyou for visiting and taking the time to comment, a shame you do so Anonymously and I was surprised you felt the need to even mention Joanne's Tweets.

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    4. I haven't read this book and it certainly sounds unusual. Thanks for the great review.

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      1. Thanks Debs, it was very unusual and I just did not get to grips with it, but I it seems I may have upset a few people by saying so.

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    5. I was half way through Blueeyedboy when editing my own book took priority. I'll review it on my own blog when I've finished: http://davidlogannovelist.wordpress.com/ - hope I'm allowed to mention that here :o).

      The reviewer didn't like Blueeyedboy. However, apart from it being "too heavily weighed" she can't say why. Does "too heavily weighed" mean too intense? Sometimes intense is good (as in a psychological thriller). Okay, some books just don't do it for some people, and the reviewer has every right to dislike whatever she dislikes. I'd just like specificity concerning "too heavily weighed".

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      1. Thankyou for calling by and commenting of course I do not mind you leaving your link. Sorry if I did not make myself clear, I meant that for me personally I found it too heavily weighted towards the darker side of human nature. I do not mind intense and enjoy psychological thrillers myself. I just was unable to fully understand this and therefore probably the reason I had difficulty expressing myself. I will look forward to reading your own review which may help me to understand the novel more.

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    6. I have to disagree with you. I hadn't seen the interview either, so I didn't know about the depression or writer's block, but I think it would be a little simplistic to say that the dark tone of this story was purely a reflection of the Author's state of mind. As you may gather, I loved this book. I loved the complex structure, her incredibly competent descriptions of Synaesthesia, her tortured and twisted characters, and personally, I was left in no doubt of who did what, assuming my understanding was correct of course. Overall, I thought it was a complex, layered story that was very well written, but as J. Harris herself says, this story is marmite.

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      1. That is ok Anonymous I expect people to disagree, it would be a boring world if we all enjoyed the same novels. It was indeed a very well written novel and I have never said otherwise, just I found it unappealing.

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    7. Love Marmite! Hate Vegemite!
      The jury's still out on what I think about this author's books. Enjoyed Gentlemen & Players and Holy Fools, not so much Coastliners & Chocolat. Disliked Five Quarters of the Orange and Blackberry Wine.
      After reading your review I think I'll pass on this one.

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      1. I think as I mentioned in my review Maggie that this is the first time I have not enjoyed Joanne Harris's writing, but it does seem I have upset a few people by admitting this. Mainly I think because I do not express myself very well as to exactly why this is the case. :(

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    8. Wow - very dark. I love Joanne's writing but I'm not sure this is the subject matter for me. And I think everyone is entitled to their own opinions - that's what reviewing is all about.

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      1. Thanks Talli, I love her writing as well which is exactly why I read this one from cover to cover, despite finding it not to my taste. I had hoped to understand it more than I did.

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    9. Hi Linda,

      On the surface, this sounds like just the kind of storyline that I would enjoy, although I haven't read much of the author's work before and certainly not 'Gentlemen And Players'.

      I love that opening sentence too, that in itself would set me up for hopefully a great reading experience.

      Sorry that you didn't really find it to your liking, as much as you might have hoped and thanks for being so honest about it in your review.

      As you have been in your review, I always try to be objective in any opinions I may share and will not mark a book down too heavily just because it is not to my personal taste. I think that if a review is comprehensive and objective enough, then most readers will be able to decide whether a book is for them or not.

      To me, enjoying a book or not, is purely a matter of personal taste and the message that a review should be sending out to other potential readers is hopefully highlighting the quality and content of the writing and plot, which is just what you have achieved.

      I loved the analagy of the book being a bit like 'Marmite', which by the way, I love!!

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      1. Thankyou so much for sharing your thoughts here, they are very much appreciated. Of course reading is very much a matter of personal taste and my purpose is to giver my readers here a précis of the story without spoilers and some background to the author to help them decide if this a book they would like to read themselves. I do not and nor do I want to write analytical criticisms. I just like to convey if I have enjoyed the book or not and to hear what others think as well. So do let me know your thoughts if you do decide to read this, by the way I also love Marmite.

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    10. How interesting to have such divided reviews on this.

      I LOVE your reviews and find we share similar opinions about many books. I bet I wouldn't enjoy this very much. Although the premise is intriguing.

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      1. This book certainly seems to have had a very divided response. Thanks for your kind words about my reviews Elisabeth,your support is appreciated.

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    11. Thanks for sharing this ! I am an avid reader and this looks great! Had to order a used one from amazon so will let you know what I think! Looks as if she also wrote Chocolat....

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    12. Jeanne, I am so pleased that my review helped tempt you into obtaining a copy. I shall look forward to hearing what you think and yes Joanne Harris is the author of Chocolat, a favourite of mine.

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    13. Well that is odd that word verication does not in this blog!

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      1. I think I did not have a problem on this one, maybe because it is a different template.

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    14. I have this book but haven't read it yet. The story seems intriguing enough and I like dark, mysterious plots.

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      1. If you like dark and intriguing and are a fan of Joanne Harris's writing then this worth reading. Do come back and let us know your thoughts.

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    15. Just finished reading this book. I am so confused. I thought it would all come together at the end (maybe it did and my brain didn't connect things...)....but my final opinion was 'WHAT?!'.

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      1. It was indeed strange and for me disappointing as I normally love the writing of Joanne Harris.

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