A few weeks ago the author of this book Deborah Lawrenson, having followed a trail from a comment I’d left on dovegreyreader scribbles to my blog, sent me a note to ask if I’d like to read her latest book. I was absolutely delighted, as once I’d visited Deborah’s website her books sounded very much my cup of tea. Being a relative newcomer to the blog world, being offered books to review is a fantastic bonus.
Songs of Blue and Gold is a novel about knowing yourself and where you come from. Melissa’s life is in crisis, her marriage is cracking up and her mother is increasingly lost to the erasing power of Alzheimers. During brief minutes of clarity, her mother gives her a gift which hints at a secret past involving the great writer Julian Adie, who lived in Corfu when her mother was younger.
Melissa decides to take a break from it all and heads out to Kalami to find out what happened back in the late 1960s.Adie has been modelled closely on the writer and hedonist womaniser Lawrence Durrell who got through four wives, and had a rather bohemian lifestyle lived mainly in Kalami in Corfu, and later the Languedoc. He wrote a lyrical semi-fictionalised account of his early Corfu life called Prospero’s Cell, and after he became a literary superstar with the publication of the Alexandria Quartet, the White House in Kalami appears to have been quite a tourist attraction in this quiet corner of the island.
Enough potted history, at this point, I must declare that I have never read any of Lawrence Durrell. Like many of you I’ve read (and seen on TV) his brother’s work My Family and Other Animals and that was the extent of my knowledge of the family. My Mum gave me three out of four of the Alexandria Quartet last year funnily enough, and after reading this super book, I will definitely seek them out, but you don’t have to have read any Durrell to thoroughly enjoy this novel.
Melissa uncovers that her mother had an affair with Adie and even appeared to have had a grounding influence on him – now single after his first wife died. But for the presence of an old flame – a woman who drowned that summer and the locals couldn’t, or wouldn’t say what happened. When an academic writing a biography of Adie turns up on the scene and implies that her mother was involved in the accident, Melissa runs away to her family’s holiday home in the Languedoc, where she uncovers her mother’s writings which help her complete the story, and finds more local connections to Adie.
Running alongside the quest is a lovely will they, won’t they romance between Melissa and Alexandros, a historian who lives in Kalami; and Melissa’s attempt to try and re-build a relationship with her husband.Interestingly, the author prefaces the different sections with selections from the academic’s biography of Adie, and Melissa’s book putting things straight, which questions the purpose of biography without the full story. And we hear the story from the academic, the daughter, and her mother – a PoV device which Durrell used to great effect in the Alexandria Quartet (apparently).
There is so much more to this book than the washed out cover photo suggests. What is it with cover designers these days? It screams women’s novel at you, but it is not really that at all; although the romance element is satisfying it deserves a wider readership. The Corfu sections in particular have a great sense of place, and the ex-pat community in the 1960s really comes alive. I highly recommend this novel, and look forward to reading others from this interesting author. (9/10)
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Source: From the author – Thank you. To explore on Amazon UK, please click below:
Songs of Blue and Gold by Deborah Lawrenson, Arrow paperback