Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine
|Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Beautiful story of a girl reuniting with her father who is terminally ill. We are huge fans of Jenny Valentine here at Bookbag and if you like great writing, razor sharp observation and truly human stories with a goodly dollop of eccentricity - we do! - you'll love Fire Colour One.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: July 2015|
|Publisher: Harper Collins|
Shortlisted for the 2016 CILIP Carnegie Medal
Iris has never known her father. He didn't want her, her mother has always said. He threw them out years ago. But now she's about to meet him again. Her father is rich, you see, and dying, and Iris's mother and stepfather have worn out their welcome in LA. So they're running away from debts and towards a rich, terminally ill old man, ripe for exploitation. There's also the small matter of some of Iris's own bad behaviour. But the less said about that, the better.
Iris is under no illusion about her mother's motives. She doesn't much like her mother or her stepfather. She doesn't care about money. But neither does she want to be dragged to make nice with the father who rejected her, nor to leave LA when things have gone so badly wrong with Thurston, her only real friend.
But Ernest isn't at all what Iris was expecting...
Oh, hooray! Finally! A new Jenny Valentine story! I was really looking forward to reading Fire Colour One and I wasn't disappointed. It's a sad story of an old man's final days. It's a lovely story of a daughter finding - and coming to love - the father she never knew. It's an inspirational story of the power of art to move us, enlighten us and empower us. And it's also a pretty strong indictment of materialism and the life-sucking emptiness of consumer culture. Really. It has all that!
Iris is a compelling central character. You feel for her - she's been deprived of a loving father and her mother is cold, selfish and calculating. Her stepfather is no better. I loved the way Valentine has Iris describe them - Looking good is the bedrock of their moral code. Presentation is ethics to them. Ouch! But Iris has issues of her own and they can't all be laid at her mother's door. At some point, she will have to come to terms with them, with the friend she left behind in LA, and with herself.
The book is really divided into those who love art and those who don't. Iris's mother and stepfather don't, obviously. But Iris does, and Ernest does, and Thurston does. And, one way or another, it's art that either saves or condemns each of them.
I love the way Jenny Valentine writes. It's always lyrical but it's never treacly. It's full of rolling emotion but it's never sentimental. There's a distinct moral and ethical tone but it's never preachy or judgemental. And Valentine always draws relatable, recognisable people. Yet hers are people whose little quirks and eccentricities show usT all the ways in which diversity is something to celebrate but never forgets that human beings always have more shared qualities than those which set them apart. And I love the way she doesn't need five hundred pages to fill the reader with thoughts and feelings and inspirations. I feel as though her books, and Fire Colour One is no exception, wind me up and then let me go. There really is no better feeling.
It's been a while since the last Jenny Valentine book. And that's partly because her own father died. So Fire Colour One has added resonance for both author and reader. It is a lovely, lyrical story that will stay with you for a long time after you've turned the final page.
PS - there's a twist at the end. And I really didn't see it coming!
PPS - Fire Colour One, or FC1, is a real painting by Yves Klein. Go and look it up!
You might also enjoy Naked by Kevin Brooks, in which music is the artistic drive. Set during the birth of punk in the 1970s, it's also a gorgeous book.
You can read more book reviews or buy Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine at Amazon.com.
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