Title: The Blue
Writer: Nancy Bilyeau
Publishing House: Endeavour Quill
Date of Publication: December 3rd 2018
Rating: 3 stars
‘’London is alive. And so am I.’’
18th century, England. Genevieve comes from a Huguenot family that found shelter in England, persecuted in their own country due to their religious beliefs. In a time when the war with France is raging, Genevieve has to fight her own battle to acquire the right to be acknowledged for her talent to create beauty. Apart from the military conflict, there is an ongoing race for the finest porcelain and the creation of the most unique and powerful of colors. The colour blue, the symbol of divine perfection, authority, eternal beauty. The colour of the sky, the color of the Virgin Mary. Genevieve finds herself in a web of secrets and espionage, in an era when being a woman was already dangerous by itself.
The background of this novel by Nancy Bilyeau is very interesting and the era is beautifully depicted. The reader definitely acquires a vivid image of the circumstances that used to influence one of the most turbulent eras in European History and the first steps of an elaborate version of espionage and warfare, the social background is also successfully depicted with references to the position of women in the British and French society, especially the young and less privileged ones who had to use their minds and courage to escape a low position on the social ladder. There are many interesting facts on the subject of porcelain and its significance in Britain, France, and Germany as well as the importance of blue in the field of Art and its impact on sovereignty. I appreciated the references to Newton’s theories on colours and the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s works in the era.
All’s well and good, then? Not exactly. Yes, the painted canvas of the story is elaborate and faithful to the era, the pace is satisfying and the premise interesting and engaging. The problem is, in my opinion, that we’ve seen everything before. Those of us who consider Historical Fiction as their favourite genre (and by Historical Fiction, I don’t mean romances but ACTUAL Literature…) have witnessed the involvement of an underprivileged young woman with a talent in Art or Culture in general in a game of politics and power. So basically, this is one of those stories that becomes a little more appealing by the theme of how Art can be used to a country’s purposes and benefit. Nothing more, nothing less.
The writing is very good in the descriptive passages and the sequence of events is clearly drawn out, rich and detailed without being repetitive. However, everything is predictable. Too predictable, in fact. Again, if you have read a significant number of quality books falling into this genre, you’ll probably be able to guess the continuation of the story, even its conclusion. However, my major complaint is the dialogue. I don’t know how to describe it with accuracy but it is a weird mix of period language and contemporary phrases that felt wooden, strange and unnatural. Especially the interaction between Genevieve and her romantic interest were cringeworthy. Despite my well-known aversion to anything remotely related to romance, I could have stomached this relationship if it weren’t for the millions of ‘’I love you’’ every other page. It was this element of romance that made the heroine of the story behave like a naive schoolgirl and diminished my interest in the conclusion of the novel. In addition, the characters failed to impress me. In my opinion, Genevieve is the well-known figure of the feisty young woman who interacts with monarchs and peasants alike, always being wrong, always admired for her fearlessness but the dialogue was not adequately written to justify this. To tell you the truth, I’ve seen much more interesting, spirited heroines over the years. This one is not a character I will remember after a while.
In my opinion, this is a moderately satisfying Historical Fiction novel. Its greatest advantage the depiction of the era, its greatest weaknesses the dialogue and the development of the characters. It is average. I don’t regret reading it and I recommend it but I found nothing new or memorable and 3 stars is the most I can give.
Many thanks to PigeonholeHQ and Nancy Bilyeau for the serialized ARC.