The Blue Book

A.L. Kennedy. Amazon Publishing/New Harvest (HMH, dist.), $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-544-02770-1
Kennedy’s deeply original novel, her 11th work of fiction (after What Becomes), nominated for the Orange Prize, is set on a luxury cruise from England to New York. Beth is on the ship with her boyfriend, Derek, who she suspects will propose. When Derek gets sea sick and is confined to their cabin for most of the trip, one of the first clues that something is amiss is that Beth wants him to be ill, so that she can be free to roam, because her ex-lover, Arthur, is on the ship. But her relationship with Arthur was far from ordinary; the two conned people into thinking that the pair could contact the spirits of the dead. Beth eventually left their medium act because she and Arthur “were earning a living out of it, turning big. I couldn’t deal with that.” Arthur continued but, fraught with guilt, gave much of the spoils to charity. Kennedy circles the awful truth of the relationship between Beth and Arthur in vividly imagined scenes, accompanied by Beth’s internal commentary, which can both complement the external action and bog it down in too-clever self-indulgence. But this riddle of a book, from a playful and intelligent writer, is worth a read. Agent: Antony Harwood, the Antony Harwood Literary Agency (U.K.). (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
Release date: 03/12/2013
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