The Blue Book by A. L. Kennedy: A Review

by giselletellstales

This is A. L. Kennedy’s new masterpiece. It is also, hands-down, the finest book (aesthetically) I’ve ever owned.

I love reading on my newly-acquired Kindle but I cannot embrace purely reading every book on it just yet; the reason is because books such as this one exist!

Here is an image of the finish of the actual pages:

And another image:

Kennedy employs a stream-of-consciousness technique for most of the story, and it is very apt for her subject matter: fake mediums. We gain an insight of the various thoughts that whiz through the mind of main character and ex-medium Elizabeth on a cruise with her boyfriend Derek, and when she encounters a (fake) medium on-board, named Arthur. The wandering-mind-thoughts of the all-knowing narrator also cleverly exhibit the fake mediums’ mind at work: lying (what they do best), and arranging deliberate “ways-out”: deciding upon themselves what made-up readings must be told to vulnerable people.

Last August I attended the event on Kennedy’s new book at the Edinburgh Book Festival and she confirmed the extensive research she did into mediums for the book. What struck me the most in the course of reading was the mediums’ confidence in being generous and giving to save their clients’ lives. They believe themselves to be healers because they prevent harm from coming onto others. There is a very real self-awareness and a charity element in these deceivers, a sense of helping the troubled. Does this make them less wicked or immoral?

The format of the book is well-thought of: from the colour of the book (lilac or blue? – you decide), the title referring to the main book we create for record-keeping, the page numbers found at the top and bottom of each page, somewhat pertaining to a book of spells. The latter are actually a deception – some pages have different numbers on them to baffle the reader even more. The book itself becomes a character in the course of the reading, and at the very first page, offers explanations for its existence: “It was built to welcome your attention and reciprocate with this: the sound it lifts inside you. It gives you the signs for the shapes of the names of the thoughts in your mouth and in your mind and this is where they sing, here at the point where you both meet.” Her sentences are so powerful and hauntingly beautiful that I found myself savouring certain lines over and over again.

I really enjoy the stream-of-consciousness technique in literature and at one point in this book I became particularly aware of a single, long sentence filling two whole pages. Our thoughts are a continuous, running flow of words and opinions and Kennedy is brilliant at executing this.

She is very entertaining writer (she is also a performer; a comedian) and I could not imagine a more hilarious description of a scene she paints of a set of pensioners and couples with ideological reasons for never consenting to walk – all on a boat during the Passenger Emergency Drill – a huge release of the bewildered. Priceless.

A book makes you a “better everything”, and I can attest to that after the amazing journey I embarked upon with this book. Its parting shot to the reader is beautiful. It offered the truth, and a few secrets. It was playful and memorable. It emphasised how it did not wish to try to deceive.