Thursday, September 3, 2009

Colorful Reading Challenge Review: Winterton Blue and Red-Rose Chain

If I wasn't so wedded to my title format, I'd call this review Love Among the Misfits.

Surprisingly for books chosen for the Colorful Reading Challenge and therefore almost entirely because they had particular colors in their titles, these two are practically interchangeable. There are subtle differences, to be sure, but their similarities are far more obvious.

Winterton Blue is the love-at-first-sight story of Lewis, who's struggling with adult life after the death of his twin brother, and who falls for Anna, who's also having trouble getting any traction into adulthood. If I was friends with either of them, I'd advise against this particular romance. But what the heck. They have to make their own decisions, right? What's especially fun about this story is the portrait/caricature of Anna's mother, a dotty old lady who embodies most (if not all) of the verve Anna seems to lack. I found my opinion of the characters shifting as the novel progressed, and that's always a pleasure.

Red-Rose Chain is the love-at-first-sight story of Jeremy, a marginal Shakespeare scholar and college professor with forged credentials, who believes his fate is revealed in a random page torn from a random book under the tutelage of his "uncle." Uncle Gerard gave Jeremy's childhood the kind of joy that nearly dooms the adult Jeremy; he's already peaked . . . unless The Page comes through, which he's sure it will. When Jeremy sights Milena--his own totally inappropriate dark lady and soulmate, smart, dissolute, erratic, bisexual, with a tangled past--things start to move in a thousand directions. I was content to let them flow: these two deserve each other, no question. Again, the secondary characters in this story were far more interesting to me, and the send-ups of academia that punctuate the narrative are hilariously on target.

Both of these books are adequately written, which is to say they aren't bad, but they aren't setting off any fireworks, either.

I don't expect to recommend these to anyone; there are better books to be read. It just wasn't love-at-first-sight, for me. But if you're so inclined, be my guest. You could do worse.

Excerpt from Winterton Blue:

It's far too early for a phone call. Anna lies face down on the pillow, not quite awake, but aware of voices: she's left the radio on again, and the presenter is talking about the threat of London flooding. In her almost-dreaming state, the sound of ringing becomes wave after wave of muddy water as it sweeps through the back garden and into her flat. She gets to the phone just before her answer message cuts in. Sitting in the kitchen with the receiver to her good ear, Anna looks for signs of damage: everything appears to be in order--dry, at least--but she still avoids putting her bare feet on the flagstones, just in case. The voice on the other end of the line is vaguely familiar. It's Vernon Savoy, her mother's lodger. Her mother had taken another fall, this time on the steps outside her house.

You've no need to panic, he says, She's going to be perfectly all right. No need to rush up here.

I understand, says Anna, So this is just a social call at--er--six a.m.?

Vernon's intake of breath is clearly audible.

Excerpt from Red-Rose Chain:

Thus equipped with a shaky licence and shakier diplome d'etudes from Paris, a doctored thesis from Ardenne and blank doctorate from North Shrewsbury, I returned to North York in Canada. I arrived on a Saturday and left the next. As Ralph [his too-conventional stepfather], in his panelled basement refuge, cocoa and Fig-Roll biscuits at his side, watched men talking about zinc futures, I rounded up a few essentials and fitted them with jig-saw precision into my mother's blue Colt, which had been sitting, sad and unridden, in the driveway. At midnight I headed east along the 401 and arrived in Lower Canada as the sun came up. A few rudderless, compassless years later, I applied for a teaching post at a French-speaking university.


  1. I noticed the lovely cover on Winterton Blue. Hope this is a good one, as I have the audio version on my IPOD.

    BTW: I just found your blog today; it's great--have fun.

  2. I got your reviews posted! I posted them as 2 separate entries, just as an easier way to keep track of books read, but they are both on there. Thanks so much! You are doing great! I just finished book #3, so pitiful on my own challenge! lol

  3. I love this review: Two books, same plot, take 'em or leave 'em.

    You made me laugh.

  4. Welcome, Diane! I'll be interested to hear how you like this book. It is indeed a lovely blue.

    Rebecca, thanks for posting my reviews. And don't overstress on the challenge. Isn't there still plenty of time to finish?

    Rose, glad you enjoyed the dual post. I didn't pick them that way, but somehow they just went together. Very odd.


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