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The Blue Book: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

A.L. Kennedy
2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From one of the U.K.’s most dazzling novelists—whom Richard Ford has called “a profound writer”—comes this daring new novel set in the unsteady, self-contained world of a luxury liner.

While on a transatlantic trip with her soon-to-be-fiancé Derek, Elizabeth unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Arthur, with whom she shares a shady past: The pair once worked as traveling spiritual mediums who conned the vulnerable by pretending to contact the spirits of departed loved ones. While Derek remains seasick and cabin-bound, Elizabeth wanders the ship, alternately avoiding and seeking out Arthur. Unable to avoid memories of their fractured past, she must face the deception they practiced even as she accepts the peace they brought to the grief-stricken who sought their services.

Intimately addressed to “you,” the reader, The Blue Book is both a portrait of two methodical con artists and a meditation on “how love is a private language, a set of codes, to which the outside world ought not admit impediment” (Telegraph). Irresistibly written, by turns comically wry and stunningly lyrical, with “some of the most unashamedly erotic writing since Nicholson Baker first contemplated a telephone receiver” (New Statesman), the book slowly, deliberately, and devastatingly reveals itself to the reader. The heartbreaking stakes are ultimately nothing less than fact and fiction, life and death.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Beth boards a cruise ship with her boyfriend, Derek, and is almost immediately interrupted by a stranger showing her a magic trick. But is he really a stranger? Who’s tricking whom? And who is really carrying the mysterious, titular blue book? Enigmatic and sensual, Kennedy’s latest novel is full of outright lies and various forms of deception and misdirection. Kennedy deftly weaves an intricate tale, cleverly leading the reader’s attention back and forth in the past and present until the end, when she reveals a kernel of truth: a secret of heartbreaking loss linking Beth and the stranger, Arthur, a psychic medium who specializes in communicating with strangers’ departed loved ones. In stream-of-consciousness passages, Kennedy’s characters reveal their deepest, most intimate thoughts and feelings, which are in sharp contrast to the halting, inarticulate conversations that happen outside their internal monologues. At its heart, this bracing novel is an exploration of the secret feelings we keep from each other and ourselves, the havoc that dishonesty can wreak on a life, and the sometimes futile way we grasp at redemption. --Sarah Hunter


“We don’t, in America, have any writers quite like the Scottish novelist A. L. Kennedy...[The Blue Book] presents us with multiple complicated lives that in the end are woven together into a single coherent tapestry....How their various stories connect can’t be explained without giving away the plot, and since outcomes do matter in an A. L. Kennedy novel, I won’t spoil the suspense. Suffice it to say that the conclusion, when it arrives, is watertight.” —Wendy Lesser, New York Times Book Review

"Kennedy is as disconcertingly accurate at tenderness as at wildness... A passionate writer, on the edge and at risk." --New York Times Book Review

"A virtuoso of prose. Her phrasing is fine-tuned and supple to the highest degree: intuitive and subtle about the multifarious sensations of being alive." --London Review of Books

"The Blue Book is a bold novel of unique design…and an abundance of dazzling prose. At its core, The Blue Book is a meditation on love. [It is] a novel that is heavily abstract, structurally complex, metaphorically rich and ultimately…impressive." —San Francisco Chronicle

“Starting from page one, an untrustworthy narrator addresses you, the reader, as a friend. It’s an arresting and fun literary technique that hooks you into the plot right away. And the story itself is as fast-paced and funny and keeps you guessing.” –Real Simple

"AL Kennedy is almost unique among British novelists for her ability to write fiction that is at once challengingly experimental, luminously beautiful and utterly readable. It helps that she is fiercely observant and very funny... If you want a guide to the rough contradictions of the heart, AL Kennedy is your woman" -- Jane Shilling, Evening Standard

"An amazing conception, one that will make you want to turn back and start again the moment you have finished... the writing is as taught and thrilling as Kennedy's prose always is and there is her usual wry laughter chuckling within it all" -- Joan Bakewell, New Statesman

"This is a masterful novel, imaginatively crafted, shaped by big, precisely articulated emotion" –The Times

"Kennedy is a fine stylist and single passages are exquisite" –Financial Times

"Offers the pleasures of a work in which form and content dovetail with extraordinary skill, and in which narrative tricks are utilised to enlarge on the theme of deception rather than for the sake of tricksiness itself" -- Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times

"This woman is a profound writer." -- Richard Ford

"Kennedy writes with flaying precision about the things we won't often admit to ourselves, let alone speak aloud." --Daily Mail

“A.L. Kennedy's novel The Blue Book is a brilliantly told love story, one filled with riddles, deception, and razor sharp prose.”—Largehearted Boy

Product Details

  • File Size: 552 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0544027701
  • Publisher: Little A (March 12, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,183 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and often funny post modern novel October 30, 2011
By Ripple
If terms like "post modern novel" sends shivers down your spine, then AL Kennedy's "The Blue Book" won't be for you. It's intriguing, at times challenging and often frustrating, but at times brilliant and often very funny - as befits a writer whose other activities include stand-up comedy. The story takes place on a stormy transatlantic sea voyage, and while the obvious metaphor of the storm on the protagonists lives is clear, the metaphor also holds true for the reading experience - at times it feels like the author is on the crest of a wave and you are swept along with her skillful writing, while at others it's easy to get lost and feel, well, all at sea. Her writing style is, well, choppy. There were passages where I felt that this was one of the best things I've read in a long time, and others where it felt perhaps a little too clever for its own good and maybe even a tad pretentious. Ultimately the final twist hits you in an unexpected way though.

Beth Barber is taking a trip to New York with her boyfriend, Derek, who we believe plans to propose to her on the trip, but the encounter with an apparent stranger called Arthur, and the onset of a bout of seasickness rather destroy Derek's plans. Beth was formerly involved, romantically and professionally, in a con trick double act as fake mediums - of which poor Derek is completely unaware. It's here that Kennedy starts to really play with the reader's mind. She presents arguments that seem to morally justify Beth and her partner's efforts to provide reassurance to the living from the land of the dead. Can it ever be morally justified? Almost certainly not, but there are passages where Kennedy will have you wondering.

The con trick was carried out using a system of hidden codes and these feature throughout the book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful And Dreadful February 19, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Blue Book is difficult to review without giving the story away -- it only makes sense when the reader reaches the last few pages. Then everything falls into place: why Elizabeth is with the wrong man; why she has stream of consciousness anxiety attacks; why she has written "The Blue Book" for her former lover who she now wants to reunite with.

The writing itself is outstanding. But the subject matter, while interesting, is often difficult to fully comprehend. Near the end, the dreadful occurrence is revealed and this reader felt sad, felt empathy and finally understood the reasons for Elizabeth's anxiety.

The description on the book jacket belies what a serious novel this is, with only a hint of the true nature in the last sentence: "It's a heartbreaking novel in which the stakes are fact and ficton, life and death."

Readers who are looking for a reading challenge, who relish unconventional writing, don't mind cryptic meanings and who also don't mind waiting 'til the very end for it all to make sense, will like this story.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I hate coming down hard on a book April 18, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The writer here had to have had a purpose in writing this. She is a daring writer with use of stream-of=conciousness writing, and use of the 2nd tense. And I even hope she tries again. But thsi time around, there's nothing I find to recommend. The characters are thoroughly unsympathetic. The plot is negligible, and, well, the writing style is confused to say the least.

Darn it, I hate writing stuff like this for a book, and anyone who honestly liked it is welcome to his or her opinion. In fact, I recommend reading the positive reviews because there are indeed those who liked this.

However, there's no way I can recommend this book. It's just too far off the track.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A hard voyage April 25, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
`The Blue Book', according to the description on the back of the book is the story of a transatlantic trip taken by Elizabeth with her future fiancé, but also on that ship is a former lover, with whom she used to con people.

It is almost impossible to relate this clear description with the words and storyline (such as it is) that unfold within the covers. The voice of the narrative switches frequently and is disconcerting. The reader is addressed directly as you and then the narrative switches to her thoughts or descriptions of what is happening or what she wants to happen, or what happened in the past. It all runs together. Reading becomes an ordeal instead of a pleasure. We are left trying to figure out Elizabeth's stream of consciousness and the scattered thoughts that fill the pages.

The author doesn't seem to care whether the reader understands what is occurring or if they develop any empathy and perception of the characters that inhabit the storyline. Insight and empathy is unobtainable other than the relief one feels as you finally reach the end of the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I thought I had had a stroke January 10, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was so confusing that I really thought maybe I had had a stroke and the words were just nonsense. It was a bit frightening. Giving it one star is a gift. It should be no stars or minus 5 stars. I'm 72 and have read maybe two to three books every month since I could read and this is absolutely the worst. I wish I could get my money back. What is it about? Who knows. I started the book three times and must admit I still haven't finished it -- a first for me. I can't imagine how it was ever published. Whatever kind of drugs the editor had, I want some. Do not waste your money as I did!!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Prose like a dream that carries the reader along on waves ...
What we have here is the reincarnation of Virginia Woolf. Prose like a dream that carries the reader along on waves of internal dialogue suited exactly to a building mystery that... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Limelite
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time.
Awful! Glad I was able to use the Kindle Lending Library. I would have been upset if I paid money for it. Way too wordy in descriptions. I stopped reading at 16%. Read more
Published 1 month ago by teachusfour
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing author - love among the deeply wounded.
Published 2 months ago by L. Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars CONFUSING BUT GOOD
Really good
Really confusing
MySpace ornamentation idiot Kati late lamp Lexi level keeps neoprene prosecuting info Kristi okay over it
Published 3 months ago by BCB
1.0 out of 5 stars WHY BOTHER Thought this was the worst book I have read in years
Thought this was the worst book I have read in years.
The story , if told differently, has great potential, BUT, it certainly lacked in it's present... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Lee B. Childs
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't do it
I bought this book on an Amazon daily deal and I immediately regretted it. It's a dis-jointed story told in riddles that left me confused and clueless as to what was even going on. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Celine Villongco
1.0 out of 5 stars Possibly one of the hardest books to read
It is written in first tense, then switches to second tense and then goes off on a tangent of one word. Read more
Published 11 months ago by gaa
1.0 out of 5 stars Loved the premise, hated the writing style.
The story seemed so interesting but the writing was to erratic. It was too much of challenge to follow what was actually going on. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Bookwoody
4.0 out of 5 stars Not easy, but worth the effort. Brilliant !
Also submitted to UK and DE sites. I found this book is so good that I want to boost it's star rating. I think that the one and two star ratings are undeserved. Read more
Published 15 months ago by GJFree
1.0 out of 5 stars Always read to the end...until now
Sorry life is too short to read something you don't get from the beginning. I hated the style of writing and only read about 10% and couldn't bring myself to spend any more time... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
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