, ,

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine was sent to me by the Amazon Vine review programme in exchange for my honest review.


My honest review is that it is brilliant and that you should all go out and buy it immediately.

Don’t delay.

I’d never read anything by Jenny Valentine prior to this, but I will definitely be consuming her entire back catalogue in the very near future. Fire Colour One is powerful, raw and utterly absorbing from start to finish. Nothing I can say about it will be as good as reading it. Nothing.

I’m not really sure what I expected, probably a whiny teenage angst novel something like Catcher in the Rye but with more hormones if I’m honest. It was nothing like that at all. I read the entire novel in one sitting last night, and then sat around thinking about it for a bit, and I’m still catching myself thinking about it now.

It tells the story of Iris, an extremely troubled teenager who is profoundly alienated from her mother and step-father and who is being dragged to England from the States to see the dying father she has no memory of. Her mother, a class act gold digging bitch from hell, takes Iris with her as a weapon, intending to wring as much money out of her dying husband as she possibly can. Iris wants nothing to do with it, or any of her adult relatives, but has no choice in the matter.

Iris is regarded by those around her more as a pawn in a complex and emotionally fraught game than as a person in her own right. Her own response is to shut down as much as possible at home and at school, except for when things get unbearable.

When things get unbearable, Iris lights fires; bright, clean, destructive fires that make everything that was messy and stressful, simple and calming. The only other release is in her relationship with a street boy called Thurston, a boy who understands art and magic, and makes Iris feel like life could be worth living.

How will Iris deal with being thrust into a relationship with a dying man who she doesn’t remember, and who she is told abandoned her when she was a baby?

This book reminded me of Siri Hustvedt’s stunning: The Blazing World in so many ways, although The Blazing World is a novel for adults. Many of the same themes occur; the nature of art in relation to real life; how we deal with death and dying; how we create our own realities and how we know which of those realities are true for us and which ones we can leave behind. It also had many of the same poetic rhythms and a kind of stark beauty that had me utterly gripped. The sub narrative about art is also like Hustvedt’s Blazing World, and just as fascinatingly handled.

This is a novel for teens that will probably appeal more to girls than boys. I would recommend it for people aged 13 and up, not because it has anything shocking in it, but because it deals with fairly immense ideas.