Ellen sees the world differently from everyone else, but living in a tiny town in the north east of England, in a world on the cusp of war, no one has time for an orphaned girl who seems a little strange.
When she is taken in to look after an rich, elderly widow all seems to be going better, despite the musty curtains and her aging employer completely out of
touch with the world. But pregnancy out of wedlock spoils all this, and Ellen is unable to cope. How will Jack, her son, survive – alone in the world as his mother was?
Can they eventually find their way back to each other?
The Colours is a sweeping novel of how we can lose ourselves, and our loved ones, for fans of Kate Atkinson and Virginia Baily.
One of the very best things about the book blogging community and getting to participate in blog tours is that no two books that you are ever asked to review are the same. When I was invited onto the tour for The Colours I was really excited as I always like reading books that are set in two different time periods – and who wouldn’t be drawn in by this stunning cover and the promise of a story that is every bit as expansive, sweeping and Technicolor.
Discovering new favourite writers can be one of the best things about being a book blogger – as well as hearing what other bloggers I admire thought of a book I’ve loved, It’s like a virtual book group where you are able to consider and connect with what other people enjoyed about a book that’s really caught your imagination. I enjoyed The Colours so much that I’m desperate to launch it at the real book group I run at The Wine Library once things get back to normal and we are allowed to meet up again for books, wine and great chat…
I was really intrigued to read The Colours as I love novels that deal with the way that different generations connect and the complexities that lurk beneath the surfaces of other families’ lives. As soon as this book arrived, I wanted to open that stunning watercolored cover up and find out how Ellen and Jack’s lives would unfold and I loved the fact that it featured the idea of synaesthesia as it’s an idea that has always intrigued me and I thought The Colours brought these feelings beautifully to life.
I found this book totally engrossing once I’d started: I really enjoyed seeing the way that Ellen and Jack had an inter-related, yet totally unique relationship with the beauty of colour and loved the way that the writing brings the way that they both see the world vividly to life and allows us to immerse ourselves in their lives and see the world through their discerning and eclectic perspectives.
I enjoyed the way that Juliet Bates’ novel allows us to see the complexity of human relationships, from both ends of the narrative ‘kaleidoscope’ rather than just the ‘happy ever after’ that we are so often presented with in fiction and I think that this is one of the things that draws us into their unique and beautifully rendered story.
The way that you can feel so distant from your own roots is exceptionally well-drawn and a testament to her skill as a writer that we really believe in the relationships and interactions with one another – I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Jack and his Uncle Henry and liked the fact that this unorthodox upbringing is so empathetically drawn – I’m sure that there are many people reading this novel who will feel the same and the abstract beauty of the front cover is beautifully counterbalanced with the precise character observations found inside.
The way that Julie Bates slowly but certainly develops our understanding of what is going on in the heads of these characters is convincingly done and leads to you feeling like you can really start to understand the way they see the world and even though you might not always understand all of the choices they make, you feel like you are able to inhabit their world view and try to empathise with the challenging situations they finds themselves in
I found myself turning back to particular passages so that I could enjoy the writing all over again, even though I’d finished the novel – a sure sign of a book that I won’t be able to forget. It looks at the impact of religion on our lives and asks us to think about the ways that women’s lives have altered in terms of freedom and agency across the last century and I’m certainly glad that things are much different for single mothers as we move into the 21st century…
The Colours is a truly immersive read as it takes a genuine look at what we really mean by ‘family’ It allows us a glance into relationships where peoples’ needs are complex and real and dares us to ask ourselves questions about the way we ourselves experience the world and the way that our past can shape and form us into the people that we are – for good and for bad.
I always enjoy a book much more if I’m not hyping myself up before I read it and The Colours was exactly that. It was definitely a grower and I found myself thinking about the repercussions of their choices whilst gardening and painting this week and wondering about their lives as if these were real people that I’d crossed paths with and missed now that they wee gone. I will definitely seek out more books by Julie Bates and am keen to keep pushing myself to choose more novels by writers that are new to me in the second half of 2020
Treat yourself to a copy of The Colours here
Writer On The Shelf
Juliet Bates was born in the north-east of England. After studying art and art history, she has worked as a lecturer in art schools in the UK and now in France.
The Colours is Juliet’s second novel; her debut, The Missing, was published by Linen Press in 2009, and her short stories have appeared in British and Canadian journals and magazines.