For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday
May 8: Books With My Favorite Color On the Cover (or In the Title)
I once read that blue was like 80% of people’s favorite color. I do like to be different, but in this case, I opted for honesty. And I decided to go for books with “blue” in the title, though most of them have it on the cover as well.
1. The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier– This is Chevalier’s first novel. It tells a dual timeline story of Ella, an American woman who moves to France with her husband. She begins to have dreams of medieval scenes involving a blue dress. In the 16th century, Isabelle du Moulin belongs to a Protestant sect that is opposed to the cult of the virgin that is popular in the village where she lives. The virgin, or La Rousse, is frequently depicted as a redhead in a blue dress. I read this a while ago. I remember enjoying it, and I remember aspects of the plot, but not a lot more than that.
2. Blue Nights by Joan Didion– I read this book and Didion’s other memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, after losing several loved ones. Didion’s frankness about the loss of both her husband and daughter in the space of two years helped me to clarify my own feelings about loss and mortality; how they were similar to hers and how they differed. It’s sad, elegiac, sensitive, and yet surprisingly unsentimental.
3. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell– This was a favorite of mine in second or third grade. It’s about Karana, a twelve-year-old Native American girl who lives alone on an island off the coast of California for 18 years. It’s loosely based on the story of “The Lost Woman of San Nicolas” who really did live alone from 1835-1853. However, details of her story aren’t known due to the lack of any surviving members of her tribe who spoke her language. What I remember most about this book was how self-reliant Karana was. I imagined that I’d fall to pieces in a similar scenario (I think I still would) but Karana accepts what comes to her, with the knowledge that she’ll deal with it.
4. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland– A professor invites a colleague to his home, to see a painting that he claims is a Vermeer. But why would anyone hide away such a beautiful (not to mention valuable) painting? To learn the answer we go back to the history of the painting and learn how it figured into eight different stories. We eventually travel all the way back to the moment that inspired the artist. I remember liking several of these stories more than others. I did like how we essentially ended the book at the painting’s beginning.
5. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison– Pecola Breedlove is a young black girl who faces hardships, adversity, racism and sexual violence. Through it all, she dreams of being the opposite of what she is. She dreams of having blond hair and blue eyes. A lot of this book deals with the idea of beauty. Often we all think that by having some ideal physical appearance, our problems would go away. But what happens when that physical ideal is racially different? Is the destructive power of the beauty myth color blind, or does race enhance its destructiveness?
6. Something Blue by Emily Giffin- This is a sequel to Giffin’s Something Borrowed. In Something Borrowed, Darcy’s fiance left her for her best friend. When this book opens we find Darcy alone (for the first time ever), pregnant (not with her ex-fiance’s baby, by the way) and unsure of what to do. She heads off London to stay with her childhood friend, Ethan for a while. But when London doesn’t live up to her expectations, Darcy begins to realize that she’s not who or what she wants to be. So she changes. In Something Borrowed, Darcy stood out as one of the most self-centered characters ever. She’s the same way for much of Something Blue, but she does start to grow up.
7. The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery– This is one of my favorite books and for some reason, I didn’t think of it, when thinking about the topic of Books With the Word “Blue” In the Title, until 7th on the list! But nonetheless, I do love this book about a woman, who is tormented by an overbearing family, who receives a devastating medical diagnosis. She uses it as a way to make some changes in her life, and finally, start actually living it.
8. Red, White, and Blue by Susan Isaacs– This book opens with an explosion in Wyoming. A white supremacist group claims that they were behind it. Lauren Miller, a Jewish reporter from NYC, sees the story as a potentially big break for her career. Charlie Blair is an FBI agent who is undercover in the group. Most of the book consists of Lauren and Charlie, two people from very different backgrounds and political viewpoints, coming together to take down a hate organization. But we also see how both Lauren and Charlie came to be who they are. The story flashes back to the Lauren and Charlie’s ancestors; the immigrants who came to America for varying reasons, and even touches on the Native Americans they encountered. I read this book several years ago, and as I write about it, I find myself wondering how it would hold up in a time as politically and ideologically polarized as the one we live in now. Despite their differences, Lauren and Charlie are able to find common ground. They share certain values that the book identifies as “American.” They both strongly believe in equality, free speech, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is enough to smooth over their differences. But the book was written in 1998. The US feels more divided now.
9. Blue Fire by Phyllis A. Whitney– Susan Hohenfeld grew up in South Africa before moving to the US. She brings her new husband, Dirk, to her childhood home, which she remembers fondly. But Susan saw South Africa through a child’s eyes. Upon her return, she sees how apartheid is tearing the country apart. Susan’s father is in prison for diamond smuggling, or so she’s been told. She learns a secret that raises new questions. This book was originally written in 1961, three decades before the end of apartheid. I read this a long time ago. At the time I had less of an understanding of South Africa’s troubled history than I do now (which is not to say I understand it well now!), and I wonder how the racial issues, and the storyline about the diamond trade.
10. The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang- This is the first of Lang’s Fairy Books series, which features almost every color of the rainbow. Because this is the first volume in Lang’s series, it contains some of the best-known tales from the Brother’s Grimm, Charles Perrault, The Arabian Nights, and more. Word of advice: if you’re buying a physical copy of any of Lang’s collections, pay attention to the publisher. They vary greatly in terms of quality. Some have illustrations, some don’t. Some have large print, some have small print, and some even omit certain tales. Make sure you know what you’re getting and that you’re getting what you want.