The Blue Book by A L Kennedy - review by Anthony Cummins

Anthony Cummins

The Shipping News

The Blue Book


Jonathan Cape 375pp £16.99

A L Kennedy’s new novel is a love story set on a liner bound for New York. It is told largely from the perspective of Elizabeth, a magician’s daughter in her forties, who suspects that her year-long partner Derek is about to propose on the journey. Also on board, however, is an old lover, Arthur, a Jersey-based medium who earns megabucks pretending to enable rich people to talk to their deceased kin. Elizabeth sums up her predicament thus: ‘me stuck on a boat with Derek who wants to propose instead of being otherwise stuck with Art who never will, or who might if I would let him, but I won’t. I can’t. I couldn’t.’

Formal complexity freshens what seems a well-worn scenario, as the narrative is torn up and sewn back together in a way that, for more than half the book’s length, makes it enjoyably hard to follow. Details, such as names, are elided. Flashbacks to Arthur’s past life refer to

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