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Book Review for the Mudgee Guardian

Published in: Education
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  1. 1. blueeyedboy Author: Joanne Harris <br />Publisher: Random House AustraliaISBN 9780385609500RRP $32.95Reviewed by: CK Bray <br />Like a wild and unpredictable roller coaster ride, blueeyedboy rocks and rolls the reader, literally and figuratively. Prefacing each chapter are details of the music the main character is listening to, which really sets the mood and drove me to You Tube more than once to look up and listen to a song listed with which I was unfamiliar. The twists and turns of the plot, the most shocking of which are obviously held out until the very end of the book, were equally unexpected and scary. <br />The reader is not seduced into the madness and cruelty of blueeyedboy. There is no foreplay to gradually introduce us to the way his mind works and his murderous actions. It feels more like a slap in the face, combined with a shake so hard our teeth rattle, in addition to a sick feeling in the stomach. No, I’m not one to be squeamish about horror, murder or gore and was looking forward to this gripping psychological thriller. I felt a bit queasy because throughout the beginning of the book, these are the gruesome actions of a child. But then, author Joanne Harris backs off, too far off, in my view, and she spends an extraordinary amount of time walking us through every nuance of blueeyedboy’s childhood. <br />Most unusual and modern in literary approach, the entire story is told through a series of entries into 30-something blueeyedboy’s online journal on website badguysrock. We are introduced to his dysfunctional and abusive Yorkshire family, one by one in maddening detail; continuously staggered by blueeyedboy’s relentless capacity for deceit and manipulation and left questioning what, if anything, in his blogs about the past could be truthful.<br />Harris is an exquisitely gifted writer, author of the book on which Oscar-nominated movie Chocolat was based, she captures such raw feelings and emotions of her characters you can’t help but be swept up in their plight, sympathising with their suffering. For example, the distress associated with blueeyedboy’s metamorphous from a sweet-smelling, rosy cheeked, angelic looking toddler to a spoilt and spotty adolescent, full of anger and angular features is poignant and painful. His predicament is exacerbated by the constant physical and verbal abuse from his mother and older brother, in addition to his being ostracised socially due to his “sensitivity.”<br />I was fascinated to learn of a disease called synaesthesia, which is the reason for blueeyedboy’s delicate perceptions. Synaesthesia is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second pathway. Meaning a synaesthete might be able to smell words, see a letter of the alphabet as a colour, or get a specific taste in their mouth when they hear a name.<br />This opens the door for Harris to entrance the reader with rich descriptions of the odour of certain terms, the flavour of each character’s designation. This makes the book so much more interactive, as your senses are stimulated by the author’s love of language and writing ability. Reading blueeyedboy becomes a physical, visceral experience, much like the idea of smell-o-vision, this sweeps you away on an intensely coloured and scented tapestry of sight, sound and study.<br />As the events of blueeyedboy’s past finally unravel, smeared with shushed scandal, strings of unsolved murders and suspicious circumstances you will be left turning the pages with open-mouthed anticipation until the satisfyingly sordid end.<br />