Title: Fire Colour One
Author: Jenny Valentine
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Genre: Contemporary, Teen, YA
Source: NetGalley ebook for Review
I read a two-chapter extract of Fire Colour One a while ago and really enjoyed that. The full-length novel was even better.
Fire Colour One is a book about family. It is also a book about death. As such, it is not a book that you come out of with dry eyes. The writing is beautiful and, as an art lover myself, I loved the references to art throughout the novel. This not a book, however, that is fast-paced and full of action. Rather it is calm, heart-breaking, and certainly one to curl up with under the duvet this Christmas.
One thing that stood out to me about this book was that there was not much plot, however, this does not detract from the reading in any way. Primarily a character piece, Fire Colour One allows you to connect with Iris and become fully invested in her relationship with her absentee father.
While more focused on the characters, the plot there is kick-starts the story and aids it in its progression. Iris’ mother and stepfather are drowning in debts and so turn to Ernest, Iris’ father who she has not seen since she was very young and, more importantly to the scheming adults, is incredibly wealthy. So they set in motion a plan to use Iris as a way to get to Ernest’s wealth, especially since he is already dying. While this does seem a bit of a forced way to get Iris to meet Ernest, it gives the novel a backdrop that works surprisingly well and does make you wonder how it will all work out in the end.
In terms of characters, Iris and Ernest take central stage. Iris in particular is someone you can build a connection to and, as the voice of the book, provides a fascinating insight into the other characters and the small world that she lives in. I particularly like how her obsession with fire was described – it really added to her personality rather than being just a quirk added on the side. Ernest, as well, was easy to sympathise with. He is a broken man who had his world taken from him, only to have it returned at the 11th hour.
The other characters were less developed, but, as a book is only a short one, this is to be expected. Some attempt is made to make Hannah, Iris’ mother, a bit more sympathetic but her actions and those of her partner make for some really dislikeable characters. One scene in particular involving a family Lowell wanted to impress really made me hate these two. Aside from these, the only other character who maintains a strong presence in the book is Thurston, Iris’ best friend. Hardly present in physical form, we get to know Thurston through Iris’ memories and you really get to see the impact he has made on her life as well as highlighting her situation even more.
The small cast of characters really benefited the book, drawing the focus onto Iris and her father and making you, as a reader, feel Iris’ predicament more strongly.
As I said earlier, the world Iris describes is very small. The main part of the book takes place in Ernest’s bedroom, where he lies dying. The rest is flashbacks to Iris’ time in America. We see where she lived there and clips of the things she got up to with Thurston but, as she never truly felt a connection there, we as readers don’t either. As a result, the most we feel connected to the world Iris lives in is through her descriptions of the fires that are so important to her and through her interactions with Thurston and Ernest – the two people who could understand her. This was well-suited to the type of book it is and, while I don’t usually like it when world-building is left out, I thought it really worked for the character-focused story that this is.
I really enjoyed this book, more so than I thought I world. I had a little trouble with how the book started compared to what happened at the end when I first read it, but thinking back now, I can see how nicely it brings the book to a close. The twist at the end is great, especially with how much it affects each of the characters and bringing their true natures to light.
I did, however, come out at the end feeling like something was missing. The ending did not feel so much an ending as a break and I could not help thinking that there was more to come – something, perhaps, that has been left to our imaginations to work out for ourselves.
I would really recommend this book as a light, but emotional, read, especially if you are someone who really loves art.
The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Fire-Colour-One/9780007512362/?a_aid=RosieNreads