Review Blog

Mar 06 2018

The taste of blue light by Lydia Ruffles

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9781444936742
(Age: Senior secondary, Adult) The title, and the enigmatic opening words, of Lydia Ruffles' stunning modern-world masterpiece plunge us into a disturbed young woman's life. The protagonist states that she 'is determined to 'find the old Lux' and 'sew' herself into that person she used to be. The closing words of this narrative are apt. Lux cannot understand why her life, at the elite Artists' boarding school in the verdant countryside of England, is causing her such angst. Even though she is medicated to help keep this new sensation of absolute terror at bay, she can still hardly sleep and life seems too hard to endure. Yet everyone, including her parents, who live far away in Hong Kong, continues to support her, even through her sometimes outrageous moods and actions. This situation is deeply puzzling for the reader.
Drugs, sex, anxiety and sleeplessness take their toll as her skewed brain responds to the world by translating everything into colour - in the physical senses, in food, emotions and in her interactions with others. Colour defines her world so dramatically, enabling her to just keep going. Terror, violent and inexplicable, stops her sleeping. Anxiety rules every moment of every day yet she is supported so gently by everyone, by kindness and understanding. In a masterful literary stroke, we discover that only Lux and the reader are 'in the dark' about her situation. We are drawn into her gradually dawning memories of her experience, emotionally and with a powerful, shared angst.
Sitting firmly in the modern world that has experienced violent attacks and murders, in a country that is desperate to retain its culture of decency, kindness and non-violence, Ruffles' revelation of the assault on peace alert us to her challenge. She seeks to remind us that we must work to preserve our world, to survive violence and terror, and infers that this will only be achieved through kindness, goodness, acceptance of others, in all their differences, and love. This powerful modern novel is suitable for older high school students and adults.
Elizabeth Bondar

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