A New Name for the Colour Blue, Annette Marner

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Every now and then a book sneaks into my reading pile that absolutely and utterly defies this reader's ability to describe it, the affect it had, and the experience of reading it. A NEW NAME FOR THE COLOUR BLUE was simply amazing. Beautiful, moving, haunting, fragile and deceptive: actually deceptive doesn't cut it, sneaky is better, in a good, clever and enlightening way. Incredibly sneaky in the way it weaves a tale of domestic violence, of control and expectation, grief, abandonment, and the pain of growing up and away from family; into the slide into acceptance of the past and how to craft a future.

There is steel wrapped up in gentleness here, as Cassie Noble, works out who she is, and what she wants her life to become. A drawing she made of a childhood friend is her most treasured possession, her ability to connect with close female friends a way forward when things are at their darkest. A country girl who moved to Adelaide, there's a secret in Cassie's past that she doesn't quite understand, but the move home to nurse her dying father in his last days, is the trigger she uses to work it out.

Instead you end up with a complicated exploration of domestic violence and misogyny, indigenous rights, childhood memories, grief, animal cruelty and relationships. There is a lot of ground covered, but it's beautifully, precisely done, no wasted words, no dwelt on evil, always accentuating the search for understanding, meaning, acceptance and place.

It's taken such a long time to get something vaguely coherent written down about A NEW NAME FOR THE COLOUR BLUE, the reading of which had so many returns to passages that were simply breathtaking. I just don't have the skill to write about this book in terms that are meaningful enough, but it's been many many years since I've read and re-read sentences in this manner, more years since I've stared off into space thinking about a passage, and quite a while since I sat up nearly all night reading a book that tweaked something deep inside in the way that this book did.


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I still see her sometimes in my sleep. She is walking through the blue and orange lights of the city or in the desert country of red ground, spinifex and oaks. Last night I dreamed she was climbing a green and blue mountain, the kind you see in the tropics, rich and heavy with steam and rain. She is still only a girl in my dreams, but that's how I remember her. In every dream she is walking. In every dream I call out her name. Tania.

Ten years after the disappearance of her best friend, and the death of her mother, Cassandra Noble escapes her country childhood to pursue life as an artist in the city. On the threshold of a promising career as a painter, her creativity suddenly abandons her. Soon after, she finds herself with a lover who wishes to control her just as her father once did.

While her last painting just might hold the key to why she can no longer create, what will happen when she discovers the two tragic events of her childhood are linked in ways she could never have imagined?

A New Name for the Colour Blue is a story of the healing power of remembering, of love, and the breathtaking beauty of the natural world.

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