rating: 5 of 5 stars
Clare Jay’s Breathing in Colour ( Piatkus, Little, Brown Book Group, March 2009) weaves together threads from many disparate areas of life – dreams, travels, the creative mind, family dynamics, memory, and relationships between men and women. The story, which takes place in the UK and India, blends the characters’ dreams into the narrative with seamless artistry, no easy task (which I know from my own experience of including dream imagery in my writing).
Throughout the course of the novel the reader learns about synaesthesia, a condition in which a person perceives sounds or smells as colors, or numbers and certain letters of the alphabet as colors. Both the mother and the daughter in the novel are synaesthetes, and Clare Jay does a superb job describing how the two characters view the world. Jay is not a synaesthete herself, yet she illustrates their world with vivid accuracy, allowing the reader to glimpse what it might be like to have such ultra heightened senses.
I met Clare Jay two years ago at a conference for the International Association for the Study of Dreams, where she told me about the novel she was then writing, her lucid dreams (knowing one is dreaming while in the dream state), and her technique for inducing the writer’s trance, which involves yogic relaxation (she is also a yoga instructor) and the recall of dream imagery. I still remember the character I came up with after attending one of Clare Jay’s workshops involving dreams and creative writing. It was a panther woman who sat at the end of my bed. In fact, I’ve written a poem about the panther woman – she holds a special place in my pantheon of fictional characters.
The characters in Breathing in Colour, both the dream man and the ones who walk the earth, are alive with color, smells, texture, and nuance. They are more than three dimensional because of Jay’s bright, sensitive use of language. It’s like going on a magic carpet ride.
Be sure to visit Clare Jay’s beautiful website and blog, where she has information about her next book, Dreamrunner.