A review of Clare Jay's Breathing in Colour

Breathing in Colour Breathing in Colour by Clare Jay


My review

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.

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A Sneak Peek at Conquering Venus

Sunday night I settled in with a great read – the prologue and the first chapter of Collin Kelley’s debut novel, Conquering Venus (Vanilla Heart Books). The narrative hooks the reader from the first sentence and doesn’t let go, weaving in and out of the past and the present. Scenes shift from the US to Europe, and from waking life to recurring dreams. There is a mysterious symbol, sexual tension, the beauty of youth, and the salty wisdom of a middle-aged school teacher (who’s not as conventional as her colleagues). The dialog is fast-paced and witty, providing dramatic relief from protagonist Martin Page’s grief over his past loss. All this in the first 22 pages of the novel. I can’t wait to read the rest… .