The Colour of Sorrow Isn’t Blue: A Review

I really dislike the way so many modern writers write in the present tense, in short sentences, with a vanilla vocabulary. A few come close to pulling it off, because there’s something unique about their subject matter: The Hunger Games comes to mind. Just occasionally, what they have to say is so special they could write it anyway they like, and I just wouldn’t care. Jane Lee Bateman’s I Will Never, her incredibly honest and moving account of caring for her disabled son, repeatedly moved me to tears: I didn’t care what the prose was like, because she spoke to my soul. Of course, partly she managed to do that because the most incredible element of her story is that it was true; fiction, therefore, has a tougher time being so spiritually eloquent that it doesn’t need a coating of handsome prose. But, most modern fiction of the plastic-y prose variety has a similarly plastic storyline.

It is very fair to ask at this point, why do I read this stuff, then? Occasionally, I crave something plastic-y or kitsch-y. Not just books, mind. From time to time, I like greasy fries drowned in ketchup; rom-com movies; loud and empty pop or rock. Even though I do believe that golden prose, nourishing cooking, and harmonically complex music, are infinitely superior. There is a tale from the Lives of the Desert Fathers about how if you keep stretching a bow it will break, and the same with mankind – we need a little relaxation of our mind and soul. I don’t really think this justifies why I sometimes turn to this plastic-y stuff, though; I think it’s more that occasionally I really like the unsophisticated. Not saying that’s a good thing, but anyway…

Yep, this book has the plastic prose that, after a hundred pages, makes me feel a bit sick (the literary equivalent of too many fries drenched in ketchup, I guess). I bought it because I’d seen it recommended, but within a few pages I feared it was going to be one of those ‘I’ve read this many times under other titles’. Was it, spiritually, really deep? Well, no. But it did a nice job of handling a scenario where it seems like God really should, and will, say yes; but He actually says no. Too much Christian fiction depicts the perfect ending, whether girl meets perfect boy and they live happily ever after, or crisis is followed by miracle as God pours out every earthly desire. Really, life sometimes isn’t like that. For reasons that are inscrutable to us at the time, God sometimes says a mysterious ‘no’. And, lately, I’d struggled to deal with some of God’s ‘no’s. So I think this book was brave and honest for dealing with that. And it also managed, somehow, to avoid the flawlessly perfect romance storyline that saturates far too much modern fiction (yeah, the always happy for evermore type), so that was refreshing too. It was a superior kind of burger and fries. A Gourmet Burger Kitchen kind. So if you want a GBK novel: clean, Christian, with a take-away spiritual message, but very easy to skim read, this is a good bet. I’d read it on a grey day, tucked up in bed, feeling a bit under the weather. The kind of day where Anthony Trollope’s millipede sentences, never mind George MacDonald’s transliterated Scots dialects, feel like far too much effort.

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