From the award-winning author of The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov comes the brilliantly conceived and precisely rendered novel Immaculate Blue, which explores the lives of four people — Anatole, Leigh, Chris, and Lydia — and their intermingled and unwinding desires. Set in upstate New York, the novel follows these characters as they achieve their aims in lives redolent wiFrom the award-winning author of The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov comes the brilliantly conceived and precisely rendered novel Immaculate Blue, which explores the lives of four people — Anatole, Leigh, Chris, and Lydia — and their intermingled and unwinding desires. Set in upstate New York, the novel follows these characters as they achieve their aims in lives redolent with loss and hope, humor and sadness, union and alienation. Russell picks up the thread of his critically acclaimed novel The Salt Point 20 years later and tracks the lives of these friends, some of whom not only lost touch with each other but have also lost their way. Moving, at times shocking, and always memorable, Immaculate Blue points to where the personal and the political come together and shape our lives in unexpected ways. With this newest novel, Paul Russell reminds us of why he is one of the most important voices on the literary scene....
|Number of Pages||:||227 Pages|
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Immaculate Blue Reviews
Some novels present a protagonist that the reader follows through a series of events or conflicts. These types of narratives are pretty standard. That's not what you're going to find here. This book constantly shifts perspective and drifts from one person to another effortlessly. Paul Russell is a master at this technique that allows the reader to become so immersed in the mind of the characters that their lives become as important as our own. We live through them vicariously. The real problem becomes that none of these characters are what can be easily identified as protagonists. They are in fact antagonists to each other's stories. This complicated lattice style of narrative is beautifully executed with eloquent prose that brings to life a myriad of diverse characters. And like all good novels, I found myself wishing it had not ended when it did. I wanted to continue my visit with Anatole, Chris, Lydia & Chris and all the rest of their friends and family as soon as the last page was reached. What makes this particularly frustrating this time is that this novel, Immaculate Blue is already a sequel to The Salt Point, an equally delicious novel. This latest chapter is set 27 years later and we find that all four of our principal characters have traveled some rather unexpected, yet frustratingly understandable, paths in life. Like the first novel, we can't really like any of these people. But we can't dislike them either. They are each complex and inconsistent characters that act and react just like our own acquaintances do: frustrating in their unpredictable predictability. But perhaps the author presented it best when he offers this observation: But it's not rel life. It's just America.
Immaculate Blue is about nothing and yet about everything, particularly if you are gay and your "wonder years" were in the late 80's and early 90's. If you read Russell's The Salt Point from 1990, this book follows the same group of friends now twenty years later as their paths cross again in Poughkeepsie for a wedding. No worries if you haven't read The Salt Point though; you won't be lost.The story unfolds in three long chapters in which Russell weaves back and forth between the different characters' point of view. In the first chapter, Chris returns to Poughkeepsie to reunite with friends Anatole and Lydia for Anatole's wedding. Much of the story explores what has happened to each of the three friends over the last twenty years. Chris moved away while Anatole and Lydia stayed in Poughkeepsie. Chapter two is the wedding. Chapter three follows Chris after the wedding as he reconnects with another friend before leaving Poughkeepsie. If you aren't familiar with some of Russell's other work, like The Coming Storm or War Against the Animals, you might find yourself bored at first. Russell likes to explore the human condition and gives the reader a well-rounded look into each of his main characters, so the story tends to move at a slow pace with not a lot of drama happening on the page. You really feel like you know these people by the time you finish the book. Or you at least connect with the way they are feeling and where they are in life. Immaculate Blue is no different. while I haven't lived such an intense life as Chris, I still connected with how lost he felt.Having had a close group of friends during my glory days that I sadly abandoned when I moved away, I related very well to Chris's re-connection with his friends. We like to say that today we could pick up right where we left off, but there are always questions unanswered and things that we don't know about each other that have happened since then. The last chapter definitely explores those "what if's" that we fantasize about coming true. Having read The Salt Point many years ago when I was younger and at a different place in life, it was nice to catch up with these characters much like old friends and see how much we've all changed.
It is fitting that Paul Russell bookends his first novel with a seamless sequel that is the best book this peerless author has written to date. I loved the way Russell continues the story of Lydia, Anatole, Chris and Leigh in a way that comments on some of the most divisive socio-political issues facing the gay community today.The biggest set-piece is the marriage between Anatole and his long-time lover Rafa, in the wake of New York State allowing gay marriage. Russell’s depiction of the married life of this middle-aged gay couple is heartbreakingly honest; he slowly ratchets up the tension for the wedding banquet itself, and these pages alone are one of the best advertisements for gay marriage (and happiness) possible.Russell is hardly a sentimental author though, with his first novel showing a penchant for the psychopathology of desire and deviancy. In other words, he likes writing about fucked-up characters and their lives.And none are more fucked-up than Chris Havilland, owner of the Immaculate Blue record store in Poughkeepsie, whose dark journey towards abasement forms the heart of this often grim but important novel.I think Russell is a difficult author to like, simply because he writes about such difficult people. He certainly has no delusions about his characters himself, at one point describing Anatole as a “borderline paedophile” and Lydia as “a sad desperate cradle-robber”.But the slow build up to the wedding banquet and the idyllic elaboration of gay marriage as a bastion of Western convention soon gives way to a far darker and more essential confrontation: between Chris and Leigh himself, the eponymous Boy of the Mall, who disappears under such dramatic circumstances at the end of The Salt Point.I was quite dismayed when I began to have some sense of where Russell was taking his story; the bleakness it plummets in the end is very despairing, and does not make for a comfortable read at all. But there is truth here, as dark as it, and love too, piercing the gloom.
Twenty years on and Anatole, Lydia, Chris, and Leigh whom we first encountered in the earlier novel Salt Point are now in their forties or fifties, one married, one very much still single, one with a partner and one about to be married; the last the event that brings them back together. Flamboyant Anatole still runs his hair salon, Chris has moved on from his record store, but Leigh, the beautiful Our Boy of the Mall, is yet a mystery.Over the weekend of the wedding Anatole and Lydia catch with Chris on the last twenty years, and among other things ponder what happened to Leigh; the answer to which we do eventually learn. There are or course new and interesting people to meet too.There are enough reminders here for those who read Salt Point to bring it all back without regurgitating all, and enough to inform those who have not read it so this can stand alone.Immaculate Blue is beautifully written, Paul Russell writes with great skill and clarity, and a wonderful melancholy air pervades. My only complaint being that it all finished too quickly!
Any time I finish a book in two days it gets at least 4 stars. I had just finished reading The Salt Point, and immediately started Immaculate Blue, which picks up the same characters from Salt Point 20 years later. I recommend reading the two books that way. The flaws I saw in Salt Point get resolved, to a great extent, in Immaculate Blue. I raced through the book to see what was going to happen next.
Uncomfortably adult. "The only reason you never mention a person's existence to your lover is because you don't want to diminish their secret power by putting it into words." That was the fifth star for me!!
Reread the Salt Point before this, this is sequel to Salt Point, also read again War Against the Animals
Great ReadI literally could not put my Kindle down while reading this gem of a novel. It contains complex, very real contemporary characters. In this story, the past and the present are in conflict as two gay men and a straight women reunite after decades. Their reunion is filled with regret, anger, passion, sexual tension, and confusion. The main character is Chris, an existential, a self-proclaimed hit man who protects Americans in Nigeria. Chris returns to the US to attend the gay wedding of an old friend, who still has a thing for Chris. (Chris reminded me of a haunted Graham Greene protagonist.) The three main characters are obsessed with Leigh, a pretty 18 year old boy who disappeared from their lives twenty years ago. Chris hooks up with Leigh towards the powerful last third of the novel.Paul Russell is a favorite author of mine, and this is his best book yet.
Slow at first, but the pace picked up and I enjoyed this one. Hard to call something a sequel that is written and based 25 years later. I read the predecesor - The Salt Point - but remembered very little.
When I finished Immaculate Blue I was able to understand Salt Point.