Cover Image: Blue Postcards

Blue Postcards

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Member Reviews

This was my second Fairlight Moderns title.  I didn't enjoy it as much as the other I read, but there were aspects that I very much liked.
Initially I was intrigued by the very short segments, and the fleeting, period-rambling storyline, but I found by the middle of the book I was feeling tired of the flickering story, the unreliable narrator, and the too-short sections.  I was drawn back in towards the end as different aspects seemed to be coming together more, and it did have some beautifully captured moments.
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Blue Postcards is a lovely novella focusing around the central theme of blue. Linked through the colour blue, the readers follow three interweaving narratives and timelines, set in Paris. 
The structure of this book was completely unlike anything I've read - the book is divided into five chapters, consisting of 500 short paragraphs, each of which mention 'blue' at least once. I was unsure of the structure at the start of my reading, however Bruton successfully pulls off this unconventional method, and in doing so, allows for a completely original reading experience.
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A very enchanting book relating to everything blue. Beautifully depicted through the ages from past to the present how the memories relate to the colour blue. 

 It’s the 1950s and Henri is the last tailor on the street. With meticulous precision he takes the measurements of men and notes them down in his leather-bound ledger. He draws on the cloth with a blue chalk, cuts the pieces and sews them together. When the suit is done, Henri adds a finishing touch: a blue Tekhelet thread hidden in the trousers somewhere, for luck. One day, the renowned French artist Yves Klein walks into the shop, and orders a suit.

Set in Paris, this atmospheric tale delicately intertwines three connected narratives and timelines, interspersed with observations of the colour blue. It is a meditation on truth and lies, memory and time and thought. It is a leap of the imagination, a leap into the void.
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‘’Years ago in the blue mists of memory, there was a street in Paris called the Street of Tailors. Men sat outside their shops like kings on their thrones, and they nodded to each other or tipped their broad brimmed hats and said, ‘Shalom’, and smiled. [...] Then one day the whole street disappeared and all the people in it.’’

Three men invite us to a world painted blue. Blue as memory, glory, secrets. Blue as loss and injustice. Blue as the sky and the sea and the Virgin Mary’s mantle. Blue as the threads of Tekhelet that bring fortune and a closer contact to God, according to Jewish tradition. Henri, a Jewish tailor, Yves Klein, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and our narrator, haunted by his father’s memories and a melancholic love. In the shadow of the Eiffel tower, a play that involves every aspect of the human soul - from togetherness to massacre - is being unfolded…

‘’Blue is a feeling and a time and a memory. Blue is distance and nearness and touch.’’

This is a tale told in blue. The sacred colour of divinity, spirituality and tranquility. It is a story of the quest for peace of mind and truth. For the things that should have happened and the things that did and made the world collapse. A tailor who survived the worst atrocities in the history of mankind, an artist who wanted to make a difference, a collector who loved a blue-eyed girl. This is a fable of Montmartre and the colours that make our lives worth living. A legend for St Rita, the saint of the impossible, St Sebastian and St Irene, and St Joseph of Cupertino. The celestial is united with the mortal. It is a story about the power of Art as Van Gogh’s Starry Night mirrors the nostalgia and serenity of a world of make-believe, a world that awakens the need to understand that there is more to life than birth and death.

‘’There were stories that came after they were gone. Stories too cruel to be true. Except that when the war was over what could not be true was proven to be true. So many men and women and children, all of them disappeared. Nothing of them to say prayers ever, nothing but blue smoke adrift in the Heavens.’’

Human beings created moments of divine beauty. But many creatures that do not deserve to be called ‘’humans’’ or even ‘’beings’’ created the Holocaust. On 22 June 1940, Marshal Pétain agreed to ‘’cleanse’’ his country of all the ‘’undesirables’’, obeying to Germany’s ‘’rules’’. When all the windows in the Street of Tailors were broken, when all the atrocities committed by the Nazi monsters and their filthy allies and collaborators started taking place, there were no angels’ feathers to help. Everyone looked the other way, living in their own blue dream, believing in evil blue lies.

‘’God is here. Stand well back or burn.’’

Through heartbreaking and shocking moments, during an uncertain summer echoing the flight of the sparrows, in a world that is being blinded by blue lies, Douglas Bruton creates a modern masterpiece.

‘’And in the end we are the voices of the dead, all voices they have, we who live and love and laugh. We are the guardians of their truth and even in what we invent there should be truth.’’

Many thanks to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Out 8/7! 
This is a little gem! A charming and elegant novella in 500 numbered paragraphs, each mentioning the word blue and featuring a blue object. Set in post WW2 Paris and not properly a historical novel, it comments on historical events related to the Nazi occupation and their aftermath. Blue is a thread that runs through the text, weaving a story that connects three narrative strands in a meaningful way. 

We find a well-researched fictionalised account of Yves Klein’s career, his fascination with blue as the colour of spirituality and transcendence, his attempts to attain a stable, permanent blue that would not degrade (the famous Yves Klein Blue). The concern with permanence is also in the legendary 1960 Leap In The Void photos (in reality there was someone holding a tent). Klein is described as someone who made a work of art out of his life, a “mythomane… who made up the stories of his life and changed them at will”. This is a fascinating subplot, where Bruton shows Klein the man, the glamour, the gossip, and the white noise of life. 

There are those with little agency such as Henri, a Jewish tailor who counted Klein among his customers. His family was a victim of the “night of broken windows” and Nazi persecution. He also holds on to a blue thread, the Tekhelet from Jewish culture associated with holiness. The two stories run eerily parallel, from their artistry to key moments in their life, till the leap in the void. The correspondences make for an engaging, stimulating read that constantly generates new insights.

The third protagonist is the storyteller, a collector of discarded objects with “a feeling and a time and a memory” who see meandering through Paris second-hand markets. He is a metafictional narrator who offers interesting insights into his writing process and the writing of history: how we choose specific events over others, we memorialise beautiful lies and rewrite the past, the problem being that at times we choose to erase tragic histories and truths that should be remembered. And this is a timely issue. 

A beautiful novella about memory, permanence, trauma, erasure and history. The surreal resurfacing of threads and objects throughout the text is delightfully fascinating. Experimental but not difficult or convoluted, and the division in short alternating paragraphs makes for a propulsive read. Well crafted and accomplished. 
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The colour blue is the central theme of this short novel, and is mentioned in every one of the 500 numbered paragraphs(the book is didvided into 5 chapters). It’s a meditation on memory, ageing, history, the passing of time, art, nature(particularly swallows) and I loved it! Somehow it works beautifully. 
There are three interwoven narratives, the work and life of Yves Klein, a French artist; a tailor in Paris, Henri who makes a suit for Klein; and the narrators story, an old man (this storyline is contemporary) who finds a blue postcard of Klein in a stall under the Eiffel Tower. The flow between the three threads is dreamlike and even the narrators story may be just a dream. A beautiful little book.
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Blue Postcards was my first book in the Fairlight Books genre.  Although I am optimistic that I will enjoy some of the novellas in this series, I am not a fan of Blue Postcards.  I found the format a little too busy for my taste, and I did not enjoy the constant need to incorporate the word blue.  I understand what the author was trying to do, it just left me a bit underwhelmed and unable to follow the theme and main idea of the book.
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LOVED it! What a delightful surprise. I am a purveyer of blue, so I was delightfully surprised to find a book to support my habit. In 500 vignettes, the Author tells the story from 3 connected perspectives, although intertwined based on a single blue thread and a postcard.
There are many quiet, endearing passages in this book. 
I enjoyed all of the stories, Michelle, the Tailor, Henri, and the Author, "although the story may not be true."
I particularly enjoyed the historical perspective on Yves Klein. I googled the Artist immediately after reading the book. 
I was unaware of the Fairlight Moderns series, before reading this book. I look forward to reading the other books.
Its rare to find, a nuanced, quirky, unusual novella such as this that is truly 'different' and engaging.

Thank you to the Author, NetGalley and Fairlight Books for the opportunity to read and review this intriguing book.

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“Fairlight Moderns”, Fairlight Books’ series of “new short modern fictions from around the world” is putting the novella on the map of contemporary literature.  The previous sets of titles in the series, published in 2018 and 2019, were ample proof that this literary form could fit a variety of genres and settings, and could also leave room for experimentation in subject and form.  Amongst several crackers which debuted as Fairlight Moderns one could mention Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn, a magical-realist “novella-in-flash” set in 1970s Communist Romania which went on to be longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Republic of Consciousness Prize and The People’s Book Prize and which was eventually reissued in the US by HarperCollins to further critical acclaim.

Another clutch of Fairlight Modern titles is being published in 2021. Of these, I have just read Blue Postcards by Douglas Bruton and I am pleased to report that, if this novella is anything to go by, the forthcoming set of Moderns is as exciting as what has come before.  Blue Postcards combines literary experimentation with good old storytelling and shows that innovative fiction can also be entertaining.

In a slim volume, Bruton weaves together three different storylines.  The main narrative is, intriguingly, a mostly non-fictional account of the career of Yves Klein.  Klein was an avant-garde artist fixated with the colour blue, who startled the art world with his all-blue paintings and “performance art” events (including the use of “human paintbrushes” - female models daubed in blue creating art… in blue).  Although not primarily known as a musician or composer, Klein also created the John-Cage-like “Monotone Symphony”, in which musicians play one note continuously for forty minutes. As far as the Klein segments are concerned, Bruton adopts a Sebaldian approach, relying heavily on factual, historical events with a sprinkle of authorial imagination.  This seems to be the in-thing at the moment.  One thinks, for instance, of Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World which, incidentally, also features the colour “blue”.

The second strand in the novella is the tale of a tailor (whose clients include Yves Klein) and the tailor’s experiences of antisemitism in the years leading to the Second World War.  What brings everything together is what might be considered the “frame story”.  This is set in contemporary France and its protagonist is the narrator of the novella, who discovers love whilst seeking Yves Klein memorabilia.  In a postmodern move, the narrator himself suggests that this sentimental tale in the shadows of the Tour Eiffel is a product of his imagination, leading us to question the truth of all that we have read.  The thin line between reality and make-believe was, after all, one of the themes of Yves Klein’s output.  This is exemplified, for instance, in the series of photomontages known as “Leap into the Void” (referenced in Bruton’s novella), which cleverly show Klein in gravity-defying flight.    

If this all sounds rather convoluted, just wait until I tell you that Bruton’s novella is made of exactly 500 numbered paragraphs, all of which contain at least one mention of the word “blue”.  

On paper all this might appear rather dry and contrived.  But fear not – it works, and brilliantly.  Blue Postcards is a novella which is structurally original and ambitious and, at the same time, a heart-warming read.
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I have blue on my mind, totally.  Recently I read Benjamin Labatut's 'When We Cease to Understand the World' and now this one.  So yes, surrounded by blue and loving it.

Bruton weaves a blue thread through his people and their stories, dipping in different spaces and different times so we do not have a linear still life, but rather a box where we meet his people at different times, doing different things but the blue thread joins it all. Well sometimes it breaks but then we get another blue thread and continue.

We meet Yves Klein, who really, really liked blue.  We meet careful, lonely Henri and his angel, the narrator and his Michelle and the swallows of course and also we meet blue, the colour, the mood, the feeling.......

Quietly written but the feelings come out strong because they do not need bravado, they just need to show a little here and a little there and as Bruton says the perspective than changes, the story changes and as it changes in the book, it does in our reality, a missed word here and an extra one there changes the story completely.

<i>An ARC gently provided by the author/publisher via Netgalley in return for a review</i>
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