Cover Image: Pure Colour

Pure Colour

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Member Reviews

In its earnest approach to identity and self-discovery, Pure Colour is a charming little novel, but gets bogged down by its insistence on its narrator trying to solve the infinite puzzle that is what it means to live a life. Whether through one's relationships or even what it means to have a human experience, Heti gives herself the hefty job of trying to make this novel comprehensible as well. While I don't think it entirely lands on its feet, Pure Colour's momentum with its prose and themes does leave the reader feeling aspirational to also look inwardly at oneself and one's own life. However, Heti almost gets too caught up in this frenzy of little epiphanies, daring to leave the reader behind.
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3.5 but I rounded down. 

This was one of my most anticipated books of 2022 but it was a bit of a let-down. Maybe my hopes were too high. 

I really appreciated the concept of a first draft, and God stepping back to learn from us. The examination of relationships was really compelling, and held so much truth (who among us hasn't met someone and instantly clicked and never understand why that only happens with certain people, sometimes fleeting, sometimes lifelong?). 

I also appreciated the leaf aspect- was she really a leaf? Was it a metaphor for grief, and coming to appreciate the things that we overlook in our busy lives? Does it matter? Really beautiful and well-written.

Now for my reservations: the relationship between Mira and Annie felt odd- why would Annie pull her out of her grief and then later be completely closed off to her? Where was the real connection between the two of them? We saw more of Mira and her father than we did her and Annie, which left me wanting more to understand their connection. Also, I really liked the relationship between Mira and her father until she started saying her father wanted her to be his wife. I just felt like that was unneeded- I get that parental relationships can sometimes become confusing in adulthood, but the way it was portrayed here made me uncomfortable at times.

I'm glad I read this, but it just wasn't the home-run I was hoping for.
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This was an absolutely fantastic book about love, grief, and humanity. It's something of a philosophical meditation within a novel, and is pretty formally experimental. Sheila Heti is a genius. I know this will be a bit too abstract for many readers (particularly the center leaf section), but I loved this, as I did her earlier work.
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What a gorgeous, confounding book! I do not even know where to begin -- this is largely a book "about" grief, but also about art. At the same time, there's something incredibly cosmic to the story, to the creation myth Heti creates from page one on. This is without a doubt her most mature novel to date. (Though, I will say I am probably still partial to Motherhood and How Should a Person Be?) Still, Pure Colour will receive a lot of the attention it rightfully deserves. There's a mournful quality to the text that I don't think Heti has explored in her work before. Though there's also still that wryness present from her previous works. Regardless, this is a standout.
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Pure Colour is a very existential novel about a girl and the grief she feels for her father's death. I felt that for the first third of the book I was on board and understood where Heti was guiding me as a reader. But then there's a lot of use of the word "ejaculate" in reference to the father's spirit in relation to the daughter that she lost me. During the middle section of the book our main character is grieving and goes through these up and down waves of processing. This is also the "leaf" interlude, I just didn't question what was happening and tried to get through it. The side character of Anne felt like an add on to me, and I didn't understand fully why she was there. Honestly I felt too dumb to fully appreciate this novel, and while this is for someone I'm not sure it's for me.
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There is this line from Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" that I think about all the time: 

"In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.”

I love this idea of our flawed world, with all its ills and all its beauty, could be missed by us (or those who follow us) if we are ever in a position to exist in some sort of form where we remember its history, but are also happier. I thought it would make the premise for some fantastic form of speculative fiction.

At its best, "Pure Colour" is exactly that. An experimental story about our world being the first draft of a better world to come. Where people are born bird, fish, or bear, depending on how they see life and love, and what their relationship is to God's creation. It reads both like a bedtime story and a new creation myth. 

When this book works, it really works, which is why I'm torn about the rating. When it works, it had me in awe of the very notion of existence, how unlikely and precious it all is. When it works, it seems like this book was written for me, because it speaks exactly to this fear of mine, that why be ambitious, why leave home, why just not stay close to the people that we love and relish in the comfort of familiarity? What is the right distance of love? 

However, for a short book, there were some passages that dragged. Where I felt Heti was becoming a bit too self-indulgent with her metaphors and her premise. It made reading the book rather frustrating. Even instances where I found the book a tad too twee for my tastes. 

There were also bits about the internet that just took me out of the whole experience (especially when I consider how the book ended). I don't understand why contemporary writers feel the need to include and critique the internet and social media in a way that does not feel organic to the story in the slightest. Or at least, perhaps the problem here is that Heti was not able to make it feel organic. Whenever it happened, and it thankfully happened more towards the beginning, it would take me out of the story, out of the atmosphere that Heti had so meticulously created in what is essentially a modern fairy tale, with a bit of religious twist to it. 

Nevertheless, while a more accurate rating of this reading experience would be a 3.5 (or even a 3), this book was bigger than the sum of its parts, so I am going to round up. The highs were very high.
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Sheila Hetis Motherhood was on my top of the year list.PureColor will also be added to my years best list.A conceptual unique novel that kept me thinking turning the pages.The author writes in a book that travels from reality to fantasy and back.Will be recommending.#netgalley #fsg
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Sheila Heti's latest novel plays with the traditional structure of narrative and turns it on its head.  A very intellectual look at life as art.  Framed around the study of becoming an art critic and then turning that critical eye onto the human experience.  Very conceptual.
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Interessssssting. I lovedddd Motherhood by the author. This is a confusing, ramble, philosophical read that felt really sincere but also not at times? Themes of death, climate grief, creationism, and family are explored in really abstract ways. Some of the insights around loss were pretty stunning but as a whole I'm not sure if this book was super successful for me. 3/5!
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This novel is, at its heart, about the relationship between Mira and her father, and as it expands to include romantic love and grief, the making of art and the unmaking of the world, author Sheila Heti creates the equivalent of an impressionist painting, inviting the reader to meet her halfway in creating meaning. Some parts are straightforward (scenes involving school, work, relationships) and some parts are more surreal (living in a leaf with the dead?), but the writing is consistently crisp and confident and undeniably captures something true about the times we’re living in. Art is subjective and Pure Colour is art; readers’ reactions might vary.
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There must be some symbolism and philosophical themes in this book, but I don’t think I got it. It all started with God creating this world as a first draft and taking a breather to think through. Mira, Annie and Mira’s father came into play during this breather. Mira after meeting Annie had all these feelings that she could not really define. Up to that point I was able to follow; but when it came to relationship between Mira and her father, I started losing my grip on the story.

It turned out when her father died, her father’s spirit went into Mira’s body and he started to live in her.  I don’t if this was symbolizing love between parent and child or something but more sinister than that. After sharing a body, then both turned into leaves until Mira got bored out that. Should this be Mira getting over her father’s death or heal from PTSD or just move on? I really cannot seem to understand. 

The last page makes things bit more meaningful for me and look at the whole story from a different lens, but I have to admit I had hard time staying in the story. Writing and story telling were beautiful, but content challenged me a little.
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Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for the ebook. Mira loves her father and she loves Annie, an impossibly cool orphan she met during college, studying to be an art critic. From these small acts, the book widens out to show that this world is just God’s latest draft and will soon be scrapped for the next, and vastly improved, version. This is a wild book of philosophy and theology, but grounded by the thoughts, and insecurities, of Mira, who doesn’t understand the emotions that Annie has opened her up to and even spends time having her soul conjoined with her father’s in a leaf in tree by a lake after he dies.
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