Book Review: The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith

This post was originally on the Odyssey Bookshop's blog (which y'all should go check out anyway), but I decided to repost it here, with a few additional comments.

Here's the original review:

The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith
Paperback: 9780380790883, Harper, $13.95

This is one of those "New to Me" books that other people may have already checked out - considering it was published 10 years ago - but it is so fantastic that everyone who has read it should definitely read it again. Especially considering that the latest book (in what I believe is a 3-book series at the moment) came out in April of 2008. Perfect timing for some new paperback fiction!

When I call this book a "thriller," I don't mean it in the Steven King, make you pee your pants with fright in the middle of the night, sort of way. It's more of an adventure thriller - it's like a symphony where you have this beautiful melody and harmony and you're floating along on trills of music until all of a sudden it crescendos and the cymbals crash and the drums boom and you've got yourself a little rock 'n roll thrown in there. Amazing.

Aud Torvigen is hot, sexy, and in control. A 6-foot, ice blonde Norwegian-American, Aud grew up in Norway, and now makes her home in Atlanta, GA. After leaving the elite "Red Dogs" special police force at the age of 29, Aud now works for herself, taking on jobs that pique her interest, since she no longer needs them to pay the bills.

After running, literally, into a strange woman on a dark road in the middle of the night, only to have a house blow up a block away a few minutes after that, Aud gets tangled in a mess of a private investigation involving a highly-placed politican, international money laundering, art forgeries, and one Julia Lyons-Bennet, who is at once more than and also exactly what she seems. When the investigation turns deadly, Aud and Julia escape to Norway where an unexpected betrayal will bring their trip to an abrupt end. Though Aud solves the investigation, Julia has helped her learn it's no longer about that thrill you only get when you're in the Blue Place. Though heart-wrenching, the end will not disappoint, and will make you glad there are 2 other books out there about Aud for you to read.

Called a "new wave crime-writer" and an author of "literary noir," Nicola Griffith's writing is a sensory delight. Like Aud herself, Griffith's words are precise, exacting, and yet slow and senuous enough to have all of your senses enjoying the experience. You can feel the moist humidity of Atlanta and the icy breath of Norwegian fjords, the bump of rock 'n roll and the glide of skin against skin. Her writing has won her the Tiptree Award, the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and six Lambda Literary Awards. It is easy to understand why. Pick up The Blue Place - for an excerpt, click here. You won't be able to put Nicola Griffith or Aud Torvigen down.

When you look for more Aud reading, check out Stay (excerpt) (9781400032303, $12.95) and Always (excerpt) (9781594482946, $15). When you look for more Nicola Griffith, check out her website and/or her blog.

Here's what else I have to say about it (this is the part where I talk more about how it effected me personally):

This book is, for all intents and purposes, a work of thriller fiction. Yet it is also a work of lesbian fiction, and I'm torn about whether or not that should be part of its review. I don't go to the shelf and pull down a work of "lesbian fiction" - neither do I shy away from it - and deep down inside, I believe it really doesn't (and shouldn't) matter if it is, while at the same time there are so many important reasons why it does (matter). It made me ask myself why I don't read more "lesbian fiction". I've never particularly been drawn to that sort of writing or that specific of a genre. At the same time, while I was reading it, I was thrilled that this book was about a woman, being all fierce and fighting and knowing how to protect herself, and then when she turns that same intensity and passion into finding a woman for the evening or when she's forming a relationship with Julia, it was intellectually fascinating.

I don't think it should matter who is picking up this book. The book isn't great strictly because it's "lesbian fiction," the writing stands on its own. And just like I read books about people who are Japanese or Black or who lived in 1875 or currently live in Pakistan, I don't believe you need to be what you read in order for what you're reading to speak to you.

On the other hand (I'm sorry, I'm Jewish, I can't help thinking of Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof every time I say that), there are certain people out there who are going to be uncomfortable reading something about lesbian sexuality. While it may not technically be my job to give them a head's up, a part of me feels obligated to make some reference to it. I think I vaguely alluded to it in the above post I wrote for the Odyssey's blog, but you kind of have to read between the lines to get it. I'm still torn on this issue.

Thoughts? On any of it?



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