Monday 1 April 2013

Redemption in Indigo

Karen Lord, 2010
(March 2013)

I really enjoyed this.
You remember that ‘nice’ book I wanted? The one in a nice world where nice things happen to nice people? Or at least one where shitty things don’t happen to shitty people simply because the plot demands it? Well, I think this is about as close as you’re going to come without sacrificing all forms of narrative drive and dramatic tension completely.

This is just a pleasure to read. It’s very heavily influenced by West Indian and West African folklore (apparently) and so it shouldn’t come as so much of a surprise that, like so many other traditional morality tales, the plainer human virtues of humility and perseverance are given due prominence. The trouble with those kinds of virtues though is that they’re kind of boring, and a story where the main character embodies them could be just as insipid and dull.

However, the narrator is as much a character in this tale as those he (?) speaks of, and what’s really interesting is the way it’s the secondary characters – the antagonists –  whose story this really is. People talk about ‘round’ characters, characters who develop, who go on a journey, and Paama’s character development is pretty much done inside the first third of the book. She’s the main character – I hesitate to say protagonist because her actions are largely, though crucially not completely, at the whim of other more powerful forces. It’s some of these characters, the tricksters and gods who seemingly stand against her, who undergo the most obvious and profound changes over the story.

It’s a very neatly done bait-and-switch. More importantly, given the current fascination with grit, darkness, and moral ‘complexity’, it’s a glowing example of how to be both thought provoking and pleasant simultaneously. No mean feat, that.


  1. What does this new icon signify?

    1. Well, Chris does rather cut to the essence of it below, though to be fair I only learned how to hyperlink images a couple of months ago.

      It's a similar deal to the SF thing back in January, just with more fantastical stuff. This time I've learned my lesson though and will be pacing myself, so if you're as uninterested in Fantasy as SF hopefully it won't be quite such a trial for you (or me).

  2. I love books that are thought-provoking AND pleasant. I don't understand the idea that only DARK books can be serious or meaningful. Thanks for the recommendation!

    By the way, one of my favorites is L. M. Montgomery--mostly nice things happening to nice people in a pleasant place, but there are still stories and humor and character development.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation too, I'll have a look. I think reading stuff like this all the time would get a little tasteless, but it's good to have a palate cleanser or two around the place. All Dark all the time is no fun either.

      I remember reading an Anansi story when I was in primary school, and it's always been a character I've loved. Tricksters are fun. Risky fun, but fun nonetheless.

  3. Now, now children, play nice ;)

    This? I think you'd either love it or hate it, nothing in between. The switch is more to do with the literary devices used than the plot. As I said, it's not exactly hell-for-leather, seat-of-your-pants stuff and I could see how people could find it a touch lightweight.

    As for image bait-and-switches, months back I named an unrelated image 'gorilla nipples' just to see if it would attract any search hits, and in February it finally did. Takes all sorts, eh?