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May book club - The Colour of Bee Larkham's Murder

(80 Posts)
granfromafar Wed 02-May-18 12:43:15

Thanks very much to GN for the copy of The Colour of Bee Larkham's Murder which arrived today. Thought it unusual that the title was not on the front cover but I look forward to reading it.

Biddysue Fri 11-May-18 16:48:57

Finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed every page sometimes funny , sad even a bit scary at times. I have worked with some autistic students in the past and appreciate how careful you have to be withthrow away comments which can cause so much misunderstanding.
This book covers many issues and really made me think whilst enjoying the story.
I am interested to know if the author has first hand experience of the issues in this book because of how well they are presented.
Looking forward to another book by Sarah.

Elrel Sat 12-May-18 00:29:04

I took the book to our local book club which has survived the demolishing of our small library. I offered the book to anyone who would like to read it and guessed, as I described it, exactly who would ask first!
Again, many thanks for such an intriguing and thought provoking title!

carolboz Mon 14-May-18 07:14:41

Thank you so much for my book. I enjoy murder mystery novels, at first glance I was not sure what category this would be although the title was a bit of a give away. . It drew me in from the start,The size of the book was a bit off putting, I thought I would never get through it. How wrong I was! It took me less than a week to read it.I found it difficult to put down.I really felt part of Jasper's world. The story itself keeps you guessing all the way. The descriptions of Jasper's condition brought a whole new insight into this rare condition and gave a realistic picture of its impact on the families life. Very well written through out I would thoroughly recommend this book .

Can I ask Sarah, what prompted her to include these particular conditions into the story, they have such a profound effect on his life, How did she become aware of the condition initially?
You covered so many different areas in the story, the parakeets, court procedures, Autism etc., I read in your acknowledgements your thanks for all the help you received, but how did you know where to go to get this help?
Finally, when will your next novel be out?
Many thanks again, for a fantastic "most extraordinary

NonnaW Mon 14-May-18 16:30:30

I have just finished this remarkable book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has to be one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I really felt for Jasper in his daily struggles. How awful must life be if you cannot recognise faces, even your own family? For a vulnerable youngster in school with all those individuals wearing the same uniform, it must be so stressful. Then to add to that the mystery of someone’s death, well, young Jasper coped so well, even if he sis get things muddled sometime. It kept me guessing right up to the last. Great book, which I would highly recommend. Very interested to see what subject the author rackles next!

Greenfinch Tue 15-May-18 10:48:01

It took me a while to get into this book but I really enjoyed it and it had me guessing right up until the end. I was quite sure it was one of the other characters.

Each character was portrayed sensitively and with a great deal of understanding of human nature and disabilities. All of the 3 main characters (Jasper, Dad and Bee) were in some way victims either of others or the situation they found themselves in and I should include Lucas in that. David was in some ways a victim too and I am sure Ollie too would have had some suspicious past experiences.It was fascinating to see how their lives all intertwined.

I wouldn't say the book contained much humour but in my opinion was none the worse for that. Some of the metaphors Jasper took as literal could be seen as funny but I have lived with autism too long to be amused by these misunderstandings. Having said that the character of Jasper was spot on :typical of the autistic mind. It all rang so true.

I would like to thank Sarah Harris for such an entertaining and informative read :a really clever book.

Were Jasper and Bee based on anyone you know Sarah?
They were so true to life though I did think the nasty thing she did to Jasper was a bit out of character.

humptydumpty Tue 15-May-18 11:32:56

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My only reservation is its similarities in theme to Curious Incident of The Dog in the Nighttime: autistic boy as first-person narrator, murder mystery...

Having said that, I understand that synesthesia and face-blindness are more common in people on the autistic spectrum, and I thought they made a fascinating addition to the entire story and differentiated it from the other novel.

A fascinating and gripping read, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Greenfinch Tue 15-May-18 18:25:39

I absolutely agree with you humptydumpty.I thought the same about the similarities even to the extent of the mother being absent from the scene albeit for different reasons.However ,I enjoyed this storyline more .It was more convoluted and consequently more gripping I found.

matson Tue 15-May-18 18:50:33

The books topic of highlighting synaesthesia and face blindness was fascinating, however it took me awhile to get my head around it, so empathise with Jasper!I loved his use of painting as a recall and communication method.
Overall the book was enjoyable and very educational. Thank you.

Truffle1 Wed 16-May-18 12:52:30

Thanks for the book - I too was rather confused by the cover but now it all makes sense! I will read it soon and leave a few comments later on.

gillyknits Wed 16-May-18 17:50:23

Although I enjoyed this book I found it a bit frustrating that the story was always told by Jasper. Every description,with all the colours of sounds, became a bit repetitive. I feel it would have been better, for me,if another character’s point of view had been given.
It was interesting that Jasper had two problems,( seeing sounds as colours and facial recognition difficulties. )This made the story very interesting and kept me guessing whether he had actually seen all the events.
I think it gave a really good account of how difficult it must be for parents to cope with the symptoms of Autism . It was pleasing also,to see a sympathetic policeman in a novel.
I would ask the author whether she always intended to give Jasper’s character two types of problem or did they develop as the idea for the story progressed?.

Jalima1108 Wed 16-May-18 20:42:00

I am only part way through the book but hope to finish it before the end of May but my comment so far is the same as that of gillyknits - I was hoping that, as the story develops, the story might be told from other viewpoints eg the father's.

Perhaps when I finish the book I may realise why this is not the case.

Pittcity Thu 17-May-18 14:33:58

Just raced through the last few chapters as I had to know whodunnit and what exactly had been done!
Another great choice GN, thank you.
I was guessing the outcome from the start (the title gives a clue) and got it completely wrong. Probably because I have trouble thinking in colour!
I wonder if Sarah had a colour chart when writing as I would have forgotten who was which and run out of colour names.

granfromafar Thu 17-May-18 15:20:34

Have finished reading this unusual book. Thought the topic was very interesting and learned a lot about the various conditions suffered by Jasper. Agree with gillyknits that the way Jasper recounted the story made it somewhat repetitive and for me, overly long. Felt that the story could have been condensed slightly. Have now lent it to a friend and was amazed when the friend's husband (who we have known for many years) announced that he too had associated colours with different days of the week when young and could still remember them.
Would ask the author if she plans to write any more novels about people with autism or more unusual conditions?

humptydumpty Thu 17-May-18 15:26:47

I too have always associated days of the week and numerals with colour; it's been suggested to me that it;s the result of a long-forgotten calendar/storybook from when very young...

Maggiemaybe Thu 17-May-18 16:54:29

Well, I don’t have the synesthesia, but after a lifetime of apologising to people for not being “good with faces”, I heard about face blindness a few years ago, and recognised then that my dad had it, and that I have it too to (I think!) a lesser extent. Dad would stand smiling away while my mother chatted to one of his aunts in the street, then ask her later who she’d been talking to. I have real trouble remembering faces and don’t recognise people out of context, so make a habit of smiling at everyone I meet, just in case I ignore someone I know and offend them (yet again!). Fortunately I live in Yorkshire, where smiling at strangers is still perfectly acceptable!

Jasper’s face blindness was at an entirely different level though, and it was fascinating to see how bad it can be, and how severely it can affect everyday life. I loved the book in the end – it was a bit of a slow burner at first, and I got a bit tired of hearing about parakeets! But I couldn’t put it down once I got to the last third or so and events came thick and fast. I was rooting for Jasper throughout, and worried about what would happen to him if his dad (another sympathetic and well-drawn character) turned out to be the villain of the piece. Jasper’s colours were so central to the plot and I admire the way the author depicted them so that they really came alive. It can’t have been easy!

I understand that the author is a freelance journalist and that this is the first book she has written for adults. I’d like to ask whether she intends to concentrate on her books now or whether she will continue to write for the media.

Thank you again for a really good read!

Elrel Fri 18-May-18 01:39:37

In spite of the title I expected there to have been no murder except in Jasper's perception. In fact for most of the book I expected Bee to turn up again, her colourful, wayward self!

harrigran Fri 18-May-18 16:52:45

The colour of Bee Larkham's murder was one of the most unusual books I have read in a long time.
When I realised that Jasper had synaesthesia I was keen to understand his condition and learn what it meant to him. My granddaughter has this condition but not the severe autism that Jasper had.
I found the book fascinating and it was so well written that I could feel Jasper's anguish when his paintings were not producing the results he wanted and his frustration at not recognising faces.
I felt for Ben doing his best in a situation that he could not control but Bee I found annoying until it became clear why she had the bad attitude.
I will not spoil the book for others by discussing the story all the way through but sufficient to say that it is well written and deserves the praise I know it will receive.
A thought provoking book.

lolarabbit Fri 18-May-18 17:41:52

I found this book very interesting, a highly unusual take on a murder mystery and with many interesting characters. I was very intrigued to read about synaesthesia and particularly how Jasper used painting to help him make sense of the world. I wonder if the author met anyone with synaesthesia who uses art in this way as part of her research?
A thoroughly enjoyable read.

GeminiJen Sun 20-May-18 19:45:20

Thanks again to GN for another book I might not have discovered by myself; and to Sarah J. Harris for an intriguingly different and interesting read flowers. I’d definitely recommend this book.

“Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystals with glittery edges and jagged, silver icicles.” From the very first sentence in this book we see events through the eyes of a severely autistic boy with both synaesthesia and prosopagnosia (face blindness). The boy, thirteen year old Jasper, isn't exactly an unreliable narrator but is most definitely one who is challenging to translate. Jasper cannot ‘see’ faces, he can only recognise people by the most basic clues - blonde hair, blue baseball hat, cherry-red trousers - and the colour of their voices. And it’s the colours that make this novel such a captivating read. Through Jasper’s own quirky and colourful retelling of the events and occurrences that have taken place the truth is slowly revealed, as what he knows is gradually unlocked for the reader – and the police - to decipher. It’s a great premise for a murder mystery.

Jasper paints what he experiences as abstract shapes, smooth or jagged, soft circles or hard rectangles, in the colours which represent what he sees, hears and the emotions he experiences. Jealousy is “a wishy-washy shade of onion”; the cries of his beloved parakeets are “deep cornflower blue with yellow hiccups”; and Rihanna’s music “exploding stars of gold and silver rippling and expanding into seas of flamingo and watermelon pink”... all of which made me wish I could experience what a synaesthete experiences. I’d love to see some illustrative examples of Jasper’s paintings, although I guess that would have pushed up the printing costs? And I’d love to know what my colours are!

I confess that, about half-way through the book, I did begin to find the author’s repeated descriptions of Jasper’s condition a tad monotonous, with no apparent progression of the story. But then it picks up pace and was simply ‘unputdownable’ for the last 130 pages as the plot finally unravelled and the truth was revealed.

I have no personal experience of synaesthesia nor of face blindness and learned a lot from reading this book. It also motivated me to learn more. Even before reading the acknowledgements and list of references, it was clear that the author had done her utmost to capture the uniqueness of Jasper’s voice authentically. All in all, her nuanced, sensitive portrayal of this “most extraordinary boy” is fascinating to read, opening our minds to voices so often unheard.

My questions for Sarah:
Journalist or author, which gives you most satisfaction?
What are the different challenges?
And what next?

EastEndGranny Fri 25-May-18 15:12:13

As others did, I took a while to get into the story, but then I was hooked. I think at first I was a little irritated by Jasper but then warmed to him and could sympathise with the problems he encountered. Although I thought it unlikely that Jasper was a ‘murderer’ I did wonder how the ending was going to save him ........ but it did in - a very intriguing and plausible way. Certainly a book I will be recommending to the book club to which I belong. I hope it is a success for SJ Harris.

otherwiseknownasGrandma Sun 27-May-18 15:04:59

Thank you for my free copy. I thought it was an intriguing read, interesting to learn about living with synaesthesia, face blindness and autism, whilst simultaneously providing an excellent unreliable narrator for a murder mystery. Very clever and enjoyable.

I would like to find out more about artwork by people with synaesthesia. I wish Jasper's paintings had been included within the book, I would like to see how much they differed from his description and my imagined versions.

marpau Mon 28-May-18 00:36:38

At first I thought the concept of using colours as a way of recognition was interesting however I took a long time to get into the book and got bored with Jasper and his colours. Perhaps if it wasn't only Jasper's narration it may have held my interest more i did narrow it down to two suspects one of whom was correct. I feel the book could have been condensed and did remind me very much of another book.

Mapleleaf Tue 29-May-18 10:48:48

I'm still reading this book. It took me quite a while to get going with it, but now I am almost at the end, I'm glad I persevered. Don't know who the main suspect is yet, not even sure if Bee has been murdered - I will, no doubt, discover that when I reach the end of the book.
A cleverly written story, and I've learned quite a bit about synaesthesia. Fascinating.
I'd like to ask the author if she needed to do a lot of research on the subject or does she know someone with synaesthesia and seeing the world through colours?

philatel Tue 29-May-18 11:12:05

Well, I was in two minds about this book - I loved the story BUT I couldn't cope with all the colour references. I know that was the whole point of the book but I found I was totally distracted by this and it totally slowed my reading of the book. But I must admit it was a fascinating read.

humptydumpty Tue 29-May-18 12:11:29

Personally and unlike some reviewers, I felt the story was very much enhanced by being told throughout by Jasper; I too found the colours annoying at first, but soon got used to them as a part of the story.