Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Blue.
Ever since she wrote A Single Breath, I’ve been a die-hard fan of Lucy Clarke, an author with a talent for capturing the intimate betrayals of her characters while placing them in exotic and isolated settings. With her first novels set in Bali and in Tasmania, it comes as no surprise that Clarke has set her latest novel in the Philippines and New Zealand. The bulk of the narrative, however, takes place on a yacht called
The Blue on which paradise proves to be transient and where easy days and endless nights are tainted with lies and secrets, even murder.
The core of the novel centers
on childhood friends Kitty and Lana. As the novel opens, Lana has made a life for herself in New Zealand, yet she remains haunted by the time when she was sailing on
The Blue. As Lana waits desperately to hear news about the yacht’s fate and exactly what happened out on the water, she remembers how she and Kitty were once seduced through the layers of darkness by the moonlight that illuminated the curve of
The Blue’s dark blue hull. Lana remembers those first days when she and
Kitty were asked to join the yacht in the Philippines, all the excitement, anticipation and fear that “pushed through her heart.”
Several months later, The Blue has sunk in rough seas off New Zealand and the crew are missing. It’s been eight months since Lana and Kitty last saw each other--indeed, the longest time in their friendship that they’ve ever been apart. Lana is positive that Kitty wouldn’t have left the yacht and gone home after everything that happened. While Kitty’s emails stay unread in Lana’s inbox, Lana is plagued by memories and thoughts of their childhood together and of the pink and white bracelet that once symbolized “friends forever.”
Alternating between chapters headed “Then and Now,” Clarke details Lana and Kitty’s months on
The Blue as they get to know their crew: Heinrich, Shell, Joseph, Denny, and the officious accomplished skipper, Aaron, who runs a tight ship and swears by the democratic process in making decisions. Plunging into an effortless dance, Lana describes how she entered another life and another world
where they lived from one day to the next, stopping at remote bays, anchoring off empty shores, and sleeping under the stars in a fabulous, carefree lifestyle. Those were heady first weeks on
The Blue, when the sky was always clear and the days were filled with the exploration of hidden coves and beaches and of eating fresh fish and exotic fruits. Lana feels the sudden surge of freedom, a sense of possibility, and a feeling that she and Kitty
are part of something bold and wonderful that is so much more than the life they’d left in England.
Because this is a Lucy Clarke novel, we experience every detail, every security and every anxious moment from Lana’s point of view. Traveling to New Zealand’s Maritime Rescue Center, the center’s supervisor, Paul Carter, informs Lana that a body has been found, but they don’t yet know who it is. Lana’s imagination takes hold like a bullet and a horrific image fills her mind: of Kitty, face down in the water, her dark hair fanning around her head “like a pool of blood.” All is cast
in furtive layers of suspicion and abandonment as Clarke’s frail young heroine finds herself overwhelmed by memories of Kitty and of her passionate attraction to Denny, an attraction that was at first forbidden and hidden away then unwound link by link “like an anchor train dragging Lana downwards.”
Clarke’s plot is as unpredictable as the continual churning and rolling of the ocean that seems to flood Lana’s brain. Lana hopes with every fiber of her being that Kitty is still alive and fighting against the odds. For months, she hasn’t allowed herself to think of that tragic, fateful night or the terrible days that followed. As Lana waits for word of the survivors, a feeling of tension soaks the novel, the anxiety shimmering as the crew start to withhold small facts, bend truths, and let events become blurred. Recollections are powerful: Lana’s sweet first kiss with Denny;
how Denny seems to so easily bow to Aaron’s rule; Aaron’s black rage against Joseph; Shell’s tear stricken face; and Kitty’s long hollow gaze at the deep red bloom of blood that stains the deck of
The Blue. Gravitating between the hopeful and the sad, Clarke captures Lana’s angst as she tries to let it all go, pushing the questions of guilt and innocence out of her mind. No matter how hard Lana works to forget, the memories are still there, as vivid and bright as freshly drawn blood: “As I looked out to sea, I wonder about the darker current that run through its depths.”
Feeding into a sense of paranoia and shaping a tragic accident into something
far darker, Clarke’s themes of isolation and the innate desire to find something
pure and sacred are so beautifully etched that they only increase this deep and
icy unease that steadily builds to a jaw-dropping, “I didn’t see it coming”