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The Blue Book

2.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  498 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
Elizabeth Barber is crossing the Atlantic by liner with her perfectly adequate boyfriend, Derek, who might be planning to propose. In fleeing the UK - temporarily - Elizabeth may also be in flight from her past and the charismatic Arthur, once her partner in what she came to see as a series of crimes. Together they acted as fake mediums, perfecting the arcane skills practi ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 4th 2011 by Jonathan Cape (first published 2011)
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The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerState of Wonder by Ann PatchettGillespie and I by Jane  HarrisHalf Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Orange Prize For Fiction Longlist 2012
15th out of 20 books — 155 voters
The Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. WatsonWhen God was a Rabbit by Sarah WinmanThe Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2011
115th out of 155 books — 272 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,959)
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Off Balance

“Blue Book” is off kilter. I believe Kennedy meant this purposefully. Most of the action takes place on a cruise ship that’s caught in a storm. One of the main characters is continually sick and throwing up. The storm continues for the entire cruise. Even the passengers who aren’t actively sea sick feel off balance due to the ships perpetual sway.

Please note it’s important to read the blurb about the premise of the book before plunging in or you might feel as at sea as I did. “Blue B
Apr 16, 2013 Victoria rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-fic, not-for-me
Well, this is the first book in 2013 that I am not going to finish reading. There are only a few books each year that for one reason or another, I will not finish (never more than four), but I simply do not have it in me to force myself to continue on past this quarter of the novel. It opens, at first, with the promise of a very different sort of novel. The reader is directly addressed (the second-person “you” appears frequently). Looking past this very distinct style choice, the words themselve ...more
Jo Bennie
Nov 30, 2014 Jo Bennie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: k
After reading Oatley's book Such Stuff as Dreams on the psychology of fiction I understand that for a piece of fiction to be taken into the mind of a reader and become a simulation within their own mind they have to touch their reader. There are a few writers who do this for me to the extent of shaking my understanding and opening me up to new understandings, the poetry of TS Eliot, Blake and McCaig, and the writings of David Almond, Phlip Pulman and AL Kennedy are among them.

Kennedy crafts her
Aug 07, 2014 Blair rated it liked it
The Blue Book is a complex, fractured story. It centres on middle-aged Beth, who is taking a cruise with her boyfriend, Derek, who may be about to propose. But it also jumps into Beth's past, when she was the lover and professional partner of Arthur, a fake medium, and in turn visits scenes from Arthur's past - and their history together. Some chapters seem entirely random and don't take on real significance until much later. The book is written mainly in the third person, but it occasionally in ...more
Susanne schreibtwas
A.L. Kennedy "Das blaue Buch" - Buchbesprechung oder auch: Ich bin ein Fan der Langeweile

Ich hatte "Das Blaue Buch" von A.L. Kennedy bereits Weihnachten vor einem Jahr bekommen (oder war es sogar vor zwei Jahren?) und es lag eine Weile in meinem Regal und ich konnte mich nicht aufraffen, es zu lesen, weil ich ahnte, dass es keine leichte Lektüre werden würde (nicht, dass ich immer auf leichte Lektüre stehe, im Gegenteil, aber es gibt so Zeiten, da kann ich mich einfach nicht aufraffen, ein Buch
Jun 01, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A.L.Kennedy is one of those writers who's books always intimidate me. She is not the easiest read, and her characters are not the easiest to connect with. Her intensity is daunting, even though her levity is always evident (she has a second career as a stand up comic.) But I find myself always, always picking up her books, not only for the sharp observations, not only for her fierce honesty, but because of the writing.

Her latest novel takes us into a world of magic, fortune telling, and mediums.
Sep 22, 2011 Alistair rated it it was ok
i don't know why i keep reading these contemporary novels . another major disappointment . i really wonder if any of the reviewers who spoke so highly of this book actaually read it
although the story sounded entertaining enough about a woman on a cruise to America with her anaemic boyfriend meeting a past boyfriend who was involved with her in a business as fake mediums the actuality is baffling and endlessly tedious . the author likes to play games with the reader and it is all very tiresome .
Feb 19, 2015 Jason rated it did not like it
. . Note goodreads win. did not finish!!!!

There is an audience for this. He or she is creative, has an attention span (does not get frustrated), and probably some literature education background. Or an obnoxious undergraduate who references authors and writers, not because he likes reading but because he thinks it impressed women (sorta like that good will hunting see re: 'how do you like dem apples'). To me this had too many devices which segmented an intriguing plot, and destroyed any potentia
May 04, 2013 Nancy rated it did not like it
After the first chapter, I thought I would like this book. After the first three chapters, I thought I could like this book if I stuck with it. After another two chapters, I thought I could at least tolerate the story to the end. After getting a quarter of the way through, I just couldn't take it anymore. The second-person writing, the hidden identities and relationship, the special number references, etc, are surely intended to make this story intriguing and clever. Unfortunately, the devices a ...more
Jul 19, 2014 Sarah rated it did not like it
The covers are blue. The endpapers are blue. The edges of the pages are dyed blue. There is an attractive palmistry diagram picked out in gold on the cover. Thankfully, the text is black on a standard white background. You begin to read and are surprised to find the book talking to you in the second person. You are annoyed that the book would presume to know your emotions and to pass judgment on the quality of your character. Still, there's a bit about rocks you quite like, so you press on.

And Carol Birch reviews it at the Guardian (or the Grauniad as we used to call it) here.

Surely putting the word 'fake' in front of 'medium' is a tautology?
Oct 19, 2014 Andreas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Auf igendeine Art fühle ich mich mit A.L. Kennedy verbunden. Das kommt bestimmt daher, dass wir am gleichen Tag Geburtstag haben, denke ich mir. Ich bilde mir ein, dass, wenn ich Literatur schreiben würde, die Texte denselben Sound hätten wie ihre. Oder ist es einfach so, dass Kennedy so schreibt, dass sich JEDER Leser auf ganz persönliche Art mit ihr verbunden fühlt? Weil sie einfach ziemlich tief in die menschliche Seele schauen kann.
Egal, jedenfalls berührt mich Kennedys Stil, ich liebe diese
Sep 20, 2015 Jason rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
. . Note goodreads win.


There is an audience for this. He or she is creative, has an attention span (does not get frustrated), and probably some literature education background. Or an obnoxious undergraduate who references authors and writers, not because he likes reading but because he thinks it impressed women (sorta like that good will hunting see re: 'how do you like dem apples'). To me this had too many devices which segmented an intriguing plot, and destroyed any potential for characte
Jun 12, 2013 Kassiopeia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lazy summer days when you've finished a good book and need something else to idle your mind with
Shelves: 2013

There where some parts in this book I really enjoyed, especially those parts where A.L. Kennedy speaks direktly to and about the reader. I love how she writes about those little anxieties everybody has, about love and growing up and all those feelings people might think are "unique" to them - but really, everyone else feels that way too.
I also liked it when the story acutally made some progress, which happend not as often as I'd have wished, for there where seemingly endless monologues of both t
Roderick Hart
Sep 11, 2011 Roderick Hart rated it really liked it
Elizabeth and Derek embark on a cruise, a friend who couldn’t go having paid for the tickets. Though they aren’t married, Elizabeth suspects Derek will propose during the voyage, which does not fill her with joy. But the cruise is in January and the weather conditions are so adverse that Derek isn’t fit for anything. To complicate matters further Arthur Lockwood, an old ‘friend’ of Elizabeth, is also on board. He quickly makes himself known to the couple, Derek having no idea that his partner an ...more
Apr 16, 2015 Ryandake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-good-shit
this review refers to the audiobook version.

it isn't often that a novel leaves me feeling as if the book itself is patting me on the shoulder--sort of a "there, there, dear" pat--while i sit in a sort of stunned incomprehension about what just happened. but A. L. Kennedy is not by any means a run-of-the-mill sort of novelist, and this novel is certainly not a run-of-the-mill book.

this book does address "you" quite directly sometimes. whether the you is you, the reader, or another character in th
May 17, 2012 Sophia rated it it was ok
Our protagonist is Beth, who is going off on a cruise with her boyfriend Derek. She feels that Derek is about to propose, but she still has feelings for her previous lover, Arthur, and so she's apprehensive about how she should react to this proposal. Through flashbacks we learn more of her relationship with Arthur, who she worked with in a psychic medium show - though the act was all about observation rather than genuine clairvoyance.

Sounds like a simple little tale really, doesn't it? Well, t
David Franks
Nov 25, 2012 David Franks rated it really liked it
AL Kennedy The Blue Book

The ‘story’ in this book is, at a superficial level, a simple one. A woman, Elizabeth, has a holiday on a cruise liner with a man, Derek, who wishes to marry her. Also on the liner is another man, Arthur, who is a rather superior confidence trickster who she has assisted in the past, and with whom she has been emotionally involved. Derek is ill for most of the voyage, which allows Elizabeth and Arthur to meet.

But that isn’t what the story is about, of course. No book from
Jun 03, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-library, fiction
At the library with my kids, I saw this on the New Fiction shelves and had to have it, as I have a very high opinion of Kennedy. And this book won me over with its very first page -- an intimate address to the reader from the book itself (an address that is achingly beautiful when read again after reading the book through to the end.)

It is hard to write much about this book without spoiling anything. Untangling the relationships between and identifying the characters within is sometimes frustrat
Lese lust
Ich habe mich bis zum Schluss eher gequält als mit Genuss gelesen. .. entsprechend lange habe ich auch dafür gebraucht. Mir blieben die Protagonisten bis zum Schluss in ihrer übersteigerten Kopflastigkeit völlig fremd. Der dritte Stern ist allerdings der Tatsache geschuldet, dass ich daneben auch interessante Überlegungen zum Thema Trauer und Verarbeitung gelesen habe, gerade in Verbindung mit Schuldgefühlen.
Schade, dass ich bei der morgigen Besprechung in meinem Lesekreis nicht dabei sein kann
Robert Wechsler
Jul 06, 2014 Robert Wechsler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british-lit
A 4.5. A very unusual love story, with the focus on loss, grief, and guilt. One could read this novel just for the author’s odd phrasings, for the pseudo-self-help-book chapters here and there, for the inside scoop on magic (and what isn’t magic) and the ethics of manipulation. But what made the book for me was the way Kennedy’s mind works. Even her twists are like no one else’s. It’s hard after the last one not to start reading the book again. I moved on, but it is a book I will keep and read a ...more
Dec 11, 2012 Susanne rated it liked it

,....ein wundervolles Buch, in Stoff gebunden, oben mit der Abbildung eines kleinen ist etwas schwierig der Geschichte zu folgen : Beth ist mit ihrem Verlobten auf einem Schiff nach New York unterwegs , als sie ihre alte Liebe trifft. Alle Erinnerungen, Verbindungen, Gedächtnisphrasen sind hierzu notiert; eine wunderschöne Sprache , die sich viele Metaphern erlaubt, machen es etwas schwierig, alles so nachzuvollziehen...die Bilder selbst sind erschreckend nah und real...
Barbara Sibbald
A wildly imaginative but hugely considered story of love. It's a bit difficult to get through the first bit, but if you suspend your desire for explanation, all will be revealed... well almost all. Both the protagonists are magicians (of a sort) after all. And what greater magic trick is there than the trick of falling in love.
Consider these passages from the start of the book:

p. 38 Love. Such a terrible world -- always demands you should be the accomplice, should comply -- can't say it without
Purple Osprey
Feb 24, 2014 Purple Osprey rated it it was amazing
I got this book on Kindle by accident, I'd never heard about A.L. Kennedy before, I didn't know what the book is about.
First of all, it is very well written, it's polished off, it's been worked on and beautifully done.
It's intelligent, introverted and actually made me cry.
I was genuinely surprised to see such bad reviews about it. I suppose if you prefer "boy meets a girl and they are getting married" stories you might not like it, although by no means is the book "complicated". The plot itself
Jul 23, 2012 Ali rated it it was ok
DNF, and skipped to the end to see the "twist".

Terrible waste of time and money this. The only reason it's not going in the charity bin is the beauty of the book itself. It'll compliment any bookcase.

And that's the only reason I give it two stars.
Pamela Scott
Oct 11, 2014 Pamela Scott rated it liked it
Shelves: library, al-kennedy
I enjoyed The Blue Book. I thought Kennedy’s novel, Everything You Need was superior. In contrast, The Blue Book was just okay. I enjoyed the premise Kennedy offered with Beth meeting her old flame and fellow con artist on board a cruise ship when she is with her new lover. Kennedy’s creates great atmosphere in The Blue Book with the storm providing an unstable, interesting back-drop for the dysfunctional life. I liked the fact Beth and Arthur made a living as con artist. This provided an intere ...more
Betsy Westhoff
Dec 23, 2013 Betsy Westhoff rated it liked it
Reading on an audio book, very captivating and different!
Mar 12, 2013 Catherine rated it really liked it
A cruise from Southampton to NYC in January. The location sets the tone for The Blue Book. Crashing, icy seas and gusting winds mesh well with the juxtaposition of a woman on board with her boyfriend who discovers her old partner in crime (literally) is on board as well. A setting that should be one of enjoyment, relaxation and companionship is instead filled with angst, separation and misunderstanding. Is this man following her or has she followed him?

Ostensibly, Elizabeth Barber is taking th
Elizabeth K.
Jun 24, 2013 Elizabeth K. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-new-reads
This book is simply marvelously written, and I loved nearly every moment of reading it.

Which is surprising, in that one of the main characters is a fake medium of the sort who makes his money by going around convincing people he is delivering messages from dead loved ones. This would normally be a deal-breaker for me, I wouldn't generally read a book about this, on the grounds that it would annoy me too much and life is too short, and even if I read such a book anyway, couldn't possibly allow m
Dec 21, 2012 Elaine rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2012
This book was seriously tedious. There was a thread of an interesting love story with a quirky interestingly damaged hero, a glimpse of potentially intriguing plot about mediumship in the modern day, but it was all bogged down in a lot of superfluous words and one too many "cool" literary devices (book within a book, use of the 2nd person "you", switching viewpoints, jumping around in time, stream of name it!). For a book about love, betrayal and talking to the dead it was re ...more
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what did the numbers mean 1 17 Jul 02, 2012 12:21AM  
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Alison Louise Kennedy (born 22 October 1965 in Dundee) is a Scottish writer of novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is known for a characteristically dark tone, a blending of realism and fantasy, and for her serious approach to her work. She occasionally contributes columns and reviews to UK and European newspapers including the fictional diary of her pet parrot named Charlie.
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“There are times when you've personally known things to misfire--the sentence that fell badly, the dull gift, slapdash comment, hobbled punch line, tight-fisted tip--trying to be too stupid, trying to be too clever, too silly, too carefree, too caring, too free. You can think back to those long and hollow pauses when you realised that you'd misjudged a mood, weren't paying attention, had taken the wrong risk.” 3 likes
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