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A Spectral Hue

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  126 ratings  ·  31 reviews
For generations, the marsh-surrounded town of Shimmer, Maryland has played host to a loose movement of African-American artists, all working in different media, but all utilizing the same haunting color. Landscape paintings, trompe l’oeil quilts, decorated dolls, mixed-media assemblages, and more, all featuring the same peculiar hue, a shifting pigment somewhere between pu ...more
Paperback, 226 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by Word Horde
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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  126 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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K.J. Charles
Absolutely stunning. A ghost story, meditation on inspiration, and slide back and forth through the US's bitter history.

The salt-marsh town of Shimmer is haunted by a spirit born out of slavery that demands worship through art and consumes her worshippers. This is not easily summarisable, because the entire point is the tapestry the author builds up, with queer and Black and female voices needing to be heard in a culture that isn't comfortable with colour and stifles life. Just read it, basical
Bogi Takács
Loved this. Quiet, richly textured historical dark fantasy / Weird fiction, with a lot of crossover appeal to non-genre readers. Ownvoices queer Black novel. Longer review next week IY"H, I just want to quickly update my Goodreads with stuff I read over the last two days of Passover.

Update: I wrote my longer review!

Update2: I reread the book and it is still awesome.
Source of the book: Print ARC from the publisher
Sam Miller
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was so fantastic. Dark and scary and sexy and exciting and beautiful and just all-around wonderful.
Carrie Laben
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and wide-open story that is, variously and depending on what you bring to it, about queer people searching for community and belonging; about African-Americans in relationship with a landscape that was forced upon them but that they came to know intimately; about artistic obsession and the fear and ecstasy it inspires, and the way culture seeks to tame and classify it; about the ills of the body and mind and the ways that humans adapt to them, or don't; probably about many other th ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A paean of a novel, to the inspiration of creativity overcoming oppression. A group of people through time are drawn to a Maryland eastern shore small town, haunted by a creative force that could reveal their full selves. Almost exclusively black and queer characters, from an arts student, a woman that lived through the decades of black and gay liberation, a recovering addict, an enslaved woman, and a slew of artists, are all enraptured by a ghostly personification of purple/pink hue. This trans ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm such a sucker for books that capture other arts on the page.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written novel about the legacy of trauma (slavery, Jim Crow and homophobia, in particular) and the search for artistic inspiration and the need to belong. Gidney deftly handles a cast of multiple, mostly queer, characters over shifting time periods, each linked by their attraction to a supernatural entity that inhabits the marshes outside Shimmer, Maryland. She is what drives them
to create as much as she drives them away from normalcy and sanity. My only complaint is that I’d gotten
Brian Hauser
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: weird-fiction
Gidney's debut novel is a true delight for someone interested in art, inspiration, and the often forgotten voices who find ways to whisper to us from obscurity. I couldn't help but think that this is a book of particular resonance to readers who are themselves creatives in one way or another, and it really could be any kind of art here. A wonderful #ownvoices story, as well as an excellent sense of place.
Jeff Hanson
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gidney’s most ambitious and confident work yet, building a novel based on the mythology around a fictional group of artists inspired by an otherwordly spirit roaming the swampland around Shimmer, Maryland. Confidently combines issues of race, identity, desire, inspiration, and community in a kaleidoscopic synesthesia of color, emotion and the written word. All while being extremely readable and compelling.
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Shimmer, Maryland is a quiet town on the edges of a marsh that has been home to a number of artists whose work has captivated art criticism graduate student Xavier Wentworth. When he comes to visit Shimmer to work on his thesis, he finds a land haunted both by the horrors of slavery and a mysterious presence in the marsh that gives an odd and unsettling life to artistic work.

Gidney's novel is about a lot of things: the dualism of ancestral trauma and inherited cultural gifts, the modern identit
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book some time ago on the recommendation of someone whose reviews I trust (probably KJ Charles) - and then forgot all about it. Just found it again recently and -wow! What a delight of a book- full of delicious words and luscious imagery - beautifully woven together to display the gems of its characters- including the hungry child-spirit who provides the inspiration for the others. It's both terrifying and joyous- an excellent metaphor for the creative process itself. It reminds me ...more
Jimmy Bramlett
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fuchsia Dreams

A magical journey through the centuries that is simultaneously reassuring and disturbing. I deliberately read this slowly so it wouldn't end. I'm upset that it did.
Andrew Fuller
A stirring and vibrantly layered novel about art, oppression, and ghosts. Distinctive and fascinating characters guide you through secrets, horror, and jubilation.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rich in description and beautiful to read, but then it just stops. The story doesn't seem to go anywhere and there's no conclusion.
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This might sound a little odd, but it took me a moment to realize that Gidney was a really good writer. Something about the selection and positioning of the words is a little on the plain side but the imagery that they convey is amazing. This is such a rich and beautiful book. It has this haunting quality that fills the reader full of the place and characters that's somewhat reminiscent of the haint that fills the artists with their compulsions to express her vision. It's effective, which is suc ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Today's episode of "what did I just read?" but in a good way.
Bold of Gidney to write a book about the imaginative use of color among a centuries-spanning collection of artists where all you're ever doing is trying to imagine what's going on. (Granted, that's also the point and the impossibility of the color is not just its place on the spectrum - in the sense that magenta doesn't exist and that's it's just your brain trying to cope with two wave-lengths that ought to add up to green but are def
Brian O'Connell
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, queer, weird
An elegantly-woven tapestry of magical realism, black history, queer passion, and artistic obsession. Gidney manages the remarkable feat of balancing multiple time periods and perspectives in a way that feels natural, cohesive, and balanced. All of the characters are well-drawn and interesting, the supernatural elements are deployed wonderfully, and the writing can be quite lovely: Gidney has a gift for engaging storytelling and an eye (appropriately) for color and detail. My only qualm is that ...more
I found this book engrossing, though probably not the same reason as many readers and reviewers. I'm not particularly in to ghost stories, and there are so many more LGBT fantasy/sci books available now than previously, and this is set in Maryland but not the part I live in, so it wasn't any of that - but what I did get out of the book was the joy of fandom - unrestrained delight in some obscure piece of art (a quilt, a painting, a mixed-media work, a story) and how that delight is shared, built ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a way to start my 2020 reading challenge! A Spectral Hue by Craig Laurance Gidney is a slim novel that packs one hell of a powerful, immersive punch. Gidney blends timelines and character perspectives to tell the mysterious story of Shimmer, Maryland, a primarily black community on the Eastern Shore that inspires several forms of art all centered on the same themes: the raw beauty of the surrounding salt marshes, a rare marsh flower, and the specter of a woman who drives the creativity of g ...more
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interesting premise, and I appreciated the shorter length. Some of the descriptions got repetitive, but perhaps that was part of the point. My only criticism is of the final editor- there were many grammatical errors which were obviously not intentional. Repeated words, missing words - the kinds of things that should have been caught by the last read through. They irritated me as I would be jarred out of the reading to double check that I wasn't misreading the sentence.

A good spooky read for th
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This story by Craig Laurance Gidney considers the art of Shimmer, MD. and shifts in time from present day characters, Xavier and Linc, to slaves, like the quilter Hazel Whitby and painter Shadrach Grayson. It took a while to form a clear narrative for me and I was often confused, but Gidney wraps it up and explains the mysteries by the conclusion of the book. Lovely writing.
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Positioned as dark fantasy with a tinge of horror, A Spectral Hue follows a grad student named Xavier who travels to Shimmer, Maryland to study the loose collective of Black artists who’ve made strange and stunning artwork there, in a tradition that began with an enslaved girl named Hazel Whitby who became a prolific quilter. His story twines together with those of two other Shimmer residents, the unfolding history of the artistic movement, and the haunting that has produced it. ⁣

A ghost story
Jennifer Anderson
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written prose with a high emphasis on color descriptions. There were a lot of color descriptions, but they felt like they belonged there. The Muse he writes about is creepy and interesting. I like the main cast, barring the museum curator. He's annoying, but everyone else is well written and well rounded. Cannot recommend this book enough.
Joy Clark
4 stars for the writing and overall inventiveness of the story. 2 stars for my enjoyment of it. It just wasn't my thing, but the story itself, the emphasis on color and our ability to communicate through art when words don't suffice or can't be spoken, is brilliant. Also cheers for more diversity in books!
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and haunting little novel about social outcasts finding release from oppression - slavery to homophobia - through art. The writing is simple but the imagery is vivid, making me wish I could *see* each work of art described throughout.
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written novel about inspiration, ghosts, trauma, and ART. I loved the story of the mysterious color that inspires and tortures artists in a small town throughout history. I appreciated that Gidney was able to capture visual art (and different media at that) in written form.
Carrie Nation
This is a hauntingly beautiful book, weaving a tale of generational trauma, love, spirituality, and fixation. I'm still mulling over the symbolism. Gidney manages to pack a lot into roughly 200 pages, leaving a lot unsaid. This adds to the mystery within the book and makes this a whirlwind read.
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: supernatural, weird
Gorgeous book, dreamy and lucid by turns. Recommended.
Emily Parsons
Jun 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Super compelling story. I found the writing a bit clunky, especially at the beginning.
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Author of SEA, SWALLOW ME & OTHER STORIES (Lethe Press) ;BEREFT (Tiny Satchel Press), . SKIN DEEP MAGIC (Rebel Satori Press), THE NECTAR OF NIGHTMARES (Dim Shores Publications); A SPECTRAL HUE (Word Horde). Plus numerous short stories. 3-Time Lambda Literary Award Finalist. NPR’s recommended books of 2019. Current novel, HAIRSBREADTH, is being serialized. ...more

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“Linc remembered the dark thrill he felt. It started in his chest, just below his heart, and traveled down his body, ending at his groin. It was like a seed had been planted in him, and it now bloomed. The tendrils snaked through his veins, the leaves unfurling in his bloodstream. He couldn't speak, afraid that he would spit up leaves and petals.” 0 likes
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