Blue is The Warmest Colour - Graphic Novel Review.


I have been reading a lot of graphic novels recently, something that I have been meaning to do for a long time, but never got around to doing so. I wanted to start reading them when I was around fifteen, but never really found any that interested me - all I could find were the standard superhero, good versus evil bullshit, and at that point in my life, that is not what I was looking for. I love super heroes as much as the next person, but I wanted more substance, more passion, more life. Of course after browsing for about ten minutes, I gave up and returned to the Horror/Science Fiction/Fantasy sections, and never spoke of my failed attempt to branch out again.

It wasn't until a few years ago when I was reading up about the Cannes film festival that I had my interests in graphic novels peaked again. I came across the film 'Le Bleu est une Coleur Chaude' - Blue is the Warmest Colour, and discovered that it had been based on a French graphic novel. I was determined to read it, but as I do not know French, and I could not find a translated edition, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn't meant to be, and settled for watching the film - with subtitles.  I fell in love with the film, I thought it was brilliant, and it made me want to read the graphic novel even more. And then, as I do most things, I forgot about it. I became fixed on something else, and Blue faded to the back of mind.

In the space between now and then, I began to look further into the world of graphic novels, borrowing countless amounts from my local library, until I finally decided that I was too lazy to leave the house, and started to buy them (Amazon Prime is a lifesaver). I trusted my instincts and bought graphic novels in the same way as I did other novels: scrolling though Amazon/Goodreads, skim reading reviews, and unfortunately judging it by it's cover. I had forgotten all about Blue, until a few weeks ago, when I watched another French film: La Belle at la Bete - Beauty and the Beast, starring Lea Seydeux who I instantly recognised as the lead actress from Blue! I straight away checked on Amazon, and BOOM, a copy that had been translated into English came up, and I could not click buy quick enough.

I suppose you're wondering why I am telling you all this, and to be completely honest I'm not sure why myself, I have always stuck to reviewing novels and just jumping right into them, but this is new territory for me. I have never reviewed a graphic novel before. I want to tell you how awesome this book is, but I am struggling to figure out how to it - do you see my predicament?  Where do I start, plot or graphics? Ahh.  Plot, graphics, plot, graphics...

Blue is the Warmest Colour
(Le Bleu est une Coleur Chaude) first published in 2010 was the debut graphic novel, written and illustrated by the incredibly talented, Julie Maroh and follows the life of Clementine, a teenager who falls in love with art student, Emma, and is told through a series of letters, diary entries, and flashbacks. Throughout the novel, Clementine is not comfortable with her sexual identity, and even though she is adamant that she is not gay, she is also adamant that she is in love Emma.  As with all love stories, the pair eventually get together, but are later forced apart; in this case, Clementine cheated on Emma - with a guy, as well as Emma's frustration at having to live a semi-closeted lifestyle.  Once again, in true love story fashion, they get together again right at the very end,  only for more tragedy to ensue as pages later, Clementine dies. (Please note, that this is not a spoiler, as it is made clear from the beginning of the novel, that Clementine is dead, and the story is being told through Emma reading her diaries).

Although the ending seemed slightly abrupt, and I feel that it could have been easily expanded, I am glad that it is what it is. I read the entire novel (one hundred and fifty pages) in just under an hour, and I have been left with a lot more thoughts and 'feelz' than what I get after reading a novel that has taken me a day or two to read. Life is too short, you never know what is going to happen around the corner, you shouldn't be afraid to be who you are, or to become what you want to be.

Despite it's length, Maroh has been able to create a deep sense of humanity with in her characters, they have been allowed to develop into believable people, and have gained their own distinctive voices, which paired with the graphics, has created an incredible novel. Without being told how the characters are feeling, or even what they are doing, the reader is able to feel the emotion and establish a connection between the book and themselves. Maroh is incredibly talented to be able to have done this in such a short amount of space - she has achieved in her relatively short graphic novel, what most novelists seek to achieve in a three-hundred page novel.  A small part of me wishes that I would have actually participated in French lessons at school, as I would  now be able to read Blue in it's native tongue, and be able to appreciate it for how Maroh had originally written it, rather than for what the translator has interpreted.

Maroh is sensitive towards her protagonists feelings, but she is also not afraid to push them to their limits, and this comes across brilliantly within her illustrations. Clementine's past follows a black and white colour scheme, with the only colour shown being the blue of Emma's hair and eyes. An English Lit student would try and tell you that that symbolises Clementines  feelings for her, as she is the only important thing in her life, and I would partially agree with that, but my cocky-sarcasm filled inner-self would tell you that she did it to help tell the characters apart. However sarcasm aside, the black, white and blue colour scheme, along with the simplistic easy to follow panels, are part of the reason I fell in love with this book. The lack of colour has an overwhelmingly positive presence within the novel; Clementine's love for Emma is clearly the main focus, so therefore it is only right that she should stand out against the background details.

I'm not ashamed to admit that the last few pages of the novel added an extra layer of moisture to my eye balls. Despite that from the beginning we are made aware that it is a tragedy, Blue is an enjoyable read, and has become one of my favourite books that I have read this year. If you have watched the movie, I would recommend reading it with a fresh mind, as although it follows many of the same themes, sub plots and story arcs, it is a completely different story. I like to look upon the two as two separate entities, as they are both fantastically brilliant in their own rights.

If you get a chance to read Blue is the Warmest Colour, you won't regret it.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, opinions and reactions to the novel. Or if you have any recommendations as to what I should read next, I would be deeply grateful.

Both the French and English additions are available on Amazon, and I am sure that if your local bookstore doesn't have it, then they should be able to order it in for you.

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