Rating: 3.5/5 stars
A teenage girl will soon discover, there are some things which burn even brighter than fire.
Iris’s father Ernest is at the end of his life.
Her best friend Thurston seems like a distant memory to her.
Her mother has declared war. She means to get her hands on Ernest’s priceless art collection so that she can afford to live the high life.
But Ernest has other ideas.
There are things he wants Iris to know. Things he can tell her and things that must wait till he’s gone.
What she does after that is up to her.
Ernest was marooned on the white-pillowed island of his bed, with Hannah and Lowell swimming around him in ever tightening circles like sharks, and he clung on to me like I was the one who could help him.
Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine tells the story of pyromaniac Iris, who has grown up without a father. She only knows about him what her mother, Hannah, has told her, which isn’t good stuff.
The first thing I noticed about this novel was the confusing names. Main and most spoken of characters include Iris (protagonist), Hannah (Iris’ mother), Lowell (Iris’ stepfather), Ernest (Iris’ father), and Thurston (Iris’ best friend). Whilst Iris is unusual, it’s not unheard of, so I let that slide, and Hannah is actually quite a mundane name. But Lowell? Ernest? Thurston? Lowell is somewhat explained towards the end (I won’t spoil it), but Ernest and Thurston have quite an ominous feel to them as names, despite them being the nicest characters.
The story is generally based in Ernest’s house in rural England; Iris, Hannah and Lowell are visiting him from Los Angeles, where Lowell was planning on making it big as an actor, before a debt of $20,000 drove them back to England, and back to the wealthy Ernest. Hannah calls Ernest in the hopes that they could meet up, and she could squeeze some money out of him, yet she’s instead approached with the delightful news (to her) that Ernest is on his death bed, with millions to spare, and no heir to give it to.
Hannah and Lowell are despicable people. They and Iris travel to Ernest’s house where he lays on his death bed, and whilst Iris is comforting him – getting to know her father – Hannah and Lowell are taking an inventory of all of his belongings that are worthy of any money. Hannah think she’s cashed in with the big bucks, and so do we, and it’s awful knowing that she’s doing this whilst the owner of them is suffering.
Flashbacks are interjected here and there, building on the life of Iris, who – as I previously mentioned – is a pyromaniac, meaning she has an obsessive desire to light fires. This aspect of the story is quite chilling, for Iris appears harmless on the surface, but she describes feeling utter euphoria when a fire is crackling before her, and is constantly mentioning how amazing it would be to set this, this, and this alight. She uses her pyromania as a stress reliever, not as a hazard, but Hannah tells Ernest a different story. The flashbacks are really interesting and a good inclusion to the story. It allowed me to understand Iris a lot more, and they were the most enjoyable parts of the story.
Honestly, towards the beginning of this book, I wasn’t at all very interested. The first chapter didn’t hook me, but rather confused me, for it was taken from the perspective of Iris after the events in the novel had transpired. It automatically tells you that Ernest has died, so all hope off his survival throughout the novel is destroyed right then and there, which I thought was quite an interesting method. I do enjoy it when authors are frank about a novel, and don’t try and hide things from their reader, for it is a refreshing change.
Generally, this book has a good, original plot. I like the fact that it’s not as simple as it originally seems, which becomes more and more apparent as the book progresses. Also, I love how it’s all about paintings. I love the discussion of the artists, because it’s not only interesting dialogue, but also informative. Yves Klein is the artist this novel was named for, who I had never actually heard of before reading this book, but it was very enjoyable to learn about him, and his relation to Iris’ story.
One thing I didn’t understand, though, was the separation of Ernest and Iris in the first place. It’s said that – for the first 4 years of her life – Iris and Ernest were inseparable; Ernest was twice the father Hannah could ever be a mother. Yet, Hannah takes Iris from Ernest, despite neglecting Iris up until then, despite ignoring her, for Hannah didn’t want a child. She was essentially running away with her new man, but taking her young daughter – who she didn’t even tolerate, let alone like – with her. It all just doesn’t really add up.
There is a very large plot twist at the end, though, which I always enjoy. It took me by surprise, and was thoroughly pleasing, for Hannah receives her just deserts.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, yes, but it wasn’t amazing, which is why I awarded it 3.5/5 stars.
(Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to send a big thank you to NetGalley for this book, and also to everyone at HarperCollins UK, as well as Jenny Valentine herself.)