Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"New Adult" Project Review: "The Sound of Blue", by Holly Payne

Goodreads Summary:

Sara Foster has left America for the adventure of a lifetime--teaching English to the sons and daughters of statesmen in Hungary--but her idyllic adventure instead reveals a dark world of pain and redemption when she ends up teaching in a refugee camp. Sara discovers that one of her students is a celebrated composer and soon finds herself crossing the border to his war-torn homeland, determined to exonerate him for the death of his brother.

In a journey that takes her to Dubrovnik, a magnificent stone city on the Croatian Riviera, Sara contemplates her own identity, struggling to understand why the region's ancient and extraordinary beauty belies a history of grief. As Sara unveils the secret of the composer's escape, The Sound of Blue reveals poignant truths about the quests for refuge we all pursue.


Like The Secret History, The Sound of Blue falls more into the “literary” end of New Adult. It follows a girl (woman?) named Sara, who, after getting rejected from Harvard Law School, ends up teaching English in a camp full of war refugees. There, she experiences the distance that comes from living alongside people who have suffered in ways she cannot imagine and becomes fascinated by a Serbian violinist named Milan, who experiences seizures and synesthesia and who may or may not have killed his brother.

I knew nothing about the Yugosavian Wars of the 1990s before reading this book, and I appreciated the chance to learn a little bit about that conflict. However, I think a different writer could have handled this book a lot better. It was the prose that bothered me the most. While there were some pretty uses of language (“eyes shaped liked crescent moons”), I mostly found the language emotionally overbearing and chock-full of purple prose. It’s very difficult to relate to the refugees’ pain when the author constantly overemphasizes their suffering.

I would recommend this book to more patient readers who like books about emotional journeys and coming to terms with your past.


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