Seeking redemption underwater: Blue Field by Elise Levine—My Rusty Toque review

November is destined to go out as it came in, with a link to a review published elsewhere—in this case, my thoughts on Elise Levine’s Blue Field which appears in the latest issue of The Rusty Toque. This is a book that I heard about when it was released earlier this year, and I was immediately intrigued. However, when I finally sat down to read it, having already committed myself to a review, my first impression was that this was not going to be for me. The first few chapters put me off a little, that is, they led me to think I would find Blue Field difficult to assess fairly. I don’t believe that one should avoid negative reviews, but I feel that, if appropriate, they should be constructive, and if a book simply is not to your taste, it’s very difficult to make any judgement about it one way or another. As John Updike said, and I am paraphrasing, you should not accept for a review a book you are predisposed to dislike or obligated to like.

Then I turned to the promotional materials that came with my review copy. Biblioasis, bless them, frequently include an interview with the author or translator and, with an opportunity to learn more about  Levine, her writing process and interests, I was so impressed that I decided to give her book a second chance. Perhaps because it is somewhat different than the type of book I’ve read lately, I found myself caught off guard by this tale of a woman who takes up cave diving in an effort to find healing after her life has been upended. She is not particularly likable, increasingly reckless, and trapped in an vortex of loss and grief that could cost her everything she has. However, the prose—vivid, pulsating with energy, alternately harsh and shockingly poetic—is finely tuned and relentless in its intensity. Won me over.

Blue Field by Elise Levine is published by Biblioasis.

To find out more, I invite you to check out my review at The Rusty Toque. And while you’re there check out some of the other excellent features in this issue.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

7 thoughts on “Seeking redemption underwater: Blue Field by Elise Levine—My Rusty Toque review”

  1. Yes, that’s good advice: “you should not accept for a review a book you are predisposed to dislike or obligated to like”. The difficulty arises when a book takes you unawares… and that is (as perhaps it should be) more likely to happen when the reviewer likes experimental fiction or books that transcend genres. Reading some or even many works of experimental fiction may not necessarily prepare a reader for all experimental efforts, and let’s face it, not all attempts at experimental fiction are going to be successful. It’s not *wry smile* a label that can be attached to any writing to protect it from criticism…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I have to write a critical review for publication I have to have enough to connect with (respect) in order to go deep enough. Levine who was born in Canada but has lived and worked in the US for a long time, is probably more on line with certain American writers, James Salter is often mentioned, that have never really appealed to me. May need to try more. I would certainly never chose a suspense or crime novel for a critical review for example, because I would have nothing to say regardless of whether I enjoyed it.


  2. Yes – review books are a knotty topic (particularly as I seem to be suddenly awash with them). I try to avoid those I’m sure I won’t like, but I *will* give something unusual a try just in case it turns out to be beautiful!!


  3. I had missed news of this one, but am curious now. Will save your review until I’ve read it, although I do want to peek! I reviewed her last book for another journal some years ago, and some of what you’ve said about the main character fits with my memories of the women in that story too; I do enjoy reading across an author’s works, spotting recurring themes and focusses although more often than not I get distracted before I finish reading the works that hold those oh-so-interesting patterns.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I look forward to hearing what you think of this book. I try not to give away too much in my reviews and, as with many of the books I’ve loved this year, I am not entirely sure what the ending of this book actually means. Levine did say in the interview I read that she is equal opportunity, gender wise, when it comes to creating unlikable characters!

      Liked by 1 person

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