Lavender Blues: Three Shades of Love takes us deep into the lives of the Lavender family. The three books – ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’ – explore free love, traditional courtship, open marriage and late-life romance.
Matthew Lavender, starting college in 1969, has embraced a student underworld of drugs, image and cooler than thou. But behind his wild and witty persona lies a shy, sensitive romantic – a ‘feeling type’ bullied at school and restricted by his parents – who knows absolutely nothing about sex.
As Matthew gets involved with fellow-student Sally, the scene shifts to the early 20th century and his grandmother Mary Lavender begins her story.
Brought up by an over-controlling father nicknamed ‘Jack the Hammer’, Mary witnesses her parents’ fierce, monosyllabic rows and the long-running battles between Jack and his children. After the defiant exit of Mary’s brother and sister, Mary meets Stuart Lavender and a traditional courtship begins, leading to the birth of Matthew’s father, Alan.
History repeats itself as Alan and Matthew clash and Matthew leaves home. He takes up residence at a commune where he witnesses some supremely laughable examples of 60s free self-expression. From here on he grows and matures through contact with children and a number of deeply-felt and unpredictable love affairs.
In the end Matthew returns to the beach where he played as a child with Mary. As the two stories come together, Matthew learns a whole new outlook on youth, relationships and the man he has become.
Neil Beardmore –
PURPLE is a novel for those who want to take in the scenery as they move amongst characters and observe their evolution. More Art-House than Blockbuster – thankfully – PURPLE, following the Great Tradition of the British novel, explores complexities of character against vivid background imagery, like York Minster which towers above Matthew and his companions, and the shores of Longsands, the power of the natural world. The stories of Matthew in Third Person and his grandmother Mary, in First Person, click together harmoniously; here we feel the versatility of the writer and his enjoyment of the craft, particularly in his wry and witty look at a Sixties commune. A great read.