The Colour of Her Eyes by Conan Kennedy

by Pete

Reviewed by Peter Lihou

The opening pages of The Colour of Her Eyes transported me directly into the world of another famous and talented Irish scribe, the world of Roddy Doyle.

Conan’s psychological insights explore the depths of his characters and together with their unrestrained, rambling thoughts, he paints them so thoroughly you can feel their breath on your face.  The fact that the author is also a poet oozes from this story like wine from a press. His staccato dialogue, spoken and narrated, and his use of form to enhance the atmosphere or increase tension along with a number of techniques borrowed more from the song of poetry than the grammar of prose, weave a compelling texture of emotion, description and story telling. 

There are a number of editorial errors, typos, and such, and I felt rather too much use of the ‘f’ word was used to place the characters in their world, their class, their role in the story. This ran the risk of stereotyping those who were otherwise portrayed as unique individuals. Did Harris need to be a TV cop out of an episode of Minder or The Sweeny ? But all this added to a rawness that I often suspected was a deliberate ploy by the author to stick two fingers up at ‘correctness’ in order to own the work with a passion equalled by his actors.

I felt uneasy about the relationship between Sandra and John. I’m sure it wasn’t an attempt to introduce titillation by the author,  and the fact of a relationship was core to the central plot. But my radar twitches when I know I’m approaching a subject that is taboo because it may be interpreted as an excuse for inappropriate behaviour, normalised by our involvement with the characters. Strangely perhaps, I felt less concerned with ‘time of the month’ sexual episode that evocatively conveyed John’s desire to both consume his passion for Ruth, and at the same time prove his love to her beyond doubt at a time she was feeling especially vulnerable.

I struggle with the concept of genres and classifications. Is this a thriller, a crime novel, or what? So many books transgress these artificial boundaries. I know it’s been referred to as a brilliant crime novel, but for me it was first and foremost a love story – an unusual triangle. I’m not drawn to ‘policeman interviews suspect and cleverly unravels the truth’ kind of stories and, although on one level, this is what happens. It would not remotely do The Colour of Her Eyes justice to be described this way.

When the sequel comes, I will anticipate the return of the characters wrapped and imbibed by Conan’s inimitable style, much more than the machinations of what is after all, a straightforward plot. Not that this should be seen as a criticism, the best of novels frequently employ this technique, and this is definitely up there, shoulder to shoulder, with the best.

You can purchase The Colour of Her Eyes at the Acclaimed Books shop on the following link >

An interview with Conan Kennedy will feature at Acclaimed Books soon!