I couldn’t quite put my finger on what Midnight Blue reminded me of, and then it hit me: waiting rooms. I know that sounds like an awful thing to say and a damning summary of the book, but let me explain. I’m in my late forties and, in an era before phones, you might find yourself waiting for an appointment and pick up a magazine. I’m not thinking of the celebrity gossip magazines, or of the high-fashion reads, but something in between. The kind of magazine that used to contain a ‘Story of the Week’ that wasn’t quite a bodice ripper, but was something close. Out of boredom you would reach down, pick it up and start reading and before you knew it, the receptionist would be calling your name for the third and final time. That’s what this book is like.
It was my birthday, way back in January, and my son bought me two novels. As May arrived, I began to feel guilty at not having read either of them. Those of you who are also parents will know the feeling of not having read something your child gave you. It’s not just the failure to do so, it’s the knowledge that once you start, you absolutely have to finish it and that your progress will be monitored, non stop, by the gift giver.
Reading Midnight Blue by Simone Van Der Vlugt was no hardship, it’s just that it’s very predictable. The story feels as old as time itself; a beautiful heroine, triumphs in the face of adversity, achieving her life goals and finding love along the way. There are no surprises here, you might not know what will happen, but you never doubt the outcome. It’s readable in the way that a Hallmark movie might be watchable on a Saturday night, when you are just exhausted.
Set in Holland during the Golden Age, Catrin is a young widow who has suffered cruelty at the hands of her first husband. When he dies, she flees village life and sets off for Amsterdam and a new start as a housekeeper. Catrin’s secret is that she can paint beautifully and so, along the way she keeps meeting Dutch masters, each of which ‘understand’ her skill and talent. She is forced to flee Amsterdam and arrives in Delft, just as the pottery industry is beginning to blossom. There she finds her niche, but not before disaster strikes once more.
If you read books with great frequency then I would suggest that this isn’t one for you, as it’s certainly no Tulip Fever or Girl With A Pearl Earring, but if you are looking to give a non-reader a Christmas gift, then it’s the kind of thing that your grandma might enjoy. It’s twisty, but always optimistic; good triumphs over evil and most importantly of all, you are safe in knowing that the ending will be happy, even if there’s just the tiniest tinge of sadness.