Wednesday 3 May 2023

The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder

Finished April 28
The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris

This novel is told from the point of view of thirteen-year-old Jasper Wishart, a young man who lives in a world of his own. Jasper is autistic and has both synaesthesia and face blindness. For Jasper, sounds are colours, and he recognizes people by the colours their voice makes and by memorizing their clothing. The latter method, of course, doesn't always work. Neither does the former when something is off about their voice, as in a sore throat causing raspiness, or if they speak in a whisper. 
The book moves back and forth in time from the present when Jasper is upset about his neighbour, Bee Larkham. Bee is relatively new to him as she only came back to deal with the house after her mother died. She is a musician and plays music at high volume, both her own and the recorded music she enjoys. Jasper is immediately taken by this, although many of the neighbours are not. Bee also wears colourful clothing and is naturally dramatic in her actions. 
After observing parakeets in her garden, Bee has set up feeders to attract them, and this is something else that appeals to Jasper, although again, not to all the neighbours. 
Jasper's mother died a few years ago, and his father left the armed forces and took a job in IT, so that he would be able to support Jasper daily rather than being away for long periods of time. Jasper misses him mom as she also had synaesthesia and helped him understand it.
One of Jasper's pleasures and coping mechanisms is to make sense of his world by painting it. and while his pictures look abstract to others, they represent the sounds and images that he saw at that moment in time. 
As Jasper struggles to understand what happened with Bee, he reviews his paintings from that time, but also recreates them from his memories, trying to get them right and capture the colours accurately to better understand them himself. 
Jasper is an outsider, not having any real friends at school and not connecting closely with his father. He describes his world as he experiences it and reacts strongly to perceived threats to things that he cares about. 
See this all from Jasper's point of view, as a child who struggles to be understood and to make sense of the world is key to this story. Jasper goes back to his first meeting with Bee to try to resurrect his memories and capture them as accurately as he can in new versions of his paintings. As we understand along with him, we see Bee's actions both as he does and as an average adult would, and we gradually learn of all the interactions between Bee and the others in the neighbourhood from the older men who live nearby, to the teenagers taking music lessons from her. These things make more sense to us than they do to Jasper at times, and we gradually see how he has misinterpreted their relationship and her intentions. 
I have always been interested in synaesthesia and how it is experienced, and that is what attracted me to this book in the first place, but it offers so much more. It reminds me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon in being a coming of age story of a young man who experiences the world differently from most of us, and that occurs around a serious incident where he is an important witness. 
An excellent read. 

No comments:

Post a Comment