#blogtour – Yellow Room by Shelan Rodger @ShelanRodger @DomePress #bookreview #GuestPost
I’m so pleased to taking part in the blog tour for Yellow Room by Shelan Rodger today. My thanks to Emily Glenister from Dome Press for the review copy and the place on the tour.
I have my review of the book and a fab guest post from Shelan but first let’s see what the book is about.
Haunted by a tragic childhood accident, Chala’s whole life has been moulded by guilt and secrets. After the death of the stepfather she adored, Chala is thrown into turmoil once again. Volunteering in Kenya seems to offer an escape, and a way of re-evaluating her adult relationships, although violence and hardship simmer alongside its richness and beauty. The secrets of the Yellow Room are still with her and she can’t run away forever…
Yellow Room is very much Chala’s story. It explores the impact that a major event in your childhood can have on your whole life, how much it can shape it.
With the very first pages comes the reader’s knowledge of what Chala believes she has done and what she must live with. It’s a hard-hitting introduction to Chala’s life. When her beloved stepfather dies and another major event in her life takes place, she needs time to restock and she takes a voluntary position in Kenya, the country of her namesake lake.
The book is split into three sections, the middle one being the one set in Kenya. At first we deal with Chala’s memories, her marriage to Paul which may or may not be working out, and the death of Philip, the man who raised her, and I particularly enjoyed reading this part. Then the Kenyan section opened my eyes and helped me to learn of the unrest there and imagine how scary it must be to somebody who has never experienced anything like that before, let alone to the people who experience it day after day. The scenes were put across well and I could empathise with the characters.
Finally we have the third section in which Chala returned home. I did feel there was a slight lack of momentum in this bit for some reason, it just didn’t seem to have the edge that the earlier parts had had. But it’s a minor criticism as ultimately I found this to be an evocative and insightful novel.
Yellow Room is a quite beautifully written story. I liked Chala very much and I could really feel her inner torment and the overshadowing of her life by the traumatic childhood event. It’s such an interesting and affecting read, one that touched me.
Oh, and just a final word about that stunning cover. The colours are amazing and the image so moving when you consider the story line.
From the moment we are born, we start cramming our suitcase with our past. Yet, as I get older, I grow more and more convinced that time is not linear and that, at some level, we also carry knowledge of the future with us.
I will spend the rest of my life with an image of fear in my partner’s eyes, which at the time seemed extreme, but which was subsequently born out by the trauma of brain surgery. It was as if his body already knew.
When I dipped into my own books to prepare this blog post, I came across two passages about the notion of flash-forwards:
From Yellow Room:
‘The smell of human skin hit her the moment she entered the airport building (…) The flashback from ten years before was so acute it made her want to cry (…) at least we’re spared flash-forwards, thought Chala – imagine a world in which a certain smell or tune conjured up with the same intensity an experience yet to be lived. (…) Ignorance of the future is what makes us strong, she thought; hope is only possible because of it.’
From Twin Truths:
‘Imagine if flash-forwards to the future existed, how many events would seem unbelievable, laughable even, or just plain intolerable. I imagine life as a pile of bones without the flesh of time to join the different bones together and fatten the relationship between them…’
Yes, I am glad I cannot see into the future. And yet it is as if the cells of our flesh intuit at some level what is going to happen. We may only become aware of this in hindsight, may only see the signs looking back, but they are there, in our bodies, working slowly on preparing us for our futures. There is something of this notion behind one of the last lines of Yellow Room:
‘On the horizon of her being, her observer sat, quietly nonchalant and waiting for her future.’
Can you relate to this? Can you look back now and realize that somehow, somewhere, at some level, you ‘already knew’? When you look back and turn your life into a story, can you remember something that was said – by you or someone else – which now seems prophetic, which makes sense now with what has happened since? Is there a moment you felt something strange, a twinge of something you didn’t understand at the time, but which has come back quietly to haunt you since?
Both my novels explore the impact of the past in different ways, the way our pasts shape our sense of who we are, the scars we carry with us into the future. And yet these scars, which we so readily associate with the past, are perhaps also scars for what is still to come…
Thank you so much, Shelan. It’s such an interesting topic looking back through past events in your life like this. I wonder if anyone reading this has experienced anything similar. I’d love to know.
Shelan Rodger has lived a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes. Born in Nigeria, she grew up among an aboriginal community on an island north of Australia, and moved to England aged eleven. After graduating from Oxford, she travelled to Argentina, England and then Kenya. She now lives in Andalucia, Spain. Her professional career has revolved around international education and learning and development.