In Review

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti: ‘a bit mad’, but in a good way

The Canadian writer’s latest is ‘an original’

The Canadian writer Sheila Heti’s latest is “an original”, said Anne Enright in The Guardian. It’s a short novel about grief in which plot often gives way to “mystical” digressions that are “earnest, funny and sweet” – “a bit mad”, but in a good way.

Mira, a solitary woman in midlife, falls in love with Annie, a fellow student at their school for art criticism. Then Mira’s father dies, and his spirit joins her own inside a leaf, where they converse about “art, God, love and the transmigration of souls”, before Mira returns to “the pursuit of love”, her faith in “family and tradition” strengthened.

Billed as “a philosopher of modern experience”, Heti is known for her auto-fictional novels such as How Should a Person Be? (2010). Pure Colour is more like a fable, said Mia Levitin in the FT, in which God is an artist, and this world is his “first draft”, now “heating up in advance of its destruction”.

Sadly, the book’s “meditations on grief” left me cold, and I found the prose “clunky” and “perilously close to kitsch”, with a naive, fairy-tale quality ill-suited to a story about middle age.

Harvill Secker 224pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99

Book cover
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To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

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