“The past is with me; the present is here. The future is unmapped and changeable. Ours for the imagining: spreading out before us. Sunlight filled, deep blue, and the darkness.”

Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue is a love letter to books and reading, the counterpoint to Graffiti Moon, a love letter to Art. Who wouldn’t love a story set in a second hand bookstore, starring a library of love letters secreted within the pages of beloved books.

“The sounds of turning pages are surprisingly comforting.”

Rachel’s brother Cal died and she escapes his beloved ocean, returning to Melbourne, hoping she can leave her memories beneath the waves that took him. Rachel tells none of her friends and pretends Cal is back at the beach town with her mum.

“Our ghosts hide in the things we leave behind.”

Not only Rachel’s grief wends its way through the story but other characters she meets, who are at different stages in their loss.

“as if all the years haven’t dulled that moment. She’s staring at a spot of air in front of it, and I know, in that spot of air, is her son.”

And other types of loss – the end of Henry’s parents’ marriage and the sale of the bookshop that is Michael’s life’s work:

“It’s not that they’ll be lost. They were written, so they’ll always exist. But they’ll be lost for Michael, and I can’t stand that thought.”

The end of a friendship:

“You can’t patch up someone forgetting about you.”

A relationship never starting:

“unrequited love is just as shit in the morning as it is at night.”

I recommended Words in Deep Blue to my book group and we read it last November. I took weeks to finish due to all that grief and never made it to the discussion because I felt so raw. I hope the others liked it. The journey of Rachel’s grief is hopeful as time passes and her pain is not as piercing. From:

“sometimes I just want to sit in the same place forever because I don’t have the energy for another day without Cal in it.”

To:

“The words still hurt, but they hurt less than they did when I told Henry and Frederick, maybe they will hurt even less when I tell the next person.”

So many books I love (and many I’ve never read) have cameos. Rachel and Henry met over The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Page 44-45 of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies plays a starring role.

“You should like balls infinitely better, if you knew the first thing about them.”

And J. Alfred Prufrock – the most delicious of love stories. My fav ref is to the illustrated book of sealife, so important in Rachel’s grief.

“I’ll never throw these small things away. There will never be a time when I don’t want them, all the tiny parts of Cal that made a life.”

I wasn’t sure if I liked the cover design, until I noticed the bird has a shadow! She leaps from her book-print perch to soar above a deep blue sky, flapping her washed blue book-print wings. Designed in perfection by i2i Design.

What I don’t like is the cruddy greyish paper. Not sure it’ll last many second hand bookshop adventures. Macmillan needs to get some tips from UQP’S lush white pages.

Words in Deep Blue