Book Review – Yellow by Janni Visman

books, reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In order to complete my Spell the Month Challenge for February, I knew that I’d have to find a book title that started with Y. After reading Yes Please last month, I wasn’t sure that I’d have anything already on my shelves. So. I ended up buying something to fit the bill. Unfortunately there aren’t an awful lot of inspiring books beginning with Y. Or at least not that I was able to get in time. I’ve for a bit of time before I’ll need my next one, so I’ll have to do some proper research. For this month, my Y pick was I book I randomly found on Amazon. It sounded interesting enough and, most importantly, was quick. Meaning that, even if it ended up being terrible, I wouldn’t have to push on through a really long novel.

Janni Visman’s second novel introduces us to Stella Lawrence. Stella works as an aromatherapist and lives with her boyfriend, Ivan, and cat, George. She lives a pretty simple life and has everything she needs. The only problem is, Stella is agoraphobic and can’t leave her flat. Her daily routine is planned with precision to make things as easy as possible. She has a treatment room in the back of her flat where she sees her clients and Ivan picks up any shopping that she requires. Her sister, Skye, pops by to bring anything else she needs and for some company. Stella doesn’t need to go outside for anything. She didn’t even need to leave her flat to find Ivan. Their relationship began when he came to her flat as a gas fitter. He removed her pipes and moved in pretty soon after.

Ivan didn’t bring a lot with him, which works perfectly with Stella’s rule about questions. She doesn’t want or need to know about his past. Until she finds out that she does want to know. One morning, Ivan decides to put on an old bracelet and Stella can’t help asking him about it. A love token from his ex-girlfriend, the bracelet starts to create problems that cause a massive upheaval to Stella’s routine. Her world quickly becomes more complicated and the more she finds out about Ivan the worse things get. It also doesn’t help that she has a new neighbour who is keen to make friends. A neighbour who is also a big hit with George. Every aspect of Stella’s carefully crafted life starts to fall in on itself and she slowly starts to lose control.

Throughout the novel, we get an insight into Stella’s troubled mind and, as time moves on, her thoughts get more complicated. She has a strange obsession with gas and during her more emotional episodes, she smells gas in her flat. Of course, Ivan assures her that the pipes were removed and there is no danger. Still, the gas haunts her. In fact, this is a book full of ghosts. Stella’s previous two neighbours jumped from the balcony. Then there’s the ghost of Ivan’s ex Sophia Lawrence. A ghost with the same initials as both Stella and her sister. When Sophia enters their flat via the bracelet, Stella becomes obsessed with finding out everything about her. Going so far as to ring up Ivan’s mother to ask questions. It’s all evidence of Stella’s dwindling mental health and we see her narration become more frantic and paranoid as the story progresses.

As an aromatherapist, Stella is well tuned in to the human body and notices details about the people she watches from her balcony. Her narration is full of observations about how people walk or look. It’s a very sensory novel and Visman’s writing really paints a fantastic picture. Stella stands above everyone and judges them without making any connection. Even her clients are removed from her life. She shuts her doors so her personal belongings remain secret. She hears these ladies’ secrets but won’t reveal anything about herself. Her narration is precise and cold. Stella is isolated and preoccupied with the past. Cut off from the real world. she follows a strict life and it’s interesting to see how unexpected elements can quickly tip the balance.

Yellow was an interesting novel and did some very interesting things. Visman’s writing style was exciting and felt a little experimental. The only problem was the narrative. It just didn’t seem to fit. The ending was rushed and felt a bit cheap. It’s the kind of mindless thriller that you’d expect of a trashy TV show instead of a novel that had so much promise. It doesn’t exactly do anything that will shock you but it will, at least, entertain you on the way there. It won’t be the sort of book that everyone will love because it’s pretty light on plot. However, if you’re interested in getting into the inner thoughts of its narrator, then you’ll find something here.

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