by James Runcie
Category: Romance, Sagas & Historical / Historical
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 3 February 2003
Number of pages: 304
From the author of THE DISCOVERY OF CHOCOLATE -- a romantic historical quest set in Renaissance Florence and China surrounding the search for ultramarine. THE COLOUR OF HEAVEN is a fictional account of a young man who travelled to what are now Afghanistan and China to discover lapis lazuli, the precious stone that when turned into ultramarine changed the history of painting -- allowing artists to abandon gold as a background and open up depth, landscape and perspective with the most beautiful shade of blue. Along the way, Paolo suffers the torments of unfulfilled love before he returns to his anxious family in Venice, where he also plays a part in the early development of lenses and spectacles!
In this, his second novel, Runcie adds his name to the growing list of authors using colour as a theme. His chosen shade is ultramarine blue, the discovery of which was such an important development in Italian Renaissance art, and it is the quest for the source of this valuable pigment, the lapis lazuli mines of Afghanistan, that forms the backbone of this moving tale. The story begins in 13th-century Venice with the discovery by Teresa of an abandoned baby. She names him Paulo and takes him home to bring up as her own and work in the family glass business. As he grows older, it becomes clear that he is desperately short-sighted, and it is this affliction which provides Runcie with his other main source of inspiration - the invention of spectacles. Despite his poor sight, Paulo nevertheless has an acute sense of colour and is taken under the wing of Simone Martini, a painter from Siena. At the end of his year's training, Simone dispatches him on a journey to find the precious ultramarine. It is to be a journey of discovery as, in the company of two older protectors who will teach him the value of true friendship, he travels across continents and learns about life, love and death. In China Paulo acquires his first pair of glasses, providing him with a clarity of vision which is a metaphor for his new-found insights into the meaning of life. This short book, written in an economical but elegantly poised style, explores what is important in life in surprising depth and is a pleasure to read. (Kirkus UK)
What the papers say:
Praise for THE DISCOVERY OF CHOCOLATE: 'As intoxicating and addictive as the substance it describes. The novel is a triumph of inspired imagination' Financial Times 'A work of engaging simplicity which reads well, has plenty of light and shade and never patronises the reader. The potent appeal of chocolate...is vividly captured. Mouth-watering descriptions of food litter the text' Sunday Telegraph 'A sensual delight...elegantly written and unashamed fun' Joanne Harris, The Times 'His treasure of a book, fantastic and delicious and dreamily erotic by turns, will transmute your yearning for the bitter water into a craving from which you will, quite happily, never recover' Simon Winchester
James Runcie is an award-winning film-maker. He has worked for BBC Arts and Classical Music for the last ten years but will soon be joining Oxford Television on a three film deal for Channel 4. He was part of the original team that created The Late Show and he has also worked in theatre. He has scripted three films for the BBC and reviewed books for Daily Telegraph and written articles for various magazines including She, Country Living, Evening Standard, Observer.
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