I bought this book as a part of a 3 books for $10 deal at Chapters not too long ago. I had picked out 2 books I wanted to read, but didn’t know what to get as the third book. After some browsing through the selection available for this deal, I settled on this one, The Colour Of Tea, for no good reason except that I like tea and enjoying afternoon tea sessions (I saw the macarons on the cover!) I was kind of disappointed by the novel, sadly, and it didn’t really help that the novel was in present tense, which I am not a big fan of … but as it cost only $3-ish, I can’t complain too much, I suppose.
This novel is about a 30-something year old woman named Grace who is experiencing something of a mid-life crisis. She is a “trailing spouse”, meaning she moves with her husband wherever his job takes him around the world. They are currently in Macau, though she is originally from London and her husband, from Australia. Grace is lamenting the fact that she has never had a stable job of her own, usually picking up a waitressing job wherever they happen to be living. Compounding this situation is her infertility. She and her husband have spent much money on fertility treatments in hopes of starting a family, but when her premature menopause hits, Grace feels as if she has lost a purpose in life, and feels incredible guilt. And as a last part of her midlife crises situation, she finds herself becoming ridiculously attracted to a friend of her’s, a French chef named Leon.
Spontaneously one day, Grace decides to use all the money they have been saving for fertility treatments and open up a little cafe in Macau. Her husband does not seem too excited about this idea but Grace plows ahead with the plan anyway. The cafe is named Lillian’s, and specializes in macarons, a sweet confectionery that is popular for eating during afternoon tea. As Lillian’s grows and becomes successful, Grace finds herself slowly finding new friends and figuring out a new purpose for her life.
This book is this author’s debut novel, and I think for a first book, it is alright, but I did not find out it was a first novel until after I finished the book. The story is actually quite okay — it wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was a feel-good story and was great for when I wanted to unwind and just read something light. Sometimes I wasn’t sure where the heck the plot was heading to, but I just kept reading and let it do its own thing and eventually I reached the last page. I was never fully absorbed into the story but I never got too bored with the story either.
My biggest problem was characterization, which I felt was quite poor in this book. I could write a little something about many of the characters (most of them were kind of one dimensional to me), but the character that I felt was the weakest was the main character, Grace. Grace’s character had too many bottled up feelings: she was depressed by her infertility, her lack of friends in Macau, and she had a strained history with her mother, a character who seems to loom in her thoughts quite often and frequently bring up feelings of bitterness and regret. That’s a LOT of feelings, and she was, understandably, sad.
What I didn’t understand was why she would complain about nobody ever communicating with her when she worked so hard to avoid people. She rarely ever made an effort to communicate her many feelings, yet complained that nobody understood her. Really, she seemed quite socially awkward. That was quite frustrating because I know people like that in real life and it drives me bonkers.
One more thing about Grace that I had a bit of a difficult time wrapping my head around is how she went from having no business knowledge (at least, none that was stated) to owning an ridiculously successful cafe that she created from scratch, in less than a year. I mean, that’s possible, but it takes a bit of a leap of faith on my part. Granted, I don’t know anything about small businesses myself, but I feel like it should not have been as easy as Grace’s own experience.
Sadly, I don’t think I will recommend this book. If you are interested, by all means go ahead, don’t let me stop you! But if you are unsure, I don’t think you are missing much if you skip this book over. And FYI, the title is not misspelled! Colour is the British/Canadian spelling :)