‘Today a monster has been born.’
This is not how typical romance books begin, and Sara Badawieh’s Beige and Blue is anything but a typical romance book. It is an intense, fast-paced, romantic thriller that follows Samar, the twenty-something protagonist, as she tries to come to terms with her life choices while being pulled deep into the darkness of the Middle Eastern underworld. There are many things that I found enjoyable about this novel, but three of them definitely stand out: the engaging pace, the picturesque setting, and the omnipresent love of art.
I do love a well-structured narrative, the one that leaves no loose strands and offers no deus ex machina resolutions. It goes without saying that this is an extremely well-plotted and fast-paced novel. Beige and Blue intertwines elements of romance and thriller to create an ultimately exciting story. At the beginning, we are introduced to Samar, a young architect working on her first major project. Badawieh does a stupendous job portraying the cultural climate in present-day Jordan, the blend of modern and traditional, that greatly affects Samar’s prospects.
After a particularly uncomfortable dinner surprise orchestrated by her parents, Samar strolls aimlessly down the streets of Amman, contemplating the rift that has started growing between her own dreams and wishes and what is expected of her as an obedient daughter. Filled with rebellious desire to fulfill her own destiny, Samar lands in the midst of a highly dangerous situation and into the arms of an even more dangerous man. What happens from then until the very ending of the book, is a swift and thrilling rollercoaster of emotions, lies, treachery, and crime, where at some points you yourself, as the reader, do not know where to look and whom to trust.
Badawieh takes her readers on a literary tour of her hometown of Amman, the beautiful capital of Jordan. You get to follow the protagonist down the narrow streets, where the smell of shisha, Arabic coffee, and traditional dishes wafts out of the restaurants and cafes. You get to discover the classical architecture and the breathtaking Citadel and take a stroll along the beaches of the Dead Sea. Furthermore, the author’s national pride is not only present in her description of the setting, but also in the ultimate plot twist and novel’s climax, however, that is the bit that I will leave the readers to discover, since I myself found it a very pleasant and refreshing surprise.
The Love of Art
Samar enjoys painting, she teaches painting, and she paints with all her heart. The novel’s title, Beige and Blue, is derived from the name of one of her paintings and it bears manifold symbolism. On the one hand, there is the contrast between the colours of beige and blue which could stand to represent the contrast between the two men contending for the protagonist’s heart, the contrast between the two choices that she has to make. On the other hand, there is the more literal representation of the blue of the Dead Sea and the contrasting beige of the surrounding rocks and sand. It is the painting that represents both love and treachery, the painting that brings a lot of disquiet into Samar’s world, and the painting that eventually ends up in the hands of a mysterious buyer.
The novel ends with hope, love, and regeneration, however, it also ends with a neatly written twist that leaves you wanting more. If Sara Badawieh were to write a sequel, I would definitely read it.
© 2020 Erna Grcic