Summary: Originally published in French as Le bleu est une couleur chaude, Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.
Vividly illustrated and beautifully told, Blue Is the Warmest Color is a brilliant, bittersweet, full-color graphic novel about the elusive, reckless magic of love. It is a lesbian love story that crackles with the energy of youth, rebellion, and desire.
First published in French by Glenat, the book has won several awards, including the Audience Prize at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, Europe’s largest.
Le bleu est une couleur chaude, by Julie Maroh 7.5
‘Le bleu est une couleur chaude’ is a French graphic novel about a teenage girl’s sexual awakening and her first -and only- romance. It explores Clementine’s emotional turmoil as she realizes that she is not heterosexual, followed by her growing self-acceptance in a relationship with the love of her life, Emma.
I probably never would have heard about this book if not for the fact that the movie ‘La vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2’ hadn’t been such a worldwide sensation; given that it is Julie Maroh’s first book, and that it was only recently published, I couldn’t come across her other works while I browsed the shelves.
Having now read it (it had been on my to-do list for months), I’m a bit curious to know what made this book such a stand-out, garnering it not just enough attention to become a motion picture, but also a number of awards in the process. It’s a good, but not especially outstanding work – it’s an excellent debut.
That’s about it.
The story is told quiet well but, having been published in 2010, I didn’t think that the tale or themes were anything novel; I’ve been exposed to many like it before. I don’t say this to be demeaning; this is a well-crafted book by any standard. I just don’t understand why this particular title stands out these days.
Yes, it eloquently expresses a teenager’s struggle with her sexual identity and the internal and external pressures that are put on her to conform to perceived norms. And it also perfectly illustrates the overwhelming magnetism that a new love has in one’s life – as well as all the conflicts this can cause around us.
But I’m not sure how it distinguishes itself enough to warrant the acclaim.
To me the most notable departures from other books were its visual style, which is colour in the present and sepia in the past – with touches of light blue on Emma (mostly in her hair, but also in her hands). There’s also the way that Maroh expressed Clementine’s sensations, such as her heart pounding, sexual excitement, …etc.
Otherwise, I wasn’t especially moved by it, even though all the emotion felt real and the characters’ dialogues and behaviours were realistic. Perhaps I need to have gone on such a journey to fully appreciate Clementine’s story, to properly relate to it. Perhaps. I’d be curious to know what others (non-critics) think of it.
Ultimately, ‘Le bleu est une couleur chaude’ is an excellent debut and it reads exceptionally well – I did it in one sitting. If it’s any indication of Maroh’s potential, I think that she’s going to be one to watch. As far as first efforts go, this is quite impressive – rarely do authors show such skill right from the start.
Now I’m very curious to see the movie that it’s based on.