Troubador Blue-Grey Island

Released: 15/12/2009

eISBN: 9781784627690

Format: eBook

Review this Book

Author Website

Blue-Grey Island


How do you enter a world that is stripped of language? 

This is Mannie’s dilemma as she enters Ward B on a hot July’s day, to visit her husband Ralph. 

Ralph, an eminent cosmologist, and talented artist, is in the later stages of dementia. The story reflects back to the beginnings of Ralph’s illness and gradually draws the reader into his confused inner world. This world is fleshed out by fragmented memories of his childhood, his troubled relationship with his father, and a life-long quest to bring science and spirituality into harmony. 

Blue-Grey Island has been described as delicately written, full of energy and ideas. 

The novel explores the theme of what constitutes personal identity and offers a way into understanding dementia. It is primarily a story about human relationships - told through the history of Ralph’s family, which has been shrouded in mystery. It is also a novel of ideas that raises questions concerning the conflict between faith and rational knowledge, the role of the artistic imagination in the survival of a troubled mind, and how we might find a way to communicate with another’s confusion. 

The past impacts on the present, and the presence of memory, in all of its subtle and more obvious forms, is woven within a tapestry of events that begin in Paris 1886, and lead up to the present day. As such, this is both an historical novel and a story particularly resonant of our time.

Be the first to review this book

Paula Burns

Biography and background to Blue-Grey Island

I am a Midlands based artist and writer. I have always enjoyed writing since my teens and in my twenties wrote mainly poetry and performed on the local poetry circuit.

My first degree was with the Open University when I spent six years studying at home, whilst my children were pre-school. I then took another degree at Warwick University in Philosophy and Literature. This was followed by a time spent teaching in further education and the prison service.

I became interested in psychotherapy and trained to be a psychoanalytic psychotherapist at IPSS (The Institute of Psychotherapy and Social Studies) in London. Working as a therapist I was privileged to share with clients their life stories and became interested in how the process of this sharing relationship develops. I researched this interest further by embarking upon a PhD - again at Warwick University.

Based in the Literature and Philosophy departments my love of literature and the concept of ‘a novel of ideas’ began to re-ignite. Creative writing, along with my artwork, has been a mainstay for me ever since - particularly during challenging years of chronic illness.

Blue-Grey Island

Blue-Grey Island is my third novel and the one I felt confident to publish.

It took me ten years to eventually finish and edit the story, the central character - Ralph - having ‘appeared’ in my mind with no prior thought. I had not specifically set out to write a novel about dementia, but the first draft of the story - with all of the defining features of Ralph’s life history and his inner world - seemed to unfold spontaneously.

The direction the novel took me in required a certain amount of research, however the central theme of the loss of what is construed as meaningful language (in severe dementia) developed organically within the story. This is not a novel that is grounded in what we specifically know about dementia but a story that grew from a bond within my imagination with the character of Ralph.

Sadly - and perhaps ironically - my father died a short time before the final edit of the novel. Unbeknown to me, he had possibly suffered from vascular dementia the year leading up to his death. This experience of loss - and witnessing what my father went through - galvanised me to finally publish the novel; having strengthened my original view of how the external world might be experienced by a dementia patient. Ralph, I believe, is representative of any human being who faces this devastating condition.

Paula Burns

Rain on the Water - image for book cover by Eileen Harrisson
  • Buy as an ebook
  • £2.99
  • Find this ebook at your favourite retailer
Also by Paula Burns / Related Books