Endeavouring to describe the experience of an urban popular uprising from the perspective of its most cowardly participant, The Yellowest Red succeeds in capturing the emotional turmoil of its terrified protagonist. Adil Patel, an apprentice baker in the employ of a wealthy western family, believes passionately in the social justice ideals of the insurrection taking place, but in a series of false starts as blackly hilarious as they are utterly disheartening, reveals himself to be lacking the requisite revolutionary ardor to fully take part. He longs for the status quo to be swept away in an orgy of violence, but has performance anxiety when it comes to being an active member of events.
Compounding the political failure of our not-so-intrepid hero are his personal travails; his love interest, the fiery and fearsome Dervla, daughter of his ebullient overseer, has absolutely no compunction when it comes to physically hurling herself in front of the family to protect them from the rage of the masses. Patel longs for her sweet embrace but hates himself for such ‘bourgeois desires’. He is not so much torn between love and principle than he is totally paralysed by his own fecklessness.
The picture painted by the author, then, is one of utter bewilderment, within which the characters are constantly having to choose between the personal and the political, between their wants and their needs, between what is individual and what is communal. The threads of these dilemmas are dextrously woven…which is why it is so unfortunate that the overall plot does not hang together so seamlessly. The structure of the story sags under the weight of The Yellowest Red‘s ambitions and, ultimately, collapses into complete incoherence well before the final chapter. Psychologically, the characters are as complex as any, but the narrative they inhabit is juvenile, infantile even.
In summary; a plodding tale, enlivened by the internal discourse of its denizens. Interesting aspects, but an underwhelming vista.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…
P.S. This is a review of a novel I’ve never written.