The Blue – The Phillippines and New Zealand – Lucy Clarke


Why a booktrail?

Ever wanted to go sailing with with a group around the Philippines? But how well do you know the others in the crew?

Story in a conch shell..

Paradise can suddenly turn very dark indeed..

Now – Lana is in New Zealand when she hears some shocking news – The Blue, the fantastic yacht which she and her friend Kitty joined for the adventure of their lives, has sunk. All crew, Lana’s friends are still missing. What on earth happened and why did Lana leave the yacht a few months ago?

Then – Lana and Kitty join a group of travellers in the Philippines and become part of the elusive crew living and sailing on The Blue. The ocean and islands are their playground, where they stop, fish, live and swim  – a perfect existence and escape from the world.

Nights are spent drinking on deck, navigating the island and having fun. But things soon turn dark and paradise turns sour. The Blue becomes one floating nightmare. Lana becomes desperate to leave.

What happened in the middle of the ocean?

Place and Setting

Paradise can be the loneliest place on earth
Paradise can be the loneliest place on earth

( All locations in the Philippines and Palau are fictional)

Life on The Blue starts off like paradise –

The long empty hours spent snorkelling over coral gardens and exploring empty coves where wild mangoes grew, learning how to handle the sails and steer a corse; cooking meals in the narrow galley kitchen with the view of the sea through the porthole…

Sounds perfect right?

At first, that’s what Kitty and Lana think. When they quite literally bump into Denny in Norappi in the Philippines, they are invited to join the elusive yacht. Life is good on board at first. The rest of the crew – Joseph, Shell, Aaron and Heinrich have a few rules – everyone has to chip in and no romances between crew are allowed, but apart from that this is the way to escape life, feel free and enjoy the beauty of the ocean.

Life on the ocean is perfect –

The horizon was alight with flame-orange and magenta tones which feathered away into muted shades of rose, finally settling into a dusky navy behind her

Life on the boat? What’s not to like? The waters are calm , there are dolphins ahead, plenty of fish to eat. Sitting on deck looking out to sea – nothing like it. Even the tasks of washing up, acting as lookout and manning the deck are not hard to bear. Life amongst the most stunning and spectacular scenery in the world is right here.


The food you can salvate over – from the mahi mahi Lana prepares with oil and spices, the food markets they visit, the warm aroma of the rum they drink on deck. This is one visual feast. From the salty air to the warm breeze of the ocean, this is paradise for all the senses.

But is it to die for?

On a passage to Palau, it’s announced that Joseph won’t be joining them. The others start adding really strange, the atmosphere changes, and Lana soon realises that maybe being on a yacht in the middle of nowhere with people she barely knows may not be such a good idea after all…

Paradise can sometimes turn dark...
Paradise can sometimes turn dark…

Bookish musings – Susan

This has to be the ultimate travelling adventure as ever depicted in a novel. Lucy Clarke has captured every essence of a sailing experience, of the unparalleled sense of freedom being out in the open waters – from the whip of a sail, to the salty sea to the notion of a passage and cooking on board and swirled it together, with strange sea faring companions to create THE novel of the summer, if not the year.

It’s all so simple yet very very clever – a boat sailing into paradise – how can life get any better? Where the group takes the vote, tasks are divided and the rum and fish are plentiful…but there is a dark shadow looming and in the remote ocean, no one can hear your call for help..

The tension – from the floating body at the start of the book, to the reasons why Lana had to leave  – are built up slowly and steadily, with more ups and downs that the ocean itself. So evocative and so realistic, I felt seasick with fear by the end.

I can’t rave about this novel enough. Lucy Clarke has researched every last detail of a sailing trip, life on board, the calm waters with tension rippling underneath, unseen  – for now.

Just brilliant!

Book Advent – Day 9 and 10


Now we are off to the Philippines today, well you might think there is no surprise now – we’re off to the Philippines. You would be wrong however as you have not been to the country like this before –


The story in a  nutshell – 

A missionary priest called Julian Tremayne is working in the Philippines. He spends time in prison for the murder of a local military man and then himself dies mysteriously.

Thirty years after his death he is a revered man and people are calling for him to be made a saint. He is now almost a cult-like figure. But is everything as it seems?

Philip Seward is the man sent out on behalf of Julian’s family to investigate.

What he enters is a world of trouble.

Setting of the Philippines – 

Philip enters the underbelly of Filipino society. He is the ‘innocent foreigner abroad’ and the novel is an exploration of what he finds and what he thinks about events and people he encounters. This is an interesting angle and one which adds much to the detail  of the book – the innocent foreigner abroad on an investigative journey is ripe for finding detail and experiences not found elsewhere.

The Breath of Night is an extraordinary and vivid account of the wealth, extreme poverty, corruption and oppression of a country and its people.

It is a tale of beauty and horror interwoven with the insightful yet disturbing letters of Julian who writes homes to his family and via his letters reveals the changes of a country in turmoil, his faith, and of even the beauty of a country that he starts to see change before his very eyes. Like the picture of Dorian Gray, the beautiful colours and the paint flakes leaving behind something quite changed –

He describes where he is in – Manila –

image courtesy of Wikipedia
image courtesy of Wikipedia

Two rows of Spanish colonial houses all cracked white stucco and fretwork shutters, half hidden by thick-boughed frangipani and acacia trees, plus two small general stores, occupy the north and south. In the centre are a statue of the national hero, Jose Rizal, four weather-stone benches and a dried up water trough.

The Rizal Statue courtesy of Wikipedia
The Rizal Statue courtesy of Wikipedia

Calm and picturesque soon becomes dangerous quite soon and the tone of his letters changes in even describing to his parents the views and the weather never mind the political transformation of the country –

Roofs, doors, shutters,  had been flung about the square. The old colonial houses had had their balconies and their verandas torn off, and stucco facades shattered by the uprooted trees.  At the centre, the Rizal statue had been turned into a  modernist war memorial.


Breath of Night is a very sensitive interpretation of religious feelings and the interplay of reality and fiction. it shows evocative sort of beauty against a backdrop of lust and heat. You will be more than transported by this novel –  you will feel the heat on your face and the beads of perspiration through sweltering temperatures and deep rooted fear. Julian himself starts to question the very reason he is there in the first place – his faith –

More than ever before I’ve been forced to question the nature of my role. On the one hand, the brutal repression while I was away shows that, if nothing else, my presence offers  some protection against the excesses of the regime.

But he fears that his words are acting as  barrier between the people and their god and that he is effectively doing them a disservice. He starts to question his own faith –

For too long the Church has comforted – some would say anaesthetised- the poor with the claim that they’ll receive their reward in heaven.

Beautifully written yet confrontational

Powerful yet captures you in its ever- tightening grip

This is a trip to the Philippines with a difference and one you will never forget.