Welcome, friends, to my reading blog – ‘books blog’ isn’t quite the right term. I’m going to see where my reading takes me. A post on Mondays Are Read is just as likely to be about a film adaptation, a comparison between an original screenplay and a novel or a piece of music that I associate with a piece of literature. Whatever the topic, one thing is assured: it will be published on a Monday, bringing some cheer to the start of my week, and hopefully yours too.
Why this grammatically and orthographically dubious title? I struggle to ‘get round to’ pursuing my pursuits, unless I ritualise them – henceforth, Monday is designated blog day. As for the title, Year 8 English was an overexcited time of groaning about our teacher’s eclectic choices, including Mondays Are Red by Nicola Morgan (2005 – the Scottish author, not the Education Secretary). However much we scoffed at such texts at the time, I’ve never forgotten this one, and it’s provided some stellar wordplay here. Thanks, Miss Mackie. Since graduating, I’ve spent some time clearing out and revisiting old school work. Here’s the text of my original online review of Mondays Are Red:
“This is an evocative read, and sometimes it’s nice to have a book where not everything is given to you, where it’s not necessarily a page turner. But that doesn’t mean that the metaphors and similes have to be piled on in a deep void of useful stereotype language for English classes; though since Luke has synaesthesia, it might help us understand. I believe this book could be made into a fascinating story that people would want to read, but it is so heavy in well-written language that you focus on this instead.”
You see what I mean about our hearty rejection of Miss Mackie’s chosen set texts. The novel was laden with musical descriptions of smells and sounds described as colour, because the narrator, Luke, was suffering from synaesthesia following a bout of meningitis. I knew this – I just found it tiresomely gimmicky. The book, published by Hodder Literature, felt ‘so obviously’ a set text, such a brazen goldmine of highlighter-worthy rhetorical devices, that I couldn’t quite take it seriously.
Perhaps I was right, but ten years later, I still know exactly what Mondays Are Red is about: how it felt to read, and what happened to its characters. It certainly remains the only fictional exploration of synaesthesia I’ve come across – before Mondays Are Red, I’d never heard of it. As an adult, I still shy from formally experimental literature, and I think Mondays Are Red, in its conscious emphases, was a sort of tame precursor to my mature reluctance concerning Queneau, Cortázar and How To Be Both. But, at the least, I now fully appreciate the fascination of Luke’s condition, and the challenge of rendering through words a definitively sensory experience.
Not having reread the book (yet?), I can’t pass judgement on whether Morgan succeeded, or whether I was correct to dismiss the attempt as heavy-handed. My point is this: even if it was a mediocre book, destined to remain classroom fodder, the power of its ideas stayed with me. It is singular reading experiences like this which build our character, our thoughts and perspectives, as much as our beloved childhood favourites or our life-changing discoveries as adults. For familiar readers, might I point to Year 12’s The Signalman (Ms D’s comments in the margin: “You may have hated it, but you did well!”) or second year’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Just as bemoaned and torturous as Mondays Are Red – but likely still to linger in our minds for decades yet, and perhaps for unexplored reasons.