Blasts from the Past: Sheer Blue Bliss by Lesley Glaister (1999)

Cover imageThis is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy in as many hands as I could.

Lesley Glaister was one of those writers I kept expecting to break through from relative obscurity and land on the bestseller lists when I was a bookseller but she never seemed to quite make it. With its gripping dual narrative, Sheer Blue Bliss is one of my favourite novels by her.

Connie Benson is plucked from the isolation of her Norfolk home when a retrospective exhibition of her work is mounted at the National Portrait Gallery. The centrepiece is the final portrait of her lover, Patrick Mount, who mysteriously disappeared in 1965. Mount was an eccentric whose theory of the Seven Steps to Bliss has sunk into obscurity but for Tony, a disturbed and beautiful young man who stalks Connie in the hope of finding the key to Mount’s elixir, he’s still a heroic figure. Tony and Connie’s narratives are closely interwoven as each draws inexorably towards the other until the two merge in a compelling denouement.

Like Helen Dunmore and Angela Carter, Glaister’s particularly good at portraying old women of which Connie is a fine example. Her memories of her youth contrast starkly to the pain and sheer hard work of old age while Tony’s narrative is thick with menace.

What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?

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30 thoughts on “Blasts from the Past: Sheer Blue Bliss by Lesley Glaister (1999)”

  1. Ooh this sounds marvellous. Anyone who can keep company with Dunmore and Carter is a must-read for me. And another art-related book. What could be better!!

  2. Connie reminds me of a woman – elderly – I encountered outside a cafe in deepest Suffolk who was being sired by an equally elderly but still handsome and attractive man. She was talking about her painting, studio and going to London to see the big shows. He was clearly keen to accompany her on any such foray but she was rather wistfully declaring it all to be very definitely in the past!

  3. I absolutely love Lesley Glaister, thanks for reminding me! Is she still writing now? I always thought she was underrated , a great author.

    1. She’s been quite prolific. I wouldn’t rate her writing as highly as Dunmore’s but they’re comparable in terms of their characterisation of older women and handling of dark suspense.

      1. On my next #ThrowbackThursday post in December, to announce the new Link Party, I’ve added a link to your page, so hopefully it will also get a touch of cover from that.

  4. I’d forgotten that we share a love of Glaister’s writing too: she’s another of my MustReadEverything authors. I’m glad to hear she’s still writing (she’s not terribly easy to find over here, but I’ve done all right).

    1. I wish there were more of us. She’s moved publishers quite a bit and is now with a small indie which probably explains your difficulty but I’m glad to hear you’re managing to track her novels down

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