Book Reviews

Review #6: Colour

I like to think of myself as a creative, artistic person, so finding a book that is both informative and interesting and related to said creativity is fantastic! I first found this book when I was working at the public library while in high school, took it out and absolutely loved it. I then bought it a little while later and actually haven’t read it since, but it’s definitely a cool reference book so I’m still happy to have it. So here is Colour, by Victoria Finlay.

Synopsis from the back cover:

Colour by Victoria Finlay, published by Sceptre in 2002, 438 pages

Colour tells the remarkable story of Victoria Finlay’s quest to uncover the many secrets hidden inside the paintbox. On her travels she visited remote Central American villages where women still wear skirts dyed with the purple tears of sea snails; learned how George Washington obsessed about his green dining room while he should have been busy with matters of state, and investigated the mystery of Indian Yellow paint, said to have been made from the urine of Indian cows force-fed with mango leaves.

From mascara to violin varnish, from nomadic carpets to stained glass to pillar boxes to crayon, the story of colour is the story of the efforts of artists and artisans to reproduce the rainbow – and the impact their work has had on the world.


This book is beautiful – from the writing to the photos to the stories that make up each chapter dedicated to a certain colour. I first got this book out of the library when I worked as a page and after reading it just had to have a copy for myself. It really appealed to my art-brain, history-brain, and travel-brain, and is just a wonderful book in general!

Colour is divided up, logically, into the main colours you would find in a paintbox or the rainbow – ochre, black and brown, white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Each colour is accompanied by multiple stories collected by the author on her travels about its history and cultural significance as a pigment or dye used for various arts. There are also photos in the middle of the book to give context to various stories and so you can really see the colour in action. Every so often you’ll come across a map or letter or little illustration, which gives us a break from straight text. At the end of the book there are notes about the photos and anything Finlay mentioned throughout her travels through the colour spectrum. This book is full of little points that I found too interesting not to look up to learn more about (artists, places, etc.) and touches on science and tons of words ending in ‘y’ – art and world history, geography, mythology, anthropology, and more. It’s pretty much all of my interests all rolled up into one neat little paperback! If any of these things interest you in the slightest, or if it seems like a really interesting concept in general, I can definitely recommend this book.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This was such an interesting read and, as always, if you do get around to perusing it, let me know what you think!

Happy reading!

x Lauren


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