In brief: When Banjo dies suddenly, a long and tempestuous relationship with his wife Jade ends. As his daughter Lissy searches for Jade’s lovers, will Jade find peace as Banjo watches on?
The good: The prose is beautiful; I wanted to savour every word of this novel.
The not-so-good: I need more of Kate Belle’s stories to read!
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
My rating: 10 out of 10
Last year, I was mesmerised by Kate Belle’s The Yearning, which has one of the most fitting endings to a book that I’ve ever read. Naturally, I was ecstatic when a copy of her new novel, Being Jade, landed on the doorstep. It didn’t take for me to get stuck into this book, which is mesmerising. Once you’ve started it, you’ll find it very difficult to stop reading.
The book opens in an unusual fashion, in the first person of Banjo, who is dead. Why is he dead? What happened? You’ll just have to wait as Banjo has a story to tell first. The story of him and Jade, the love of his life since her was a young boy. Jade’s always been the only woman for him, but Jade won’t be tied solely to Banjo. She loves him, but she needs her freedom. On occasions, she takes lovers. What do these men mean to Jade and how do they define her relationship with Banjo? It’s something that Banjo found very difficult to deal with in life; will he get his peace in death? His daughter Lissy is determined to find Jade’s lovers after Jade becomes unwell, much to the disgust of her sister Cassy. Surely there’s nothing to understand here…it’s just Jade’s way to be provocative, deliberately ruffling the feathers of all around her…
Being Jade is a fascinating character study. Jade is somewhat of an enigma initially, but as I read more of her background and the deep love she has for Banjo and her children, I felt I could relate to her more. I don’t think she’s a character that one person could ever get to know fully – she has far too many layers and too many aspects of her personality for just one person to see, but I felt I could accept what she had done with her life because it was her nature. Jade raises a lot of questions with how sexuality and how women’s sexuality is perceived – why is a women with lovers a slut, and a man a stud? Why is a nude male art and a nude woman pornography? Why do we accept these divides between the sexes? I felt that Jade was a feminist in the way she pushed boundaries of sexuality and women’s roles, but I don’t think she’d appreciate me calling her that! Jade is Jade, a true individual, who appreciates the beauty in everyone and is explicitly kind across race, loss and love.
Her children, Lissy and Cassy are opposites. Each has the characteristics of Banjo and Jade, combined in the way that produces fireworks. Cassy, like Jade, is stubborn, but can’t see the numerous viewpoints that make up a person. Lissy has Jade’s kindness on display, but lacks her daring. Her children reflect just what an amazing character Jade is. The emotional journeys as the three women collide and ultimately love without the stabilising influence of Banjo is palpable. Banjo was the common factor that loved and helped these different women get along – he’s a truly good man, who is accepting but strong.
Kudos must also go to Christabella Designs, who produced that beautiful cover. The colours of the title are divine – a honey beige versus a true jade tint. Jade herself also looks just as I pictured her and I love the strength of her purple eye shadow against the red lips. This is powerful makeup, but Jade doesn’t need this – she’s a new powerful character in fiction.
If you like Tim Winton, I strongly suggest you read Being Jade. Kate Belle captures a similar essence of setting, depth of feeling and in creating complex characters that remain beside you long after the story is finished.