The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau – Book Review


In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. 

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… 

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. 

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue


This is the story of Derby Blue and the porcelain obsession of the 1700’s. Genevieve meets Sir Gabriel at a soirée held by William Hogarth, the artist. She had attended this with the intent of asking Hogarth to sponsor her as an artist, but her dreams are shattered as she is just a woman and they do not paint in oils. Distraught she returns home to her Grandfather, who is sending her to work in a Derby porcelain factory to decorate the items, as this is felt suitable for her talents.

Then Sir Gabriel visits and so the adventure begins, he wants her to be his spy at Derby, to find a formula to a new Blue, by getting close to the young scientist, Thomas Sturridge, but the plan goes awry as they fall desperately in love.

I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot, but it’s full of utterly engaging intrigue and even Madame de Pompadour and King Louis and a war between France and England at that time are all part of this tale.

There are fascinating insights into the history of porcelain, which may sound a little dry, but believe me, Nancy Bilyeau’s writing has brought this to life. The sheer obsession and competition between countries to develop the best is beyond belief.

This is an absolutely stunning novel, with a really strong female character in Genevieve, intrigue, fear,violence, persecution, passion, obsession and love. This is a must read and I’m sure book clubs are going to adore it as much as I do. Oh and the cover is beautiful too. Historical fiction at its best.

Thank you to The Pigeonhole for the opportunity to read this. 




Published 3 December 2018

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