Friday, March 22, 2013

A Perfect Red: Review

I'm afraid that A Perfect Red: Empire Espionage, & the Quest for the Color of Desire didn't do a whole lot for me.  And I don't think it's Amy Butler Greensfield's fault.  You see, I was kind of confused when I picked this up at my local library's used bookstore in July 2011.  The kindly volunteers who manage the store had shelved it on the hardback fiction shelf and when I read the synopsis:

"A Perfect Red" recounts the colorful history of cochineal, a legendary red dye that was once one of the world's most precious commodities. Treasured by the ancient Mexicans, cochineal was sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, producing the brightest, strongest red the world had ever seen. Soon Spain's cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune.

Desperate to find their own sources of the elusive dye, the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans tried to crack the enigma of cochineal. Did it come from a worm, a berry, a seed? Could it be stolen from Mexico and transplanted to their own colonies? Pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies -- all joined the chase for cochineal, a chase that lasted more than three centuries. A Perfect Red tells their stories -- true-life tales of mystery, empire, and adventure, in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth.

I thought that this must fictional history.  I've read those before--heavy on the history, but still a fictional account.  Well.  No.  This actually is the factual history of the "perfect red"--and expecting a fictional story, I have to say that the historical story bored me.  We got really hung up on those Spanish conquistadors and how they didn't take full advantage of the cochineal tribute that their Indian conquests were providing.  But tales of "mystery, empire, and adventure" this ain't.  Another reviewer on GoodReads mentions the blurb on the back cover where the LA Times says that this book is "rollicking."  No, it's not.  Informative? Yes.  In-depth? Sure--too much so for someone looking for "tales of mystery," "espionage," or a "rollicking" good story.  Two stars.


Peggy Arthurs said...

Aha! When I saw you were reading it I thought it was quite a departure for you!

Bev Hankins said...

Peggy: It might not have been so bad if I had been expecting straight history--but by the time I got into it and figured out that "Nope, it's not fictional at all" it was too late. I was disappointed. And it was all downhill from there. :-)