Title: Indigo: In search of the colour that seduced the world
Author: Catherine McKinley
Catherine McKinley writes of her Scottish heritage, and the use of the colour indigo in the tartans of her people. She deftly links it to her African heritage and the indigo in fabrics that she’d seen, namely her introduction to the indigo-dyed fabrics of West Africa.
Her search for the fabrics that are steeped in the historically lucrative dye takes her across eight West African countries – all sponsored by a Fulbright Scholarship.
I had to really force myself to finish this book. It was fairly easy to pick up, read a few pages, then put down again. It never held my attention for too long. I was more interested in the history of indigo, how it was made, how it was traded etc. but this read more like a memoir of the author’s search for her African roots – and for some indigo along the way.
What was enjoyable though was the authenticity of the dialogue. McKinley does not anglicize the pigeon English that she was exposed to, and this makes her encounters sound more real. Her quest on the other hand, which started as a historical study, becomes more unrealistic as she travels across several countries, and amongst people who most likely saw her quest as indulgent.
The book did not delve enough into the history of indigo, as is suggested by the title and the description. It provides historical snippets of information here and there, but it is more about the author’s quest to acquire the indigo-dyed fabrics, and perhaps to connect with her African roots. I would have enjoyed it more if I had known it was a memoir, and therefore managed my expectations sufficiently from the onset.