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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Color-Blind Island; Heroine of Color

The renowned neurologist, Dr. Oliver Sacks, introduced his readers in his last book, "An Anthropologist on Mars," to the case history of an artist, formerly obsessed with color, who has become color-blind following a car crash. At first he is a broken man. But eventually the painter discovers infinite new possibilities of texture and form in his art, so much so that when the doctors suggest a way of curing his disability, he rejects their proposal as "repugnant."

Alerted to the interesting possibilities of color-blindness, Dr. Sacks has embarked on a voyage to the islands of Micronesia. And The Island of the Colour-Blind (Picador, ?16.99 or $27) is the vividly empathetic and colorfully exotic account of his trip.

In 1775, 90 percent of the population of the tiny island of Pingelap were killed in a typhoon that left only 20 survivors. These people had little choice but to embark on an intensive program of procreating which led inevitably to inbreeding on a dramatic scale. Two centuries later, 12 percent of the 700-strong community suffer from a very rare sight condition called achromatopsia.

Totally color-blind, hypersensitive to light and afflicted with generally abysmal vision, the achromatopes of Pingelap can almost never learn to read (the few who do must hold a book right up to their eyes) and take to their beds on sunny days. They have, however, proved to be phenomenal night fishermen since they can spot a fish swimming into their all-gray semi-vision on a dark night with inexplicable skill.

"Ask not what disease the person has," the romantic and empathetic Dr. Sacks has written, "but rather what person the disease has." And do not be too swift to make judgments about abnormalities and afflictions either.


Stella Payne is a high-achieving California businesswoman with a son, a personal trainer, an ex-husband, a BMW, a dog, a cat and some colorful tropical fish. Temporarily relieved of her job and her son at the same time, Stella suddenly realizes that she is unhappy. And How Stella Got Her Groove Back (Viking, $23.95) is best-selling African-American novelist Terry McMillan's sassy, sexy and very, very funny account of how Stella put her world to rights.

Written in the breathlessly intimate colloquial style that has made McMillan the voice of black women in America, the novel tells of Stella's trip to Jamaica for a spot of rest and relaxation. Here she abandons "the pursuit of Mammon for the pursuit of a man" as the Times Reviewer put it. And the man in question is the improbably named Winston Shakespeare, a 21-year-old trainee chef. Sensual, Adonis-like and yet natural and unspoilt, Winston has a lot of love to give a middle-aged woman. And with Cupid guiding the unlikely couple across the minefield of the culture, race and generation gap "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" is a shamelessly feel-good fairy-tale that is guaranteed to charm all but the most hardened of high-brow readers.

-- Compiled from The Times and The Sunday Times.