Pure Colour is generally regarded to be strange. And it is. After all, a book that creates its own cosmology, where our world is just the first draft of creation with God stepping back to figure out how to make the second draft better, might be considered a touch odd. A book in which the protagonist spends a big chunk of the story inhabiting the inside of a leaf with the spirit of her dead father could be called unusual. A book in which the feeling you get when you sense a connection with someone is caused by small gods using you as a vessel from which to observe the other person has the potential to be seen as weird. Indeed, a book in which both God and gods appear, with no sense of contradiction, is not common. Nor is a book in which humans exist as critics born of one of the divine trinity of ultimate critics – the bird, the fish, and the bear – to help God form his final judgment before scrapping the world and going again.

Mira, the protagonist, is a bird. Her father is a bear. And Annie, the girl that Mira falls in love with, is a fish. Birds view the world ‘from on high, in an abstracted way’. Bears find their ‘one special person’ and try to hold them as close as possible. Fish look at the collective, ‘concerned with fairness and justice’. At heart, then, this is a book about how to love, and how hard it is to love when you can never be exactly what those who love you want you to be. And when those you love can’t ever be exactly how you need them to be.

It is also a book where the figurative and literal intertwine thanks to Heti’s gift for moving between semantic planes. Take the passage where she describes the heat of climate change, ‘like a bad older brother sitting on your face. We lay beneath our brothers and sweated.’ Or, elsewhere, she begins by figuratively describing the string of Mira’s life, but by the end of the passage, the string is literally bound up and stored in an empty teacup. Like love, the book is both insistently abstract and pressingly real.

Ultimately, the truly strange thing about Pure Colour is that it doesn’t feel strange when you read it. The book is strange in the way, or ways, that life is strange. And through its oddities, it deals charitably and profoundly with issues fundamental to all of us. In an imperfect world, simply to have loved is to forgive and be forgiven. In this first draft, ‘Getting through it is enough.’