Barbara Vine's new novel is about blood - blood in its metaphysical sense as the conductor of an inherited title and blood in its physical sense as the transmitter of disease.
The current Lord Nanther, experiencing the reform of the House of Lords, embarks on a biography of his great-grandfather, the first Lord Nanther, favoured physician to Queen Victoria, expert on blood diseases and particularly the royal disease of haemophilia.
What he uncovers begins to horrify him as he realizes that Nanther died a guilty man - carrying a horrific secret to the grave.
The Blood Doctor weaves effortlessly between past and present, public life and private life.
The result is a superbly satisfying novel about ambition, obsession and bad blood.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 480 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 27/03/2003
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780141009162
Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.
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Review by wyvernfriend
Interesting story about Haemophilia, its discovery and modern changes in the House of Lords.
Review by murraymint11
I enjoyed this book a lot, despite guessing the major plot mystery halfway through the book. The pace of the book was slow, but that was fine as it was also engrossing. The only part I didn't care for was the repetitive descriptions of life in the House of Lords which became boring. The family trees at the front of the book were a great help in keeping track of the huge cast of characters. I did find the subject of haemophilia fascinating. All in all, a recommended read.
Review by ilurvebooks
Found this book very slow which is unusual as really enjoy this author's style of writing so only managed few chapters then gave up
Review by startingover
This book was not what I was expecting. I associate Ruth Rendell's work under the Barbara Vine name with psychological thrillers, but this book is rather different. It's the story of Martin Nanther, an hereditary peer who is also working on a biography of his ancestor Henry Nanther, who was a doctor specialising in the treatment of haemophiliacs. His peerage was bestowed upon him by Queen Victoria for his work in this field.There are several main threads to the story - the modern-day story of Martin Nanther coming to terms with the House of Lords reforms that will mean he loses his hereditary seat in the Lords; his second wife's inability to carry a baby to full-term; and Martin's investigations into Henry Nanther's life, which uncovers several mysteries and, eventually, a staggering guilty secret.Blood is thus a substance and symbol that, as it were, runs through the novel: blood being the means of conveying an hereditary title, and also literally being the carrier of disease.Vine has clearly done lots of research into haemophilia, and I found the historical details about the haemophilia in Queen Victoria's family quite fascinating. I also found the unravelling of Henry Nanther's life very interesting - he's hardly a sympathetic character, but the manner in which his life (and secrets) are exposed (through letters, diary extracts, and Martin's discussions with some of Henry's descendants) is an interesting glimpse into the process of writing biography.Despite the slow pace of the story, I found myself engrossed. At times I found it a little hard to follow exactly who was related to whom - the family trees printed at the beginning of the book helped, though, and I was never completely lost. I think it helped that I'm very interested in genealogy myself.The book isn't really a thriller in any strict sense, and I can understand that some will find the pace too slow, the story too discursive. Personally, though, I loved it. [June 2007]
Review by jayne_charles
I think Barbara Vine plot twists are getting steadily more guessable as I had this one nailed by the halfway mark. That didn’t stop it being a highly entertaining read, though, as I still had to get to the end to make sure I was right, and the journey was highly enjoyable. The story of a biographer researching his great-grandfather’s life could easily come across as dull, but I loved the feeling of rummaging through old photos and papers, the cold-case element of it, and the complexity of the family trees (the diagrams provided at the beginning of the book were invaluable). By the end I felt as familiar with this extended family as I am with my own.The story of the great-grandfather runs alongside the present day problems of the narrator, whose inherited seat in the House of Lords is due to be unceremoniously pulled from under him, and whose wife is desperate to have a baby despite recurrent miscarriages. I found the House of Lords sections particularly interesting as the author is herself a Life Peer and clearly knows what she is talking about. It was no surprise to learn that many members of that House see it as some kind of private club, and as the legislation to oust Hereditary Peers makes its way through parliament, the prospect that upsets them most is not being able to invite their chums in for dinner.Narrating as a member of the opposite sex is something few authors can pull off, but Barbara Vine does it brilliantly here. The slightly snobby, stuffy old biographer is a three dimensional figure and definitely a bloke. He didn’t exactly sell me the idea of hereditary peers and their voting rights (seems pretty indefensible to me) but it was interesting to read something written from their viewpoint. A highly detailed, illuminating read, one to enjoy slowly. There is life after ‘Asta’s Book’. (I was beginning to wonder.)
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