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The Blood Doctor: A Novel [Paperback]

Barbara Vine
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a story.... May 4 2010
I've read a few Ruth Rendell novels but this is the first Barbara Vine book I've read. To call it "crime" fiction is a little wrong, as any crimes contained in the story are of the most subtle kind and are not resolved. It's just a really well-written novel about four generations of a family brought low by one simple, mad act.

All of the characters are well drawn. And the novel contains a lot of parts - the paring down of Britain's House of Lords in the late 1990's, a search for motherhood in the days of "designer babies", and the writing of a biography of one man's great-grandfather. It is the search in the family tree that brings into play all the interesting family members.

Don't read this book if you're expecting a lot of action, because there's actually very little. Some previous reviewers have given this book one or two stars, saying the story was "boring". Maybe it was to them - but I hung on every word. This is the first Vine book I've read but it won't be the last.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A nice audiobook Feb. 6 2004
Format:Audio Cassette
The reader of this audiobook is Mr Robert Powell. He appeared as Jesus in "Jesus of Nazareth" and he was Richard Hannay in "The Thirty-Nine Steps". His peroformance in "The Blood Doctor" is impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him.
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Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  60 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I hate to be negative Aug. 5 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
but I'm a huge fan of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine and have read (most) everything she has published in the last 30 years. I think she is a true master and I especially enjoy the novels under the Barbara Vine pseudonym.

However, (and I admit I'm only a third of the way through it), I have found this to be the most plodding, didactic, and just plain hard to read book of hers in years, if ever. While I enjoy my novels to be educational, I feel that I'm being lectured to. I find the family tree business to be difficult to keep straight in my mind (thus, constantly referring to the family trees in the front of the book).

The writing, as usual, is excellent. But, at least for me, in this case, a little less would yield a lot more. It's just not a page turner for me and I have found many reasons to read other books rather than return to this which, unfortunately, feels more like a chore to me.

Granted, this is the first time I've ever posted a review on Amazon.com. I read like a fiend and was curious as to what others thought because of my disappointment. The glowing reviews pushed me over the edge to write.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superior July 12 2002
By Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader - Published on Amazon.com
And anyone who has read Barbars Vine knows, calling one of her novels superior is really saying something. Readers who have never before picked up one of her books are in for a treat.
In "Blood Doctor" she juggles a mystery in history, the end of an era in the House of Lords, and modern fertility issues with great depth and sensitivity. Martin Nanther is dealing with all of these. A biographer and hereditary peer, he is beginning to research the life of the physician anscestor who earned the peerage for the family. The historical mystery theme is a popular one in current literature, but Vine plays her story out so beautifully, offering fascinating vignettes on Victorian and Edwardian life, hemophilia, period medical practice, and one man's life as expressed through the minimal entries in his diary that the book is hard to put down. The intertwining stories of the House of Lords and our un-Victorian challenges with fertility are equally engrossing.
Vine covers no new ground with "Blood Doctor" but who cares? You might even figure things out before the end of the book. But no one would dream of putting this book down before reaching the last page. Her writing is marvellous, and she sets the gold standard for nuanced psycological insight into her characters from the past and present. This novel comes close to my favorite of her books, "No Night Is Too Long."
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply mesmerising...Vine much better than Rendall Oct. 19 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I've always thought Barbara Vine wrote better books than Ruth Rendall. "The Blood Doctor" again supports this belief. It's a fascinating study of genealogy and of the dreaded blood disease (haemophilia) that afflicted Queen Victoria's progeny. This time, we're spared Rendall's nonsensical flirtation with grotesques (eg, "A Sight For Sore Eyes","Adam And Eve And Pinch Me", etc). Instead, we get to burrow into the secret life of the fictional former Lord Henry Nanther, great grandfather of biographer Martin Nanther and physician to QV herself in his time. As Martin tries to make sense of Henry's life for the biography he is writing, he interviews surviving relatives and scrutinises letters between family members for any light that they may shed on his subject. In the process, he stumbles across curious evidence suggesting the existence of a dark family secret, not formally known or understood, though suspected among those affected within the extended family. He hunts down the clues to reveal a truth that is as appalling as it is sensational. In the meantime, we are treated to a mildly interesting subplot involving Jude's (Martin second wife's) desperate attempts to bear a child and yet another subplot - more interesting this time - about the life of peers in the House Of Lords.
Figuring who's who isn't too difficult with the help of the two geneology maps that precede the narrative. Nobody with an interest in families should find the proceedings tedious. I didn't. Indeed, I found it fascinating.
"The Blood Doctor" is another clear and undisputed triumph for Barbara Vine. Don't miss it !
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - mature and riveting as only Rendell can be Nov. 22 2003
By RachelWalker - Published on Amazon.com
Lord Martin Nanther is digging up the past, researching the life of his great-grandfather, the first Lord Nanther, in order to write his biography.
Henry Nanther was a physician to Queen Victoria, and an expert in diseases of the blood, in particular hemophilia. For his services to the Queen, Lord Nanther was the first surgeon to be granted a peerage. He kept meticulous notes and diaries, clearly desiring to one day be the subject of such a biography. However, as Martin delves further into Henry's life, he discovers discrepancies throughout, puzzling questions which seemingly make no sense. Such as, why did he break off his engagement to a wealthy heiress, marriage to whom would allow him access into the very social circle which he craved? Why did he choose to marry a poor solicitor's daughter instead? And what was the real story behind her violent death?
Even without these questions Martin is burdened enough. The House of Lords, in which he sits, is being reformed, and the hereditary peers (of which Martin is one) are being thrown out. If that weren't enough, his wife is unable to conceive the child she so desperately desires. To top it all off, Martin will also discover that his great-grandfather died with a monstrous secret.
This is a superb novel. Ruth Rendell has long been one of my very favourite authors, and reading this book has only cemented that opinion. I don't understand those who dont like tihs book. They perplex me inexpressibly. Did they not read it properly? Are they not incredibly stimulated by it, all the topics it covers and all the characters she flawless creates?
She weaves absolutely seamlessly between the past and the present. And the reader is just as interested in both plot strands (the research into Henry Nanther and the complications surrounding Martin Nanther's wife's inability to bring a child to birth.) She paints both eras excellently. Brilliant modern social observation and the ability to acurately depict our society, is matched by her ability to write authentically about events at the turn of the century.
The characters are drawn beautifully...very realistic and likeable (in particular, Jude, Martin's sorrowful wife) even the characters who lives over a hundred years ago are drawn well. Unusual for a Rendell novel, the characters are not actually mentally damaged in some serious way. There are no sleeping passions, no strange quirks, nothing which would make them seethe and finally explode. This is a tale about rather normal people uncovering horrible secrets from the past.
RR deals with the Reform of the House of Lords excellently. She offers us incredibly interesting glimpses into the institution, about which very little is known by most people. And the insights she gives us are truly fascinating. Martin's and the other hereditary peer's, departure from the Lord is written in such a way that it is subtly moving. The regalness and gothicness abd overall atmosphere is painted wonderfully. She has whetted the appetite, and i now wish i could know more about The House Of Lords!
The mystery about the first Lord Nanther's life slowly unfolds, and the truth is certainly strange.
There is so much that people reading this book could be interested in...there is genealogy, information on the royal family, information about blood diseases, in particular heamophillia, the subplot about the house of lords, the subplot of Jude's miscarriages...and, the icing on the cake, the mystery elements. This is truly a feast, and it is more than enough to satisfy her fans. Indeed, i think it will satisfy even those who are new to Vine/Rendell. All i can say is thank God for her - she is the best novelist currently at work in any language, and this is exceptional stuff even by her standards. If you don't love it, there's something deficient somewhere.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-generational Tragedy July 15 2002
By John D. Cofield - Published on Amazon.com
The Blood Doctor, like all of Barbara Vine's (Ruth Rendell) works, is a fine psychological mystery examining the effect past decisions and actions have on the present. I think The Blood Doctor is the Vine work which is the widest and richest in scope since her first: A Dark Adapted Eye.Martin Nanther is the 4th Lord Nanther, a man of great complexity. As an hereditary peer, he enjoys his work in the House of Lords (and the income it provides), but he accepts that heredity is not a suitable prerequisite for a government position. At home he has a beloved second wife who wants desperately to have children, a prospect that Nanther views with indifference or distaste (he already has an unsatisfactory son), but knows he will have to accept if he is to save his marriage. His greatest complexities are revealed when he begins to research the life of his ancestor, the first Lord Nanther.Henry Nanther was an eminent Victorian physician, specializing in blood diseases like hemophilia. This earned him entree into the Household of Queen Victoria and eventual ennoblement. The first Lord Nanther was as complex as his great-grandson, as Martin discovers when he begins his research. Martin eventually uncovers layers of mysteries in his family tree that trace back to the first Lord's researches and manipulations. As Martin contacts hitherto unknown relatives and pieces together the puzzle, he recognizes that his great-grandfather's obsession with blood has marked his descendants for the next century.This book is fascinating on several levels. Genealogists will enjoy the descriptions of family research (trees are thoughtfully provided for those who get lost in the entangled branches). Those interested in nobility and royalty will delight in the details of the life of a member of the House of Lords and the insights into the lives of some of Queen Victoria's descendants. And of course, as always with a Vine book, you'll be engrossed in a dramatic and detailed story with a satisfying ending.By the way, other books you might find of interest after reading The Blood Doctor include Queen Victoria's Gene by D.M. and W.T.W. Potts, Prince Leopold by Charlotte Zeepvat, and Ask Sir James by Michaela Reid
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