The Blood Doctor: A Novel Paperback – 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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."
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 !
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.