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Blood Kin

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  308 ratings  ·  73 reviews
A president has been overthrown by a military coup in a nameless country in an unspecified era. The president's barber, chef, and portraitist are imprisoned, with many others, in a remote palace in the hills high above the city center. Before the coup, these three men worked with unquestioning loyalty, serving the president in seemingly benign jobs. Now, forced to serve th ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published February 28th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2007)
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This novel garnered terrific reviews and was selected for at least one prestigious prize (the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35”). I had high hopes. However, I have to agree with a comment made earlier on this site – the novel reads more like practice at writing a novel than a novel itself. The premise is interesting enough: a series of unnamed first-person narrators respond to a political coup of some sort in some unnamed country. But since the characters don’t quite manage to come alive, ...more
This novel was a good idea with a plodding, heavy execution. I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters, except for those who were dead before the novel begins. The prose is unnatural and effected in a heavily work-shopped kind of way.

However, the content and conflict of the novel were interesting. I feel like lately I'm reading the same plots over and over again in novels that are all set in New York, and immersing myself in Dovey's modern, technologically sophisticated distopi
Tracy St Claire
Dovey writes this short novel without resorting to a single name for a character, and so the chapters are told from the perspective of the "President's Chef". or "President's Chef's Daughter" or even farther. This anonymity starts out meaningful, but as the reader gets more confused in translating who the "President's Barber's Brother's Fiancee" is again (oh yes, really) it starts to seem gimmicky.

The narrative is fluid and almost musical. The fatal flaw to the book, and maybe its train-wreck-qu
Nick Phillips
This is a book of two halves, quite literally in that the first half is told from the points of view of three male characters and the second half from the points of view of three of three female ones. The overall tone and main concerns of the novel reminds me a little of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and while the writing never quite matches Marquez's poetic flow and rhythm it is a comparison to which this novel can stand up.

Characters, locations, dates etc are never named or expanded on and there is a
"The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker..." begins a popular nursery rhyme. But when a coup overtakes a nameless country, it's the chef, a barber, and a portrait painter - all in service of a corrupt President - who are swept up in political intrigue.

Arrested with the dispossessed President, the three men are placed in a room and try to make sense of the brave new world around them. Dovey tells the first half of the story from their perspectives and then switches to the women in thei
Hmm, a bit of a disappointment. I love the concept of this book: three employees of the President of a recently overthrown regime. The cook, barber, and portraitist tell their stories, and then we get additional information from the women in their lives. Fell flat at the end for me. No big "ah hah!" moments.
John Newman
This is a quirky book told from different voices. I had high hopes and it didn't live up to them. It's a thin volume and somewhat entertaining with a couple unexpected twists but not a great read.
It was a decent read, but definitely something missing. If the synopsis of the book interests you, find a copy of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto instead. It's much better.
Tania James
Oof, this book ended with three swift punches to the gut. A beautiful, terrifying book all around and not a sentence goes to waste.
JoAnna Studer
This book is the reason I read!
The reading challenge I'm taking on. Join me!
This book fulfills the challenge: A book by a female author.

Actual Rating: 1.5 Stars

Oh yay, two of my favorite things- adultery and heavily implied, if not explicit, incest. (That was sarcasm, if you couldn't tell.) I'm gonna be honest, this review is based totally off my own preferences and next to none objective crit, and I apologize ahead of time for that.

Anyway, this book does have one thing going for it: the writing. It's really descriptive and b
Jason (RawBlurb)
Blood Kin, written by Ceridwen Dovey, was a big surprise. It was given to me in a big bag o’books by my friend Janneke. The bag was so full of possible reads that I didnt know I had it in my posession until earlier this summer. When it did come to my attention, I escalated it up my list of “to be read” books. Not reading the back cover, I was first drawn in by the authors name, very beautiful. The cover was well put together and designed nicely

Clocking in at 183 pages, it didnt take long to get
For a freshman effort, this is a good book. The story kicks off as a dictator, of some unnamed country, is overthrown and locked up for his alleged tyrannical reign. But when the freedom fighters nab him, they also take the dictator's chef, barber and portraitist hostage. The entire story shifts between their memories and viewpoints and they, like everyone else in the book, are never given names. We only know them by their relationships to each other.

The first half (of this short read) is great!
Blood Kin is a slim yet pithy book, a book that reads like a fable with characters who are identified by their function only: the President, his portrait artist, his chef, and his barber. In a nameless country, at a nameless time, a president is overthrown by a military coup, and three men who are considered near to him are abruptly taken hostage and removed to his summer place...along with the portrait artist's very pregnant wife.

Chapter by chapter, we get into the head of each of these charact
this is a totally good first novel. i was excited to read this because ceridwen lived in currier and i had no idea she was writing until i saw her in some web video about new books, i forget the name of the series. plot is basically: dictator overthrown by new regime, as told from the perspectives of the dictator's portraitist, chef, and barber. the chapters are short, and the changing first-person accounts make _as i lay dying_ the obvious sounds-like, to say nothing of how brutal and unsympath ...more
i liked this book
i liked the style of writing, the once removed stance of the narrators
but i can also see that it might irritate

this book tells the story of the coup of an unanamed country, presumably within Africa, primarily through the narration of the former president's chef, barber and portraitist.

through the 'real life' actvities of these characters and other, related people, so the political life of the president and his replacement, the commander, are illustrated and commented on.

but, the
Oh, how to rate!? I think I read this book at an interesting time since I had just finished the Poisonwood Bible (another book with multiple narrators that has to do with Africa [this one doesn't technically take place in Africa but is by a South African writer so it has a tenuous connection to it:]). Unlike Poisonwood Bible, it was short -- it ended almost a little sooner than I expected/wanted it to, although I think that was a good thing. It sort of picked up its pace gradually, without you e ...more
This was a really good book. It took an old and hackneyed concept, a revolution and the overthrow of a dictatorship, and showed it from a whole other angle. This book isn't written from the point of view of the dictator, a revolutionary, or the traditional dictator's-innocent-and-sappy-daughter/son-who-knows-nothing-whatsoever. It's written from the angles of people who are in close contact with the revolution; the dictator's barber, cook, and portraitist, and the incoming ruler's wife. But the ...more
I really didn't like the story much since it was pretty negative theme to it. I did like how it was written. The story is about a coup that takes place and the current President is over thrown. The story is from the perspective of "His Barber", "His Portraitist" and "His Chef", later on it switches to "His Portratist Wife", "His Chef's Daughter"...etc than back again. It was just a really interesting way to write the story I think. Now as far as the story itself. The characters seem to be little ...more
Jennifer Sulc
I expected more from this book based on the glowing reviews on the cover and the prose in the first few chapters. Dovey's conceit is clever - three presidential employees are imprisoned together following a coup - and the use of multiple first-person narrators helps to create suspense. More tangential characters are introduced to flesh out the story, yet paradoxically their stories lack sufficient detail to make them plausible. As the story moves away from exposition to action, more straightforw ...more
Six narrators and three regime changes under 200 pages. It wasn't until I reached the Third Part that none of the characters have names. Instead we know His Portraitist, His Chef and His Barber through the first third, then His Barber's Brother's Fiance, His Chef's Daughter and His Portraitist's Wife through the middle before reverting to the original three for a sweeping finale. Things do happen in the midst of these introspective characters. The problem, if there is one, is that with such a va ...more
Aug 21, 2009 Daniel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Daniel by: David
Shelves: book-club
This was a quick yet thoughtful read with the premise that "the mad king is within us all", which she proves by the end with some interesting revelations. Some reviewers have called them far-fetched, and maybe they are, but it's fiction and I think the way she tied everything together was interesting and made sense.

At first I wondered if writing characters without names would make them archetypal or stereotypical, but she did manage to make them three-dimensional with distinct personal histories
This was a fairly good concept - what are the people involved in a political coup feeling, especially innocent (and not so innocent) hostages? It is written in the voices of 3 men - the president's chef, his barber and his portraitist. About half way through the voices change to those of their wife, daughter and lover respectively. The writing itself is good, and I think this new author has some potentional. But the ending wasn't fulfilling for me and overall too 'dark'. I finished thinking I wa ...more
We read this for my book club, at least partly because it was written by a girl some of us went to college with, and it got mixed reviews. I enjoyed it; it's clear that it's a debut novel written by a young woman, but some of the images and descriptions have stayed with me. Dovey could definitely develop into an interesting novelist, but as with many contemporary novels, she doesn't quite seem to know how to end it. (Um, try happily for once?) Still, it's an interesting look at how power corrupt ...more
Carmen Montopoli
The writing was gorgeous, which was the only thing that saved this book. Otherwise, it was an overwrought novel that tried to do exactly what J.M. Coetzee accomplished to much greater effect in Waiting for the Barbarians.

Some things that were great:

-descriptions of everyday acts.
-lots of creepiness.

Some things that sucked:

-no names or places to keep it in that irritating "this could happen to YOU OMG!" setting.
-the Portraitist's wife's utter lack of humanity. I mean, cruel would have
Fascinating fiction presented by several people whose lives intertwine before, during, and after a coup in a unnamed country. All the characters exhibit degrees of a stern practicality and ruthless opportunism that seems appropriate to the politicized circumstances in which they find themselves. The fact that we are hearing each person's voice and these things are not known by the others, makes us somewhat complicit, or voyeuristic. We are not suprised, perhaps, at the violence that erupts. Very ...more
Davey Hughes
Jan 30, 2014 Davey Hughes is currently reading it
I can't even read it. I just got the app today and it won't let me read any books, can someone please help.
Jessica Cook
I've never read a book from so many different perspectives before! I loved getting to hear the inner thoughts of the characters and see the same event thru different eyes. It was an intense build up that kept me wanting more, wanting to know what happened to these people, then in the final chapters everything blew up. I literally gasped at some points. Then nothing happened. It was over. I would recommend the book because it was a quick and interesting read, but be forewarned you may be wanting ...more
A great short book - wonderful for a flight or day at the beach. This book reminds me a LOT of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Same sort of situation - a coup in a nameless country and people held hostage. This one is told from the perspective of three men close to the president - the barber, the chef and the portraitist. Then, in the middle of the book, the perspective shifts to that of three women also close to these men, and the President. Wonderful, I'm going to look for more from this author!
Karen R.
A very interesting structure and style. The characters are never named but by their profession or relationship (i.e., the barber, or the portraitist's wife) highlighting the implication that the role is the person and anyone can fill it. Especially the role of dictator. Each section is follows one character and all of the characters are intertwined in ways they do not necessarily learn. A short book worth reading, though ultimately not optimistic about how the world works.
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Ceridwen Dovey grew up in South Africa and Australia, studied as an undergraduate at Harvard, and now lives in Sydney. Her first novel, Blood Kin, was translated into fifteen languages and selected for the US National Book Foundation’s prestigious ‘5 Under 35’ award. J.M. Coetzee called it ‘A fable of the arrogance of power beneath whose dreamlike surface swirl currents of complex sensuality.' Her ...more
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