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Blood Kin

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  469 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Rarely does a debut novel attract the sweeping critical acclaim of Ceridwen Dovey's Blood Kin. Shortlisted for two prestigious awards, this tale centers around a military coup in an unnamed country, with characters who have no names or any identifying physical characteristics. Known simply as the ex-President's chef, barber, and portrait painter, these three men perform th ...more
Paperback, 183 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by Penguin Books (first published 2007)
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3.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  469 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to imagine a book about a political coup being sensual, exotic, beautiful and terrifying at the same time, but that is just what this book is. It follows three prisoners of a coup d'état, the former President's portraitist, his chef and his barber. Each character, both near and far to the center of power will draw the reader into his most personal details, his hopes and dreams, his past and present to create a complex web of what seems at first a harmless existence only to reveal in th ...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
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Andi M.
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
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.
Tania James
Mar 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the reason I read!
Jodie Warner
I listened to his narrated by Humphrey Bower (an excellent audio book narrator- indeed I sought this book because he narrated it!) and Edwina Wren. I didn’t listen as intently as I should have but the premise of this book was interesting. It’s told from the different perspectives of men close to the President during a coup (his barber, his artist and his chef) and later, in the second part of the book, from the perspective of their women (daughter, wife and lover).
At times this was gruesomely i
May 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The concept of the book is interesting but after the introduction of the three female characters points of view it became predictable and almost painful to read to the end.
What is good about this book? It shows human nature at its sordid, petty and animal best. And even though I'm a huge fan of books that depict human nature and reations I was unable to like any character, including the ones that have died previously to the plot, they lack in depth, the despair of one, the obsession of another,
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Power of Love vs. Love of Power.
"Meet the new boss.
Same as the old boss." ... P. Townshend
May 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Brown (Toastx2)
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
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the architecture of the book, . especially understanding the complex female characters better, but felt like it wasn't as tight as it could have been. A fast read.
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
Oct 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Dec 08, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, books-i-hated
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 descriptive and beautifu
Nick Phillips
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kanwarpal Singh
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
#qotd dictatorship or democracy what you like more...??
Rating 3.5 🌟 🌟 🌟
#worldfullofstories (south Africa)
Review: The story is about a unknown fallen empire, whose president got killed and all the power goes into the hand of army, who take the barber, chef and portraitist, under them , portraitist who enjoying his life with his wife but world turn upside down as they are taken away with new coup , who takes women's with them for party and they are treated, and all the passionate stories they t
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
Nov 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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!
Oct 09, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Collins
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Following the aftermath of a coup in an unnamed country, the chef, portraitist and barber of the deposed President are held captive in the ex President’s summer retreat. None of the characters are named; they are all titled by their links with the main protagonists. Each chapter follows the thoughts of the characters as they bounce between the predicaments they find themselves in and their past. Gradually others are drawn into the mix, the chef’s daughter, the barber’s brother’s lover, the Portr ...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
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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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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