Nancy (Hrdcovers)'s Reviews > The Blood Doctor

The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine
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's review
Apr 18, 2009

it was amazing

All indications, when looking at the cover of this book, lead the reader to believe that this will be one of Vine's psychological thrillers. I figured that some surgeon, obsessed with blood, would be traveling the British Isles with scalpel in hand looking for his next victim. But the reader of this book must look a little closer at the two words following the title, THE BLOOD DOCTOR. Those two words are "A Novel." This changes everything.
More on the lines of Vine's A Chimney Sweeper's Boy, this book is not a thriller but does test the psyche of its main character, Martin Nanther, as he takes on the task of writing his great grandfather's biography. I always wonder what compels an author to write under a pseudonym as Ruth Rendall does when she writes as Barbara Vine. A Chimney Sweeper's Boy and The Blood Doctor, both written under the Vine name, are perfect examples of why an author would do this. They are both such a departure from the books written under Rendall's real name. While both are dark and mysterious at times, Vines's books take on a different edge as they weave in and out of the lives of her characters and almost no one escapes scrutiny. This book is such an amazing amazing that I couldn't stop thinking about it every time I was forced to put it down to get on with my daily life.

As I mentioned already, Martin Nanther, frustrated author, decides to write about his great grandfather's life. The research involved is so very interesting because Henry Nanther lived in the nineteenth century, was a physician to Queen Victoria and also specialized in hemophilia (a disease very familiar to Queen Victoria and her royal family)....thus the title of the book. When Martin discovers hemophilia in some of Henry's own descendants, the plot thickens and Martin is determined to find its roots as he interviews every distant cousin he can find. This research is also aided by letters written by Henry's children as well as Henry's own journal entries.

At the same time he is doing all this research, Martin is waging war with his own inner demons as his wife of four years is obsessed with having a child...a child that Martin is not looking forward to having. As she continually miscarries, Martin is at a loss to show the empathy he should be feeling but just can't muster. As if this isn't enough stress for one individual, Martin is about to be stripped of his hereditary peerage, and the income that goes along with it, as the House of Lords is being reformed. This is a peerage he inherited from none other than his great grandfather Henry. I found this part of the book so very fascinating as I know so little about the workings of the English government.

So between his great grandfather's obsession with blood, Queen Victoria's hemophiliac royal family, the work involved in researching a biography, a wife who miscarries for no apparent reason and learning about the inner workings of the House of Lords, this book was more than I ever anticipated. You know that feeling when you're not expecting a "great" book and you get one. It's not Rendall and her psychological's Vine at her best writing "A Novel."
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Finished Reading
April 18, 2009 – Shelved

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