Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blood Kin by Ceridwen Dovey

My eye was caught by what appeared to be African-inspired artwork on the front cover and by the back cover copy of this book, a debut novel from an author I'd never heard of and whose name I don't know how to pronounce. (Can anybody help me out here? It's a marvelous name.) Without looking for them, I then stumbled across a couple of favorable reviews of Blood Kin that convinced me to move it up the pile. Sadly, I was disappointed.

The book begins as the unnamed president of an unnamed country is overthrown in a violent coup d'etat. The beginnings of this new order is narrated, in alternating chapters, by the former presidents' barber, his portraitist and his chef. (Later chapters are narrated by the women in their lives.) Much of the story takes place at the presidential residence as the junta begins their hold as the new governing body, finding the men unsure if they are to be held responsible for the crimes of the old guard or if they will continue on in their same capacities under the new regime.

An intriguing premise, which I found tense but tenuous. In the situations these characters faced, I certainly didn't expect warmth or charm but I had hoped for grace or redemption. Instead, I found
the characters flat and unlikeable, especially the wife of the portraitist (don't get me started on that broad) and the story unlikely. Despite the solid reviews, it just didn't grab me the way I had hoped.

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