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Home » Books » Fiction & Literature » Political

Blood Kin

By Ceridwen Dovey

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Format: Paperback, 183 pages
Published In: United States, 01 March 2009
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 their mundane tasks and appear unaware of the atrocities of their employer's regime. But when the President is deposed, the trio are revealed as less than innocent. A deeply chilling yet sensual novel, Blood Kin illustrates Lord Acton's famous quip, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," and marks the beginning of an illustrious literary career.

About the Author

Ceridwen Dovey's debut novel, Blood Kin, is being published in thirteen countries. She grew up in South Africa and Australia, and now lives in New York City.


Dovey's debut novel opens in the tense moments preceding a coup d'etat in which the president is deposed and replaced by an also nameless commander. However, this tale of regime change is related by seemingly minor functionaries: the president's barber, his portraitist, and his chef. The novel uses no given or place names, instead situating everything-and most everyone-in proximity to the chief executive. As the commander assumes the reins of power, we come to realize that the designation "his" refers not to a person, but to the very vestments of power. The introduction of a subsequent tier of narrators, each placed at a further remove (i.e., his chef's daughter, his portraitist's wife) reveals that power is not self-executing: it depends on the efforts of countless "minor functionaries" whose neat haircuts, official portraits, and splendid meals both create and nourish the pleasing forms that power assumes. This cautionary tale, a character study of power and caprice, is highly recommended for libraries with strong fiction collections.-Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Anthropology doctoral student Dovey's smart debut novel traces events in the lives of three functionaries in the entourage of the president of an unnamed country who is overthrown by the "Commander." Dovey divides the book into three sections. The first section is devoted to the three men: the president's chef, barber and portraitist. The second section is told by three women: the chef's daughter, the barber's late brother's fiance and the portraitist's wife. The third section operates as a coda, bringing about a second coup. The Commander imprisons the three men in the presidential residence, thinking, at first, of punishing them as subordinates to the old regime. (The portraitist's wife is also imprisoned, for reasons that are obvious to everyone but the cuckolded portraitist.) However, as the Commander samples the chef's food and the barber's skills, he softens his stance toward them. As for the portraitist, he proves too pathetic to punish. Meanwhile, the barber and the Commander's wife commence a dangerous affair, and the chef tries to figure out how to use it to his advantage. Dovey's prose gives the events an air of magic and allows this small, fable-like story to plainly illustrate the old axiom about power's ability to corrupt. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"A precise and terrifying debut novel." -The New York Times Book Review "Dovey's surgical prose and cool apprehension of the machinations of ambition and lust make her a writer to watch." -O, The Oprah Magazine "Taut and remarkably self-assured first novel . . . there's a knowing sensuality to the novel's sparsely lyric passages." -Los Angeles Times

EAN: 9780143114826
ISBN: 0143114824
Publisher: Penguin Books
Dimensions: 19.66 x 12.75 x 1.5 centimetres (0.16 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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