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Blood Ties

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Perhaps it is the sad fact that Lash was dying as she wrote it that makes her sixth and last book so thunderously powerful. Set in Tipperary, Ireland, and London, this tragic family saga shimmers with a keen wisdom and resonates vividly with the details of gentrified life in the countryside and with the contrast of the natural world to so-called "respectable living." Violet Farr, on the rebound from a failed love affair, stubbornly enters into an inappropriate marriage. Despite the conception of a child, there is no love between the couple, and Violet's megalomania inevitably precludes a healthy mother-child bond. The shunned son, Lumsden, grows up to become an amoral schemer and a con artist. He is handsome, fascinating and dangerous, so self-centered that we don't wonder when he rejects his own offspring, ill-conceived with lost soul Dolly. That child, Spencer, burdened with insane genes and an alcoholic mother, is the most pathetic of the family lineage. Only Spencer's own offspring, two generations away from the soul-crushing negativity of Violet, will emerge whole and uninjured, suggesting that healing and redemption can be achieved. This story encompasses a broad range of emotional extremes, class issues, times and locations. The world Lash creates is delivered forcefully into the reader's imagination in stark, resonant language. Whether showing the shadowy heart of a vicious, destructive matriarch or describing the pristine terrors of a disturbed child, Lash evokes the full spectrum of human grace, folly and evil with dazzling perspicacity. One of the most impressive contemporary novels to tackle that dubious, cliché-prone realm of "the dysfunctional family," this is a moving, memorable work, which leaves us mourning the early loss of the gifted writer who died in 1993. (Sept.) FYI: Lash was the mother of actor Ralph Fiennes.

That love makes things bloom while its lack blights may seem a cliché, but the late Lash's treatment of the subject is anything but. Haughty, strait-laced Violet Farr rejects her son (from her marriage to hapless Cecil, a closeted homosexual) and is even less fond of her illegitimate grandson, named Spencer for the tavern where his mother worked. But she lives to see the happiness of her great-grandson, redeemed by a love she cannot give. Upon the heels of a probable suicide attempt, the unhappy Spencer is adopted into the heart of a generous and caring family, who save his life and his sanity. Spencer's son, also illegitimate and born posthumously to the daughter of the family, is cherished. This almost unbearably painful tale was rejected by the British publisher of Lash's earlier novels. Her son, actor Ralph Fiennes, campaigned for its acceptance, and we should be glad he did. The writing is lush and the characters, especially Violet and Spencer, fully realized. For all libraries with readers of serious fiction.‘Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY

"A harrowing demanding book, but ultimately a profoundly inspiring one... In its elaborate and painstaking progress, Blood Ties charts all the dreads and demons of family indifference and discord. Yet its final embracing theme is of acceptance and redemption". DAILY TELEGRAPH

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