I noticed a stranger buying 3 books in WH Smith, all of which had the same basic plot. I wrote these reviews to prevent future incidents.
By Blood, by Ellen Ullman
Who for: your therapist, people in therapy, eavesdroppers
The basic tenet of this novel is excellent, although the cover and the title make it look like Twilight’s less –successful literary cousin(I frowned a great deal when reading it on the tube, to encourage people into realizing I was not reading Twilight, although it may have just looked as if I found Twilight challenging): a man rents an office in a building. The office next door is rented by therapist. He can hear everything said in her sessions.
The man in question is a college professor, who has been forced to leave campus whilst an investigation is made into his ‘conduct’ towards a male student. The patient he listens to is a young woman, who works with her therapist to unravel the mysterious circumstances of her birth and adoption.
It is, for the most part, an extremely thoughtful, engaging and well-reasoned book about the role of context, history and family in who we turn out to be and how we relate to others, driven by an undercurrent of sexual and political exploration. It is also, plot-wise, incredibly far-fetched, and the therapist at times seems alarmingly unprofessional. Several therapy sessions spent by the patient explicitly detailing all the lesbian sex she was having give the book a sticky feel that seems at odds with its purported purpose, but the characters are well-rounded and believable, despite the machinations of their storylines.
8/10- a thought-provoking, intense and fun look into the power of eavesdropping.