The son of an English father and a Russian mother, Charlie Doig is a big man -- big in stature and big in spirit. A naturalist, he roughs it around the world collecting birds and insects for museums. In 1914 he is on a mission for the Academy of Sciences in Russian Turkestan when war breaks out. His pay is stopped and his companion goes off to enlist. Doig, however, has no intention of volunteering to be killed. He returns to the Pink House, his family's home near Smolensk, and to the woman he loves, his cousin Elizaveta.
At first the Pink House remains almost untouched by outside events, and the familiar ways continue as before. But imperial Russia is doomed and with it all the old certainties. Trapped by the snow with Doig and Elizaveta are a motley collection of old aristocrats, their servants and hangers-on -- and two soldiers who have sought refuge with them, one of whom, Doig fears, is a Bolshevik out to destroy them all.
Beautifully written, richly imagined, by turns savage and tender, this exhilarating novel confirms James Fleming as one of the very best novelists at work today.
Fleming explores the clash between tradition and progress, class and culture, in White Blood, a gritty novel, intensely flavored with both the elegance and terror of Russia on the brink of civil war; that lures the reader in with an almost lighthearted opening travelogue but that inexorably gathers steam, drawing to a thrilling, emotionally exhausting conclusion. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Booklist - Joanne Wilkinson
Fleming crafts his richly told novel in three parts, moving from the wildly entertaining travelogue that opens the tale to the cat-and-mouse game among the snowbound to an out-and-out thriller as Charlie witnesses firsthand the horror of Bolsheviks "forging a new kind of hell.
Fleming is indeed skilled, and the book is a pulse-pounding read. But, like Charlie's innumerable paramours, you may hate yourself in the morning for having enjoyed it so much.
Starred Review. In the book's wintry denouement, Charlie's narration pulls slowly back on events—the revolution's settling of scores and literal severing of ties with the czarists—and then freezes. It's funny, sad and magical.
The Literary Review
An extraordinary novel.... Readers will surely welcome its author to the ranks of our greatest living story-tellers.
Publishing News - Sue Baker
I'm grateful to Fleming for reminding me just how exciting a good novel can be.
The Spectator (UK)
White Blood is more than this, but it is first of all a meticulously researched act of reconstruction.... The narrative, the dialogue and the intensity of Doig's emotions drive the story to a savage climax that reads like a modern thriller. It is the best sort of historical novel.
The Independent (UK)
A historical novel with the right kind of hero: virile, ruthless, adventurous.... The description of the estate and its inhabitants, the nearby village and the distant rumours of war and revolution are all superbly handled.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kim Excellent novel of the Russian Revolution There are many things about White Blood that make it a remarkable novel. Fleming focuses on how Russia’s upper middle class were affected by the Revolution, as opposed to writing his novel from the point of view of the revolutionaries, which I... Read More
James Fleming was born in
London in 1944, the fourth in a
family of nine children. His
education began with a
governess, Miss Malins, who
"wielded power via a thick, blue
oval crayon that would be jabbed
into our ribs if ever we
faltered." At the age of eight
he was sent to boarding school
Abberley Hall. He got into
Oxford "by a whisker" and gained
a second in Modern History.
On graduation, he became an articled clerk
(trainee accountant) and
went to work with Angus &
Robertson, an Australian
publisher with an office in
Since the age of 10 he had been
interested in being a writer,
and during his twenties had
experimented with three or four
ideas for books about everyday
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...