Blood Precious by Sara Banerji

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Blood Precious by Sara Banerji

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Bookbag loved this book. With utterly preposterous plotting and dripping with irony, Banerji lays bare the truth of the often uncomfortable relationships we have with our friends, families and, most importantly, ourselves.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: January 2007
Publisher: Transita
ISBN: 978-1905175321

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I can't remember the last time a book made me chortle quite so often. Lady Cunningham Smythe is a cantankerous old lady with a death wish. Her beloved husband of sixty years, Jack, died a year ago, and Ladyma wants nothing more than to collect enough paracetamol and whisky to join him. Unfortunately, Ladyma is forced to delay her suicide when her telepathic granddaughter Naomi is kidnapped in some very mysterious circumstances.

As a mystery-thriller, Blood Precious is as preposterous as they come. The premise is ludicrous, the loose ends are innumerable. The book veers wildly between a Sixth Sense style spiritual thriller and a simple whodunnit. Ladyma blunders her way through the mystery with a clod-hopping gracelessness that would make any other posh literary detective blush with shame.

What Blood Precious does is to unpick the power struggles in family relationships, especially the relationships between young and old. It is so rich with life experience. In her grief, Ladyma's closest relationship, and the only thing really left to give her any attachment to life, is that with her four year old granddaughter. They are co-conspirators, struggling for some power and independence against everybody else. And this, of course, is the tie that binds young and old. Neither are permitted to be responsible for themselves. Naomi is not allowed to use her psychic powers to cheat fruit machines. Ladyma is not allowed to commit suicide.

I love the way Banerji chose to portray these family relationships through such a remarkably silly story. Plain and unvarnished truth is often painful but the pain is always blunted if the truth is presented through humour. The irony is that if we stopped bullying old people for long enough, they would be able to show us this. I finished reading Blood Precious with the sneaky feeling that both Ladyma and Banerji were having a gentle laugh at my expense, and y'know what? It was a good feeling.

Lady Cunningham Smythe (I would like to call her Ladyma, but I'm not that courageous) reminds me of my grandmother. She was fiercely intelligent, blunt and abrupt, and she lost all interest in anything other than a bottle of whisky after my grandfather died. She could always run rings around me too. She knew it and I knew it. Thank you, Sara Banerji, for bringing that feeling back to me.

Hilariously, Lady Cunningham Smythe has a page at MySpace where you and she can make each other's acquaintance. If she'll have you, that is. Fans of crime fiction need not apply. Students of human nature just might find their names on the list.

Thanks to the publisher, Transita, for sending the book.

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Magda said:

I liked the page on myspace. I'll seek this out.

On the more serious note, my experience is that power is in many ways connected to money: the old people who still hold the purse strings (or who chose to sit on the money their spouses might have left them) command significantly more power over not just their own lives but also the lives of others. As long as one keeps the Sister Ratcheds of the Social Services away, of course (I have a sneaky suspicion that the black lesbian daughter's lover might be nod towards that?).

Jill said:

Sorry, I gave it to my mother, else I'd have sent it on! You're a clever one, aren't you? The black lesbian daughter's lover is indeed said nurse figure! I don't know about the money thing - all the old people in my family (well, discounting my parents who aren't yet old as in old and infirm) have lived in council houses and been utterly dependent on state benefits or family handouts. But I think it's social freedom Ladyma wants - she wants to commit suicide, but her first attampt has been foiled. And as an old person, she is unable to obtain the means for a further attempt. Who would be prepared to buy her enough paracetamol? And if she managed to buy them, where would she hide them? Do other people go in YOUR knicker drawer? Only children and old people have non-private knicker drawers. Y'see what she means?

Magda said:

This is the best argument for acumulating some money in case I don't manage to get this successful stroke before I get infirm.

I think money helps, but also building certain distance and aloofness into one's life. A large detached house in couple of acres of garden also, I suppose. I simply cannot even start to imagine anyone going into my husbands' late grandmother's knicker drawer.

On the other hand, if *you* are suicidal or defined as insane in other ways you will also have people going through your underwear, regardless of age. And losing it in old age is probably the worst of the worst (one of my grndmothers had senile dementia for years before dying, the other had Alzheimer's and they were both looked after by family).

That's why an idea of a living will and assisted suicide appeals to me *personally* very much, though I am against legalisation in reality because of its massive potential for abuse and as a thin edge of a eugenics wedge, or something along these lines.