Blood Ties

Blood Ties

by Jennifer Lash
     
 

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Set mainly in Ireland, Jennifer Lash's dark, exhilarating novel is about the redemptive power of love. It tells of Violet Farr and her loveless marriage, her wild, unfathomable son and his illegitimate son, all of them bound together in a repeating pattern of exile and homecoming, rejection and, finally, acknowledgement and love. As Elizabeth Buchan wrote in the

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Overview

Set mainly in Ireland, Jennifer Lash's dark, exhilarating novel is about the redemptive power of love. It tells of Violet Farr and her loveless marriage, her wild, unfathomable son and his illegitimate son, all of them bound together in a repeating pattern of exile and homecoming, rejection and, finally, acknowledgement and love. As Elizabeth Buchan wrote in the London Times, "Jennifer Lash is a Lawrentian in so far as she mines her material for the blood and thunder roaring between spouses, and between parents and children."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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, cliche-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.
Library Journal
That love makes things bloom while its lack blights may seem a cliche, 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
Kirkus Reviews
A Lawrentian richness of event and language mark this final novel by Lash (From May to October, 1981, etc.), who died in 1993. Here, as in Lash's five other novels, is a fascination with the often painful and always complex dynamics of family life and the ways families can both damn and save people. Dominating the story is the flinty, Anglo-Irish, intensely proper Violet Farr, who lives with her odd, diffident husband Cecil in Tipperary, where she struggles to keep up appearances and maintain a ramshackle Mansion. Violet tolerates Cecil's presence as long as he makes few demands ("the hall barometer was his only real possession") and keeps his homosexuality hidden. Unsurprisingly, their son Lumsden, the result of an infrequent coupling, is a disappointment to Violet, both too needy and too quietly defiant. Heþs sent off to boarding school, and when he returns home at age 17, it's no great shock to Violet that he has an uncontrolled taste for alcohol and a suspiciously intense interest in younger girls. Uncovered in compromising circumstances by the local priest (himself uncomfortably aroused by what he witnesses), Lumsden is packed off for good, and for some years Violet's rigidly plotted life follows its usual course—until it's disrupted and then altered forever by the arrival of eight-year-old Spencer, the profoundly unhappy offspring of Lumsden and a hapless barmaid. Violet suspects the worst—Spencer is, after all, his father's child—and when circumstances suggest his guilt in a disturbing incident, she banishes him just as she had his father. Tragedy follows, but, thanks to the efforts of some benign strangers, Spencer does gain a slender chance athappiness. Lash's determination to plumb the wayward psychology of her characters, and her belief in the pitiless influence of will and appetite on life, turn an otherwise unsurprising story into something strange and unsettling. Some may find the language rich and at times too hectic, but the power and originality of Lash's vision overrides the occasional rough spots.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582340333
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
07/16/1999
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Lash wrote her first novel, The Burial, at the age of twenty three in 1961, and this was followed by four more during the next twenty years. She married Mark Fiennes, and with their six children they moved between Suffolk, Wiltshire, Ireland, and London. In 1986 she learned she had cancer and, after a painful operation, embarked upon a solitary pilgrimage through France to Santiago de Compostela, a journey about which she wrote in her book On Pilgrimage. Throughout her illness she continues to write, leaving Blood Ties, perhaps her finest work, behind. She died in 1993.

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