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The Bloodstone Papers: A Novel
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The Bloodstone Papers: A Novel

by Glen Duncan
 

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Ross Monroe is a boxing railwayman with a weakness for get-rich-quick schemes. Kate Lyle is a headstrong young woman desperate to escape a nightmarish household. As mid-century India sheds its colonial skin and the shadow of violence rises, these young lovers find themselves facing their own "tryst with destiny."

In twenty-first-century London, Owen Monroe is

Overview

Ross Monroe is a boxing railwayman with a weakness for get-rich-quick schemes. Kate Lyle is a headstrong young woman desperate to escape a nightmarish household. As mid-century India sheds its colonial skin and the shadow of violence rises, these young lovers find themselves facing their own "tryst with destiny."

In twenty-first-century London, Owen Monroe is writing this story of his parents' lives in an effort to avoid the problems in his own. But keeping past and present apart isn't easy, and before long Owen is deep in the one story he never wanted to tell....

Editorial Reviews

The Independent on Sunday
‘Richly satisfying. Duncan manages to fuse racial and personal dislocation beautifully in this long, seductive narrative....A terrific yarn.’
The Guardian
“An appallingly intelligent writer”
Arena
Superb...Perhaps this book will finally bring him the mainstream recognition he deserves.
Alfred Hickling
[A] sprawling, ambitious work…it loops back and forth through history with remarkable lucidity… ultimately very moving.’
The Independenton Sunday
‘Richly satisfying. Duncan manages to fuse racial and personal dislocation beautifully in this long, seductive narrative....A terrific yarn.’
Liesl Schillinger
Oh, what a character is Skinner! George Skinner—also known as Nelson Edwards—author of a sari-ripper called "Raj Rogue" (the adventures of a "sort of X-rated criminal Bond of the Raj") is an ace practitioner of the slipperiest form of "masculine seduction," the con. Skinner's guile runs like a magnetic seam through The Bloodstone Papers, compelling our attention, setting our curiosity atingle.
—The New York Times Book Review
Dinita Smith
The Bloodstone Papers is an intriguing depiction of the complexities of dual identity…despite the novel's flaws, the relationship between father and son, and the story's ending, are models of a grand forgiveness, of a vision large and big-hearted. You keep on reading, fascinated by the descriptions of colonial India, and by the quandary of the Anglo-Indians' unstable, porous identity. It's of course an increasing predicament of globalization, and it's one of contemporary fiction's great themes.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

A listless part-time teacher and writer of pornographic novels helps his elderly father quench a decades-old thirst for revenge in Duncan's sixth novel (after Death of an Ordinary Man). Anglo-Indian narrator Owen Monroe, long accustomed to his quasi-bohemian lifestyle in contemporary London, has been hearing from his father, Ross, for years about the devious Skinner, the English con man who, decades before, ruined Ross's Olympic boxing dreams. Though Skinner disappeared, Ross has never given up hope of finding him, but it is Owen's chance discovery in a library (a novel by a pseudonymous author Owen and Ross believe to be Skinner) that finally gives them a lead. Posing as a literary scholar, Owen tries to arrange an interview with the author, but ends up instead in bed (repeatedly) with the author's daughter, Janet. As Owen continues his investigation, Duncan cuts back to pre- and post-partition India, where Ross, a railroad worker, first encounters Skinner and eventually becomes unwisely involved in a scheme to boost freight from a train Ross and his longtime friend Eugene work on. The plan's consequences are far-reaching for all involved and propel the novel toward a surprisingly anticlimactic conclusion. Though the narrative sometimes feels coyly deceptive, Duncan's polished, merciless and frequently hilarious prose supplies a trove of pleasures all its own. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A talky, pleasing generational novel of divided worlds, blending postmodern conceits with old-fashioned whodunit conventions. Owen Monroe is a writer and slacker of dissolute tendencies, better versed in Shiraz vintages and American sitcoms than in history. "I can forgive America anything for these girls it produces," he sighs, ogling a rerun of Supergirl. Yet, now that his Anglo-Indian parents, born of two cultures and peoples, are aging, Owen is paying more attention to them, visiting their suburban home for "moreish nibbles of my parents' lost past-gathia, choora and seo-followed by a lunch of korma (the dry South Indian version, not the curry house's coconut jism) with pepper-water and plain Dehra Dun rice." His parents are talking and now Owen's listening as, fragment by fragment, their story unfolds: a courtship fraught with difficulty, Ross Monroe's failed career as a prizefighter, his more successful ventures as the victim of an elaborate con game that liberates from him his most prized possession, his mother's bloodstone ring, "green chalcedony with blood-like spots of jasper." The liberator is a jutted-chin Brit out of Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King," whom Ross will meet again-and so will Owen. The aptly named Mr. Skinner is but one of Ross's problems, as Owen learns as he gets deeper into a book project about the Cheechees, the Anglo-Indians of the last generation before Indian independence. Owen's own life is not without dramas, if sometimes vicarious ones, that sometimes rather too neatly fall in parallel with those of the narrative he is pursuing. But then, as Owen explains, "Destiny, like truth, never really surprises; some Chomskyan grammar is there to receive it."Tracking those parallels leads to some surprises, as well as a shaggy-dog false ending that gives way to a more satisfying payoff. A vigorous roman a ghee, reminiscent at turns of Vikram Seth, Zadie Smith and Douglas Coupland.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061239670
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/29/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Bloodstone Papers

Chapter One

Nowadays

(Bolton and London, 2004)

We don't remember everything. Just enough to make it difficult.

'You know the story,' Pasha says, not seeing the problem. 'So what is there to tell it? You start at the beginning, go through the middle, then get to the end.'

The two of us sit whisky-loosened in opposite armchairs after Sunday lunch in the retirement flat in Bolton. I make my pilgrimage there once a month bearing Johnnie Walker Black Label (my dad's switched from Bushmills) and an increasingly unconvincing air of being happy and in control of my life in London, land of News at Ten and, by extension, imminent terrorist attack. My mum's in the kitchen, 'getting the washing-up ready' for me, since I, dutiful son, insist on doing it, which consists of her doing the washing-up, then pretending she hasn't. For her that's part of the order of things, along with the pizzazz of Gene Kelly, the unimpeachability of Marks & Spencer and the vandalization of Bolton by its own smoking, swearing and spitting infant yobs, who before we know it will be beating pensioners to death for three pounds forty-seven because they're not one bit frightened of jail. I used to throw my hands up at such mantras, patiently and with self-congratulation bring forth undergraduate liberal arguments like exquisite bits of origami. She loved it, that education had worked. I used to romance her with reasoning; it kept us in mutually flirtatious cahoots. These days—paying tax, flagging halfway through novels, sleeping with a claw-hammer under the pillow—I make a flaccid noncommittal face and let itgo. This, as much as anything, tips her off that All is Not Well with Her Son.

It's been a good day. Eleven o'clock mass (my monthly faithless gesture for them; there's a shift in their aura come Communion but I remain empewed and kneeling, face averted), then back to the flat for gold and ruby booze: three wets of Black Label for me and the old man, a long Sandeman's port and lemon for my mum, drinks accompanied by the moreish nibbles of my parents' lost past—gathia, choora and seo—followed by a lunch of korma (the dry South Indian version, not the curry house's coconut jism) with pepper-water and plain Dehra Dun rice. Fresh Pakistani sucking mangos—velvety ovoids in flamy yellows and reds that always look extraterrestrial to me—with Walls soft scoop vanilla ice cream to round off. (I've come home to sublime wifely vanilla after years of whoring with mint choc chip and rum and raisin. In all sorts of ways I'm accepting my youth has gone.) Eating temporarily over, the Black Label's out again.

The air indoors holds its ghosts of chilli and tamarind, but the window's open, letting in the exhalation of mown lawns from the tiny council-house gardens across the road, as well as the Boltonian base note of exhaust fumes and old brick. They're built in war zones, these Sheltered Housing schemes. Cheap land. Retirees get to spend their Autumn Years marooned in a sea of paupers, drunks, hookers and thugs. Last month, walking back after midnight from a depressing get-together with an old St Cuthbert's schoolmate (miserably divorced and mercilessly alimonied, looking straight into a nicotine future of brightly lit pubs and quality porn), I was hello loved on Barrow Lane by a bleach blonde prostitute in a purple vinyl mac and white stilettos. She was fat-calved, with a thick porous face and lashes mascara'd up into tarantulas. Lust began its scurry like a match catching—my loins are of an age and jadedness to be ignited by the poor, the half ugly, the too young, the too old—then checked: these are the streets my parents walk. Chastened, I shook my head in furious refusal and trudged on, disappointed that she didn't persist.

The old man and I are discussing, for the umpteenth time, The Book. There is the other thing to discuss, our Secret Business, but the drink's made him forget. I'll have to find a way of reminding him before I go, or there will be hushed clandestine calls from the downstairs communal payphone, the recent digitalization of which confounds him. My train leaves Manchester at seven; we have only a couple of hours.

'You know the story,' he says again. 'You know all the stories.'

'Yes, but it's not just a question of knowing the stories.'

'Thenwhat?'

Quite. Thenwhat. In the Anglo-Indian—or Eurasian or East Indian or Half-caste or Mongrel or Pariah or Cheechee or Chutney Mary, depending on your angle—idiom, which is to say our idiom, this 'Thenwhat?' means: then tell me in what way it's not just a question of knowing the stories, dunderhead. I, when it comes to the business of The Book, am the dunderhead. They were born before The Camps, The Bomb, The Moon, The Ozone, The Internet, The End of History. For them the big things don't change: God, Fate, Love, Time, Beginnings, Endings. Good and Evil. Therefore my difficulty. The Book is to be their story. I've toyed with The Big Things Don't Change as an ironic title. Also, since I share Keri Hume's weakness for portent, The Beige People. Pasha, who likes to get to the indelicate quick of things, prefers Mixed Blood. I can't quite bring myself to reveal the latest working title, The Cheechee Papers.

'Whatall do you need to know? Ask me. I remember everything.' He claims I've inherited my superhuman memory from him. (It's been a lifelong problem for me, remembering everything. What restaurant in Manchester? Maude or Melissa or Carl will ask. The one with the Chinese waiter with the Hitler tash. Christ, you can't possibly have forgotten. But they have. My sisters, my brother, even Mater and Pater. If I relied on their powers of recollection I'd end up convinced half the details of my past were dreams or imaginings.)

The Bloodstone Papers. Copyright © by Glen Duncan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Alfred Hickling
[A] sprawling, ambitious work…it loops back and forth through history with remarkable lucidity… ultimately very moving.’

Meet the Author

Glen Duncan is the critically acclaimed author of six previous novels, including Death of an Ordinary Man; I, Lucifer; and, most recently, The Bloodstone Papers. He lives in London.

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