Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce – A contemporary view of London life in law and relationships

A complex novel with a very blunt edge, Blood Orange is a sophisticated debut which is dominated by the brutally honest narrative of its main character, Alison. Giving an insight into the truth of the legal system and a view of the relationships between lawyers, this is also a timely book about the nature of difficult marriages. Set in the London of courts and chambers, this is a book of a place as well as characters who are portrayed as desperately human. A thriller based on human behaviour, this book has much to say about the life of women in the twenty first century, and the role of instant communication making life more complex. I was very grateful to be sent a copy of this gripping novel to read and review.

It would seem that Alison has got everything. She is a successful barrister, having just received instructions in her first murder case, to defend a woman, Madeleine, accused of stabbing her husband. She enjoys a drink with her colleagues on a Friday, including her instructing solicitor Patrick. It soon becomes obvious that they are in a physical if not romantic relationship. When she wakes up in the morning she is greeted by her six year old daughter, Matilda, and her disapproving husband Carl. It is immediately obvious that while she assumes that her relationship with Patrick is a secret, Carl has severe complaints about her drinking, working long hours and general behaviour towards their daughter. She is reminded of his disapproval as he shows her footage of her drunken singing at a family and friends’ dinner. As she continually promises herself that she will end her unequal relationship with Patrick and spend more time with Matilda, her situation becomes more complex. In the background Madeline is too composed as she seems determined to plead guilty to murder, and there are other professional challenges to cope with at work. Her attempts to improve her marriage seem ill fated, and even basic attempts at child care prove nearly impossible. On every front she is challenged, and she struggles to cope on a daily basis.

I really enjoyed this book, agreeing with other reviewers that there was a temptation to read it in one sitting. As a narrator Alison is honest, acknowledging her fears and weaknesses in the squalid nature of her encounters with Patrick and her constant guilt that she does not spend enough time with her daughter. Her professional life continues at a fast pace, and it is obvious that the author has real experience and insight into the life of a barrister in London, frequently dealing with the mundane and the real people in various courts. The situation in which Madeline finds herself has a particular resonance for our times, and that is a well handled element of this book. The writing style is fluid and seemingly effortless, coming from the heart, which is the mark of a really good novel. This is an honest if occasionally brutal read, sometimes a little shocking in its world view.  Well balanced, insightful and genuine, this is a book which I thoroughly recommend for all readers of contemporary fiction.

As the rain came down today, I realised how quickly we had got used to dry and even sunny weather. It came as a bit of a shock to have to wear a jacket! How has the weather been with you?