Blood Tender A novel overflowing by etssetcf


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gravel driveway. The cottage was just off        flat and ridiculous by now, like a wet lily          Blood Tender
the main road out of Harting and was the         pad on her head.                                     Rachel Ingrams
largest in the village. Through the dripping       ‘I’ve come about the position, Miss.’              Tindal Street Press
beech hedge, she caught glimpses of the            ‘Position?’

place. It was red brick, and had exposed           ‘Is your mother — is Madam in?’                           lood Tender is
beams, like many in the village, but the           ‘Who?’                                                   the first novel by
front door was crimson, with a long stained-       ‘Madam — Mrs Steinberg, Miss.’                           Rachel Ingrams. It’s
glass panel of all colours, much brighter          The girl frowned and chewed. ‘I don’t              a story about personal
and swirlier than anything Kitty had seen        know,’ she said, not letting the strand of hair      choice, love and loss.
in church, and obviously new. There was a        drop from her mouth. ‘What have you got              Marlena has duel identity, being both
large garage at the end of the drive, from       behind your back?’                                   Italian and British. She is working in a strip
which a loud chuckchuck noise was coming.           Kitty glanced down at the girl’s dirty knees.     club in Catania, Sicily while her damaged
Kitty recognised the sound: there’d been         She was wearing a very short and ill-fitting         past holds many secrets.
an electricity generator at the Macklows’,       tulle skirt with an orange cardigan.                   One night, she has a brief encounter with
where she’d worked as a kitchen maid after         ‘I found it on the front lawn, Miss.’ Kitty held   Jula, whose Romany ancestry transforms
leaving school, too.                             the shoe out to the girl, who shrugged.              Marlena’s life. She’s drawn into a chilling
  As she approached the house, Kitty               ‘That’s been there for ages,’ she said.            relationship with Paulo and his psychotic
noticed a woman’s round-toed shoe on the            Kitty let her arm drop. ‘Have I come to the       friends, caught between crossfire and anti-
front lawn, its high heel skewed in the mud.     right place?’                                        gypsy prejudice and right-wing politics.
Bending down, she tugged it free. It was           ‘I don’t know.’ The girl bent down and             She befriends a Romany woman, and
quite large for a woman’s shoe, and the sole     scooped up the dog, which buried itself in           through their friendship she learns more
                                                                                                      about herself.
                                                                                                        After leaving Catania to find Jula, their
 “No one else will answer that advert, knowing who she is,’ Lou                                       relationship blossoms, but his creepy
                                                                                                      brother and difficult mother put many
had said. ‘And I’ll bet they want one person to do it all: cooking                                    strains on the relationship.
and skivvying both.”                                                                                    Blood Tender is an excellent read, with
                                                                                                      bits of dialogue in Italian, it has a real
was shiny with wear. The inside was soft          her hair and began licking her ear.                 authenticity and compelling plot. A highly
cream leather, the outside brilliant green         ‘There was a notice, in the Herald. For a          recommended read.
and scuffed. She tapped it on the stones          plain cook, Miss.’                                                                Cherie Federico
to remove some of the mud, then walked              Rain was dripping into Kitty’s collar now.
around to the back of the house.                  She tried to see into the kitchen, but the girl
  Squinting through the rain, Kitty could see     shifted and blocked Kitty’s view.                   The Invention of
a stream and a line of willow trees at the end     ‘Ellen never said anything to me.’                 Everything Else
of the garden, before which was some kind          ‘Perhaps I’d better be going.’                     Samantha Hunt
of building that looked like a tiny house.          The girl stared at Kitty for a moment. Her        Harvill Secker
Plants seemed to be everywhere, spilling          eyes were startlingly blue.

over the paths without any apparent order;         ‘But then, she never tells us anything,                   novel overflowing
the large lawn needed a cut. Amongst              does she Blotto?’ She kissed the dog on his                with an array of
the daffodils, Kitty caught a glimpse of a        nose and was licked right up her forehead.                 different forms of
woman’s rain-streaked backside, sculpted         ‘My name’s Regina, but that’s horrible so            love, The Invention of
in stone.                                         everyone calls me Geenie, and this is Blotto,       Everything Else follows
  She straightened her beret, tried to comb       he’s a miniature schnauzer, which is a very         Nikola Tesla, a real-life eccentric inventor
out the ends of her hair with her fingers,        good breed of dog.’                                 living out his final days in the brilliant art
and knocked at the back door.                      ‘I think I’ve made a mistake.’                     deco Hotel New Yorker. An exceptional mind
  Immediately there was a series of high            She’d be dripping all the way back on the         who gave us radio and AC electricity, the
yaps, and when the door opened, a little          bus by the time it came.                            Serbian scientist has long been forgotten,
grey dog with large ears, a straggly beard         ‘Geenie! Who’s there?’                             leading a solitary life of reflection about his
and black eyes jumped at Kitty’s legs. Kitty        So she was American.                              failure to believe in love.
stooped to scratch its head. When she was          ‘She won’t tell me her name and she’s got            Enter Louisa Dewell, a hotel chambermaid
very young, her father had owned a docile         your shoe.’                                         drawn to Tesla by their shared love of
Jack Russell, who’d never minded the sisters        A tall woman came to the door. She was            pigeons. With a father mourning his dead
dressing him up in bonnet and bootees.            wearing an embroidered red jacket and               wife and a new acquaintance who claims
The grey dog caught hold of Kitty’s cuff and      wide-legged mauve slacks. Her hair waved            to know her closely, Louisa too feels
gently licked the rain from its edge.             above her high forehead and was the colour          dislocated from society, questioning the
 ‘Don’t mind Blotto, he gets excited with         of brown bread. She wore no jewellery. Her          nature of relationships. The alternate voices
strangers.’ A tall girl of about twelve stood     nose was huge; the end of it looked like a          of Tesla and Dewell’s narration ensure
in the doorway, chewing a piece of her long       large radish. She blinked at Kitty.                 that historical anecdote unites with rich
blonde hair. ‘Who are you and why didn’t           ‘What’s your name, please?’                        imaginative discourse to create a dazzling
you knock on the front door?’                      ‘Allen, Madam, Kate — Kitty — Allen. I’ve          tale set against a gritty mid-century
  Kitty straightened and held the shoe            come about…’                                        New York City, which pays homage to an
behind her back, suddenly worried that the          The woman stuck out a hand and Kitty              underappreciated genius. The Invention
girl would think she was stealing. The rain       met it with the shoe.                               of Everything Else is a great read for the
was coming down harder and she hadn’t              ‘What’s that?’                                     summer holidays.
brought her umbrella. Her beret must look          ‘It’s been on the lawn for ages,’ said Geenie.                                    Rachel Nardiello


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