In Bloodprint, Kitty Sewell shows society as dark, seamy, and sordid. Her subject matter deals with dysfunctional families, white slavery, and serial killers. Interestingly, she paints London as a hotbed of nastiness, and Key West as paradise – if you overlook the drinking, sex, and Santeria*.
Sewell purposefully designed very unlikable protagonists. The primary protagonist of the story, Madeleine Frank, comes from a totally dysfunctional family. She became pregnant at the age of 16, about the same time as her family moved from Key West to Bath, England. Four years later her parents divorce, and she moves back to Key West. Madeleine’s mother Rosaria takes over raising Madeleine’s daughter. Rosaria, the Santeria priestess, goes crazy, and her granddaughter is adopted.
Fast forward 20 years, and Madeleine is back in Bath as a practicing psychotherapist, and her life is still messed up. She suffers from guilt for allowing her daughter to be adopted. She hangs out with the “wrong” kind of men drinking, carousing the bars, and having unprotected sex. She visits a serial killer in prison, and her mother Rosaria has been institutionalized. Madeleine’s father Neville has millions of pounds from selling his artwork, so Rosaria is in a very nice institution. Madeleine’s business partner is a homosexual, and her boyfriend is a louse.
The secondary protagonist, Rachel, turned to prostitution and drugs at the age of 18. She has a mean streak a mile wide, but she also has a soft spot. She had a child with her sadistic Russian gangster ex-boyfriend who refuses to stay ex. He and his brother just happen to run a white slavery business with girls from Eastern Europe. Rachel seeks out a psychotherapist, Madeleine, to help her overcome her sexual infatuation with the gangster.
The story includes several threads occurring at different points in time. Sewell puts text relating to past events in italics. As mentioned above, she has two protagonists being developed concurrently as well as their history. Some readers may find this difficult and confusing. This made the early part of the book a bit sluggish, but the tempo increased, making for a suspenseful read.
Bloodprint is not a young adult novel, nor is it for the easily offended. It is a book dealing with the harsh realities of a world that has little respect for women. Some may find this story off color and offensive, and choose not to read it. However, white slavery does exist in our society, and hiding from it doesn’t make it disappear. I applaud Kitty Sewell for telling this story and telling it well. In an interview on her web site, Sewell says she did not intend to write a social criticism of the sex trade, but she feels very strongly about sexual slavery, and it came through in her writing.
In comparing the book to her interview, one thing that stands out is a good portion of the book came from Kitty’s real life experience. She is a native of Sweden and currently splits her residence between Wales and Spain. She has also lived in Canada and England. In doing research for this book, she visited Key West, where she encountered Santeria. She found it interesting enough to do further research, and incorporate it in her book. She has worked as a psychotherapist in South Wales. While there she had an opportunity to work with several young prostitutes that provided background material for the book. Kitty also paints and creates sculpture, both of which she incorporated into the book.
While Bloodprint was a difficult read, it was also an enjoyable one. It dealt with difficult subject matter that some may choose to stay away from, but if they did, they would miss a good book. Bloodprint was released in paperback on February 9, 2010.
*Santeria is a religion of mixed heritage. It is based on Yoruba, a religion brought over from West Africa by slaves to the Caribbean. In the Caribbean the religion morphed into a somewhat occult based religion with animal sacrifice and the casting of spells for healing or for injury.