We have a lawyer and an affair both of which led me to believe that perhaps we would also have a story in the vein of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty but apart from both featuring a piece of fruit in the title there wasn’t an awful lot that the two had in common.
Anyway in Blood Orange we have Alison a woman who has the high-powered job, a husband, Carl, a young daughter, Mathilde, and a lover, Patrick … and to top it all off she has finally got her very first murder case to take to trial.
And I suppose this is the crux of the problem I had with the book. Harriet Tyce practiced as a criminal barrister for over a decade, she therefore has the knowledge to bring realism into the fictional scenes surrounding her defence of a Madeline Smith who is accused of killing her husband. Sadly most of this aspect of the book is overtaken by Alison’s car-crash of a personal life.
Alison is what is termed a ‘flawed’ character and I partly blame myself for ignoring this flag when choosing a new book to buy because while I can enjoy a novel even if I don’t like a character, I’m not nearly as keen on those who act against their own perceived best interests. I am fairly confident that in real life you have to be smart and strong to become a barrister, Alison appeared to be neither – the fact that the scenes with her lover took submission to a whole new level could be potentially be excused as part of a type of relationship but she was a pathetic mother, a whiny wife and yet did nothing to improve any facet of her home life. Instead the only thing Alison seemed good at was drinking and sadly I don’t find that fun to witness, or even read about.
So that’s what I found less than convincing but I did read the entire book in part to find how the trial went for Madeline, and to see whether Alison could stop her self-destructive behaviour long enough to see how toxic most of the people in her life were. So while the psychological angle wasn’t quite what I expected this was a study of deeply troubled people and could be a text book study of all the varied abusive relationships to be encountered.
This is one dark book and perhaps if I’d been fully prepared for just how dark it was going to be, I would have approached it with a different mind-set and possibly enjoyed it more as a result.