I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not impact the content of my review.
The Life and Deaths of Blanche Nero
by Ken Brigham
Published: August 1, 2016
Publisher: Secant Publishing
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback & eBook
Genre: Thriller & Suspense/Historical Fiction/Mystery
At fifteen, Blanche Nero watches the electrocution of her Italian immigrant father, punishment for the inexplicable brutal murder of his recently acquired friend Old Man Flaherty. She resolves to do something with her life that values humanity over justice, mercy over sacrifice. But she is forever haunted by the mystery of her father. She is also drawn irresistibly to the bigger human mysteries of violence and death.
After a grueling but successful academic career at some of the nationís finest university hospitals, Blanche is almost sixty. Her long career as a trauma surgeon at Charity Hospital in New Orleans has been abruptly ended by Hurricane Katrina. She takes a year sabbatical from the medical school and leases a small flat in Venice, seeking an understanding of her father in the place where he lived his formative years and of herself by reliving and recording her own remarkable life.
On a cold morning in Piazza San Marco, Blanche meets Count Lorenzo Ludovici (Ludo) an aging, elegant, and charming Venetian who is dying of AIDS. Blanche is drawn to him and is uncharacteristically self-revealing as he introduces her to his beautiful city. As their relationship develops and his health deteriorates, Blanche becomes ever more fond of the count.
As she relives her past by writing down what she remembers, she sees the girl she was and the woman she became with new eyes: the mystery of her fatherís death; her distant mother; her sometimes misguided adolescent efforts to grow up. And then discovering the thrill of medicine, especially the sensual thrill of trauma surgery and losing herself in that career, immersed in violence. She recalls her attempts at relationships, especially with Jesse Pinto, the one man whom she has ever loved, and how she ended that. She remembers her love affair with the Big Easy and Charity Hospital (the Big Free) that came suddenly to a violent end.
Through a series of painful and revealing conversations, Blanche and Ludo discover that each of them has private knowledge of interlocking pieces of their history.
3. 5 stars
The Life and Deaths of Blanche Nero is a story that is both elegant and disturbing, meandering and fast-paced. It is a coming of age story, but not in your typical sense. Blanche is nearly sixty and staying in Venice writing out her life story. While there she is discovering who she is and who her father was. She is learning what love is, and that it isn’t quite what she thought.
It took me a while to get into this book. But once I starting digging into it, I enjoyed it. The story is interesting, the characters are unique. Once I was reading, I didn’t want to stop reading. But once I set it down, I didn’t feel the urge to immediately jump back in. At times, the descriptions of medical training and surgical procedures made me uncomfortable, but they felt well researched and well written.
A melancholy story, full of angst, The Life and Deaths of Blanche Nero is a book that makes you think – about your life and what you know about where your family came from.
Blanche’s story is intertwined with her father’s and with her new friend Ludo’s. How they all connect and how she and Ludo ended up in Venice together is an intriguing mystery that unfolds over the course of the book. Overall, I liked it. It did feel a little too coincidental though. Read the book and we can chat about that.
Blanche isn’t the most lovable character. But I think that’s kind of the point. Ludo is sweet, but long-winded and his tendency toward opacity gets annoying. I do, however, really want to read a book about his formative years. He’s a really neat character and I want to know how he came to be that way. This book also made me want to learn more about Venice and Italy’s history during World War Two.
The Life and Deaths of Blanche Nero is not my typical read, but it is an engaging, though somber, personal look back on a woman’s life as she decides her next steps. They mystery of why her father did what he did threads through the novel and adds an important layer of depth to her strange choices and solemn life story.
About the Author
Ken Brigham is emeritus professor of medicine at Emory University. He is widely published in the scientific literature and has authored or coauthored two previous novels and two nonfiction books. He lives with his wife, Arlene Stecenko, in midtown Atlanta.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, June 12
Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, June 13
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Wednesday, June 14
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, June 16
Interview at Author Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, June 19
Review at Creating Herstory
Tuesday, June 20
Interview at Creating Herstory
Wednesday, June 21
Spotlight at The Book Junkie Reads
Friday, June 23
Review at Back Porchervations
Monday, June 26
Review at trishajennreads
Tuesday, June 27
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, June 30
Tour Wrap-Up at Passages to the Past
To win a paperback copy of The Life and Deaths of Blanche Nero, please enter via the Gleam form below.
- Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
- Giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only.
- Only one entry per household.
- All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
- Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.