I read most of ‘The Blood of Others’ while intoxicated. I didn’t plan it that way; it just ended up happening. I’d just moved out of my friends’ dining room and into a real live apartment, and I had lots of space and silence to fill. I did that the best way I know how to: with lots of books and a bit of alcohol.
I’m pretty good at reading while drunk, so I can’t blame the vodka for the fact that I remember very little of the book’s midsection. Instead, I blame its angsty protagonista, Helene. She’s supposed to come off as spirited, but she only manages to be bitchy, demanding, and childish. There are already a wealth of uninteresting female leads out there, so having determined that Helene was one of them, I gave up and started skimming pages.
If you want the few plot points I managed to glean, though, here you go: Helene tries to manipulate some guy into being her One And Only. He tells her to leave him alone. In a storm of pouting, she goes out, gets really drunk, and ends up pregnant. (Not only is Helene boring, but she’s a terrible problem-solver.) The pregnancy gets complicated, Helene gets sick, and Mr. One And Only finds out and is overcome with guilt and decides he does love her after all. So they end up happily ever after, or as close as they can get with such a botched basis for a relationship.
Actually, Helene might die. I don’t remember. I don’t particularly care, either. I think at one point I found myself hoping she would.
Oh, and World War II is going on in the background. It’s almost not worth mentioning, but there are a few German invasions and some stuff about underground political parties. That part of the book could have been good, actually, but the author seemed to feel it was less interesting than the magnificent romance she was crafting. Or she was just using a wartime setting to add some depth to her novel, which is a pretty lame trick.
As a writer, though, Simone de Beauvoir isn’t hopeless or anything (if you can ignore the contrived romantic dialogues). She does kind of a cool thing with pronouns, switching perspective within paragraphs to give deeper insight into a character’s thoughts or motives. For example, she might start out by saying, “Sam walked into the room,” and then a few sentences later Sam becomes “I” and you start seeing the room through Sam’s eyes, which are now “my eyes.” It’s a bit complicated to describe and a bit more complicated to decipher at first, but it’s the one thing I liked about the novel.