By Blood: A Novel

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By Blood: A Novel

by Ellen Ullman

Farrar, Straus And Giroux | November 7, 2013 | Hardcover

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The award-winning writer returns with a major, absorbing, atmospheric novel that takes on the most dramatic and profoundly personal subject matter
San Francisco in the 1970s. Free love has given way to radical feminism, psychedelic ecstasy to hard-edged gloom. The Zodiac Killer stalks the streets. A disgraced professor takes an office in a downtown tower to plot his return. But the walls are thin and he's distracted by voices from next door-his neighbor is a psychologist, and one of her patients dislikes the hum of the white-noise machine. And so he begins to hear about the patient's troubles with her female lover, her conflicts with her adoptive, avowedly WASP family, and her quest to track down her birth mother. The professor is not just absorbed but enraptured. And the further he is pulled into the patient's recounting of her dramas-and the most profound questions of her own identity-the more he needs the story to move forward. The patient's questions about her birth family have led her to a Catholic charity that trafficked freshly baptized orphans out of Germany after World War II. But confronted with this new self- "I have no idea what it means to say 'I'm a Jew'"-the patient finds her search stalled. Armed with the few details he's gleaned, the professor takes up the quest and quickly finds the patient's mother in records from a German displaced-persons camp. But he can't let on that he's been eavesdropping, so he mocks up a reply from an adoption agency the patient has contacted and drops it in the mail. Through the wall, he hears how his dear patient is energized by the news, and so is he. He unearths more clues and invests more and more in this secret, fraught, triangular relationship: himself, the patient, and her therapist, who is herself German. His research leads them deep into the history of displaced-persons camps, of postwar Zionism, and-most troubling of all-of the Nazi Lebensborn program. With ferocious intelligence and an enthralling, magnetic prose, Ellen Ullman weaves a dark and brilliant, intensely personal novel that feels as big and timeless as it is sharp and timely. It is an ambitious work that establishes her as a major writer.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 384 Pages, 6.3 × 9.06 × 1.18 in

Published: November 7, 2013

Publisher: Farrar, Straus And Giroux

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0374117551

ISBN - 13: 9780374117559

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

By Blood: A Novel

By Blood: A Novel

by Ellen Ullman

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 384 Pages, 6.3 × 9.06 × 1.18 in

Published: November 7, 2013

Publisher: Farrar, Straus And Giroux

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0374117551

ISBN - 13: 9780374117559

About the Book

An award-winning writer returns with a major, absorbing, atmospheric novel that takes on the most dramatic and profoundly personal subject matter--San Francisco in the 1970s. With ferocious intelligence and an enthralling, magnetic prose, Ullman weaves a dark and brilliant, intensely personal novel that feels as big and timeless as it is sharp and timely.

Read from the Book

BY BLOOD (Chapter 1) I did not cause her any harm. This was a great victory for me. At the end of it, I was a changed man. I am indebted to her; it was she who changed me, although I never learned her name. My involvement with the young woman in question began several years ago, in the late summer of 1974, while I was on leave from the university. I sought to secure for myself a small office in the downtown business district of San Francisco, where I intended to prepare a series of lectures about The Eumenides—The Kindly Ones—the third play in Aeschylus’s great trilogy. A limited budget brought me to the edge of a rough, depressed neighborhood. And my first sighting of the prospective office building—eight begrimed gargoyles crouched beneath the parapet, their eyes eaten away by time—nearly caused me to retrace my steps. Yet there was no question of my turning back. Immediately upon my arrival in San Francisco, a month earlier, a great gloom had descended upon me. I had arranged my leave in great haste; I knew no one in the area. And it must have been this isolation that had engendered in me a particularly obdurate spell of the nervous condition to which I had been subject since boyhood. Although I was then a grown man of fifty years, the illness, as ever, cast me back into the dark emotions of my preadolescence, as if I remained unchanged the desperate boy of twelve I had been. Indeed, the very purpose of the office was to act as a counterweight
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From the Publisher

The award-winning writer returns with a major, absorbing, atmospheric novel that takes on the most dramatic and profoundly personal subject matter
San Francisco in the 1970s. Free love has given way to radical feminism, psychedelic ecstasy to hard-edged gloom. The Zodiac Killer stalks the streets. A disgraced professor takes an office in a downtown tower to plot his return. But the walls are thin and he's distracted by voices from next door-his neighbor is a psychologist, and one of her patients dislikes the hum of the white-noise machine. And so he begins to hear about the patient's troubles with her female lover, her conflicts with her adoptive, avowedly WASP family, and her quest to track down her birth mother. The professor is not just absorbed but enraptured. And the further he is pulled into the patient's recounting of her dramas-and the most profound questions of her own identity-the more he needs the story to move forward. The patient's questions about her birth family have led her to a Catholic charity that trafficked freshly baptized orphans out of Germany after World War II. But confronted with this new self- "I have no idea what it means to say 'I'm a Jew'"-the patient finds her search stalled. Armed with the few details he's gleaned, the professor takes up the quest and quickly finds the patient's mother in records from a German displaced-persons camp. But he can't let on that he's been eavesdropping, so he mocks up a reply from an adoption agency the patient has contacted and drops it in the mail. Through the wall, he hears how his dear patient is energized by the news, and so is he. He unearths more clues and invests more and more in this secret, fraught, triangular relationship: himself, the patient, and her therapist, who is herself German. His research leads them deep into the history of displaced-persons camps, of postwar Zionism, and-most troubling of all-of the Nazi Lebensborn program. With ferocious intelligence and an enthralling, magnetic prose, Ellen Ullman weaves a dark and brilliant, intensely personal novel that feels as big and timeless as it is sharp and timely. It is an ambitious work that establishes her as a major writer.

About the Author

Ellen Ullman is the author of a novel, The Bug, a New York Times Notable Book and runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the cult classic memoir Close to the Machine, based on her years as a rare female computer programmer in the early years of the personal computer era. She lives in San Francisco.

Editorial Reviews

“Smart, slippery . . . Ullman arranges her players efficiently. But what astounds is how she binds them to one another . . . It’s a narrative striptease. And Ullman has such fun with it.” — Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review “A thrilling page-turner of a book . . . Book clubs of America, take note. By Blood is what you should be reading. Ullman is someone we all should be reading.” — Ed Siegel, Newsday “What is most distinctive about Ullman’s voice . . . is the way it sounds fully formed, mature both intellectually and emotionally.” — Jenny Davidson, Slate “Like analysis, [ By Blood ] has urgency—as if, by talking and talking, a solution will be found. Like history, it extends in all directions . . . Like the best novels, it’s irresistible—twisty-turny, insightful, revelatory—funny when it’s tragic, and complicated when it’s funny.” — Minna Proctor, NPR.org “A literary inquiry into identity and legacy . . . A gripping mystery . . . The storytelling is compelling and propulsive . . . Ullman is also a careful stylist.” — Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times “Rewarding . . . Deepy, lengthy and rewarding therapy is as close as most people get to reading their lives as a novel. Here is a novel that offers itself as a deepy, lengthy and rewarding version of a therapy. The memory of reading it remains quite intense.” —
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