The 1917 Bloodline
By Anthony James
Grosvenor Publishing House – £8.99
For such a small book, this most certainly traverses a wide expanse of John le Carre induced, Joseph Conradesque territory.
From love and lust the one minute, poetry and politics the next, espionage and empowerment the very next – The 1917 Bloodline weaves and bops and ducks and dives, as if a pugilist in (perplexed) pursuit of a wayward, tremulous catharsis. A catharsis of author Anthony James’ own design, which, although initially reticent, very soon becomes enveloped within that of the readers subliminal reckoning.
Indeed, the second chapter (of ten) already bequeaths the reader with an interior sense of political procrastination by way of prime protagonist, Alan Grahame (a middle-aged man who leads something of a rather clandestine life with an undeniable penchant for both whiskey and morality), silently exhorting: procrastinate now and by all means, panic later: ”Inside his thoughts he screamed: Don’t kick me again! Then gradually another voice asserted itself in his mind, so real that it might have been actually present as he wrenched at the twine around his wrists and gritted his teeth. In his mind a voice which was clipped and precise but gentle, tinged with an Eastern European accent said: The Party has a valid interest in watching all political developments in the part of Ireland occupied by British imperialism.”
In all, these 124 pages make for a concisely written novel by a fine author – whose previous books include The Happy Passion: A Personal View of Jacob Bronowski, Amputated Souls: The Psychiatric Assault on Liberty 1935-2011 and the most excellent Orwell’s Faded Lion: The Moral Atmosphere of Britain 1945-2015.
As mentioned at the outset of this review, The 1917 Bloodline invariably ticks many a box for many a reader of many a persuasion.
In the meantime, look out for what looks set to be another terrific book, Anthony James’ soon to be published The Iron-Heeled Century: Rereading Jack London.