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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Blood of Angels

Johanna Sinisalo

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To purchase The Blood of Angels

Title: The Blood of Angels
Author: Johanna Sinisalo
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 219 pages
Original in: Finnish
Availability: The Blood of Angels - US
The Blood of Angels - UK
The Blood of Angels - Canada
The Blood of Angels - India
Le sang des fleurs - France
  • Finnish title: Enkelten verta
  • Translated by Lola Rogers

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely balanced work of personal and larger loss

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Helsingin Sanomat . 13/10/2011 Juhani Karila
The Washington Post . 23/12/2014 Nancy Hightower

  From the Reviews:
  • "Keksintö on hyvä ja merkinnät uskottavia. Valitettavasti ne syövät elintilan tarinalta. Juonessa on tavaraa yhden tieteisnovellin tarpeisiin, mutta romaanille eväät eivät riitä." - Juhani Karila, Helsingin Sanomat

  • "(A) gorgeous, heartbreaking tale (.....) Part fantasy, part environmental dystopia, the novel explores our deepest fears about climate change and the endurance of human love." - Nancy Hightower, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Orvo, who narrates much of The Blood of Angels, is in the death-business: "Death is my profession. My approach to it is calm and composed", he explains. He operates the funeral home 'Port of Departure', and has made it into: "the local leader in the field". Orvo is also a beekeeper, and on the 'Day Zero' his account and the book begins he finds one of his hives empty, the queen dead. Set in a near future where Colony Collapse Disorder has become Colony Collapse Catastrophe and ravaged American agriculture (heavily dependent on pollination by bees, as is repeatedly made clear) -- there are food riots across the country, now spreading to Canada -- Finland has, so far, escaped this catastrophe, but Orvo worries that the dead queen and empty hive mean it might be coming here too.
       Orvo's account, going to 'Day Sixteen', alternates with chapters which present entries (and some of the comments) from two weblogs his son, Eero, had. Both are concerned with animal rights, as Eero blogged about animal rights issues, first at 'Eero the Animal's Blog' ("Ponderings on our relationship with animals") and then at the more militant 'Perfecting the Human Species' ("A blog about the Animalist Revolutionary Army and its activities").
       Day Zero is also when Eero gets killed while participating in an action directed against what he sees as the abuse of animals, and so The Blood of Angels is a book of mourning on a variety of levels: the entirely personal, as Orvo mourns and buries his son (handling the arrangements himself), as well as the more universal, with the deaths of the bees.
       Beyond mourning, it is also a novel of warning: both Eero's and the bee-deaths presented as symptomatic of society and humanity that has frayed and is no longer functioning; the deaths portend the greater one, of civilization itself, with man's maltreatment of animals and the environment as the root cause.
       Eero's blog is fact- and argument-heavy, presenting and discussing many the basic animal rights issues -- and (amusingly) complete with a sampling of the kinds of comments one can expect on the Internet. Eero's presentation is fairly measured and he tries to explain himself and his position calmly and rationally -- unlike some of those who leave comments --, but he eventually does move towards taking action.
       Orvo's account, too, is measured and calm, although the underlying sadness becomes more prominent as it becomes clear just what has happened. Orvo also discusses environmental issues, in speaking about his bees and what might lie behind the mystery of the apparent Colony Collapse Disorder, but he also addresses other issues, including the handling of death and the dead generally, from his professional perspective. Beyond that , the dead bee-queens (there is eventually more than one) become totems, and a key to the 'Other Side', an apparent alternate reality that opens up to him (whether as simple coping-mechanism hallucination or reality is left open for the reader to decide).
       It's all quite neatly done, and the balance between the deeply personal and the universal works very well. Mention of the American catastrophe suggests a dystopia, but the locale of the novel has Finland still -- just, perhaps -- safe and idyllic ground. Despite the grim events and Orvo's profession, Sinisalo handles death very well, too.
       There's a strong polemical element to The Blood of Angels, but in essentially compartmentalizing it, in Eero's blog-posts, Sinisalo avoids some of the pitfalls of the polemical novel. The message still comes across, very clearly, but doesn't drag the fiction down with it; her sure hand with Orvo's account makes for a very balanced -- in tone and feel -- and affecting story.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 February 2015

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The Blood of Angels: Reviews: Johanna Sinisalo: Other books by Johanna Sinisalo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo was born in 1958.

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