Skip to main content

A Love Like Blood


A Love Like Blood

Marcus Sedgwick is best known as the author of award-winning young adult novels such as FLOODLAND and MIDWINTERBLOOD, which won the prestigious Printz Award in 2014. His books for young people are often dark and atmospheric, filled with vivid images and packed with horror, beauty and suspense. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that in his adult debut, A LOVE LIKE BLOOD, Sedgwick turns to a classic subgenre of horror fiction: the vampire story.

Stretching over the span of 25 years in the middle of the 20th century, Sedgwick's novel opens with a horrifying vignette that is likely to haunt readers (almost) as much as it haunts Sedgwick's protagonist. Charles Jackson, a young medic in the British military during World War II, finds himself in Paris just days after its liberation. There, in a remote neighborhood, he is drawn to a concrete bunker, in which he sees a man --- completely shamelessly --- apparently drinking the blood of an attractive young woman. Jackson finds the scene horrific, of course, but also fascinating and perhaps even erotic. The image stays with him for years afterwards.

"Stretching over the span of 25 years in the middle of the 20th century, Sedgwick's novel opens with a horrifying vignette that is likely to haunt readers (almost) as much as it haunts Sedgwick's protagonist."

When Jackson returns to Paris a few years later for a conference (he is now, coincidentally, a doctor specializing in hematology, or the study of blood-related diseases), he inexplicably finds himself back in that same neighborhood, where he sees the same man in the company of a beautiful young woman to whom Charles is immediately attracted. He befriends Marian, but when he attempts to warn her about the man, she retreats --- and eventually disappears under mysterious circumstances.

Over the next 15 years, Jackson becomes increasingly obsessed with his wartime memories as well as with what happened to Marian. His quest will take him back to France and Italy, and to witness some truly dark rituals. Once he begins to approach the truth, he may lose everything in his drive to find answers --- and to take revenge.

What's interesting about Sedgwick's first foray into adult literature is that, in many ways, his prose is more straightforward and his storytelling less sophisticated than it is in many of his books for teens. He certainly ups the sex and violence quotient here, but the novel otherwise reads like a quite conventional, even old-fashioned, horror story, albeit one filled with beautiful, if at times disturbing, prose: "I began to fail to see people as people. They were bodies, in which the blood was contained in veins; the existence of their minds inside their heads seemed to have disappeared or me; they were not people, but merely walking flesh and blood, and I feared for them all."

Occassionally (and also like some old-time genre fiction), A LOVE LIKE BLOOD offers some too-easy coincidences that help make the plot work --- Jackson comes into a great deal of money just when he needs it most, for example --- but readers of vampire fiction are, after all, probably predisposed to suspend disbelief on at least some levels. Jackson's motivations are also not always rational, but given that obsession is one of Sedgwick's themes here, that irrationality eventually begins to make a lot more sense, as Jackson himself loses sight of nearly everything, except blood, of course.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 27, 2015

A Love Like Blood
by Marcus Sedgwick