Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Maureen Howard in a 1980 New York Times book review calls Innocent Blood "a novel clear and true . . . a quest for personal identity, of irrational love and strain of duty between parents and children, husband and wife." Inspired by a newspaper account which James read as a consequence of the Children's Act of 1975, which permitted adopted children eighteen years or older to know the identity of their real parents, Innocent Blood explores one of the worst possible situations. In this story, an insecure but independent minded eighteen-year-old Philippa Rose Palfrey learns that her father was a rapist and her mother a child murderer.

As Philippa pursues her search for identity, she becomes acquainted with a side of London she never knew in the elegant suburban surroundings in which she was brought up by the Palfreys. She discovers the complexities of love and forgiveness, and she experiences the tension between the real and the ideal, the contrast between her imagined and real past. Not only is her mother different from what she anticipated; illusions about her adoptive father also begin to crumble, and she is unsure of the world in which she finds herself, and her role in it.

The theme of revenge is admirably developed in the person of Norman Scase, whose daughter Julie was killed by Philippa's mother, Mary Ducton. At first an obsessive preoccupation, Scase's vengeance, like Philippa's quest for identity, is colored by the...

(The entire section is 327 words.)