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All The Blood Is Red tells the story of four very different black women in 90s
London. There is Jeanette, the original good-time girl, whose enthusiastic
promiscuity defines her freedom; Nicola, a beautiful actress who creates an
alter-ego to face the world and her own insecurities; Alexandrea, a borderline
alcoholic who finds herself sexually harassed by a man she trusts and the
mysterious Mavis, whose disembodied tale of prostitution in Jamaica weaves a
poignant voice throughout the novel. These four women are brought together
when one of them is savagely raped by a black man, and they discover that
those who wear the cloak of friendship - family, community, lovers, peers -
often cause the greatest pain, the pain of rejection and violation. This is
the story of three women who learn how to love and be loved, how to be strong, how to be free...and of one woman who does not.

All The Blood Is Red was published by Angela Royal Publishing in September 1996. 
It was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 1997, alongside
Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterton. 

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Reviews of All The Blood Is Red

All The Blood Is Red is pacy, absorbing and full of dramatic twists. It
crackles with sexual energy and aggression and at its core is a sense of
history and race. Three young black women share a house in London, each in her
own way re-inventing herself to conquer, or merely to face the world. Nicola,
the gorgeous actress whose beauty creates a profound effect on the people she
attempts - not always successfully - to control; Alexandrea, the journalist,
clever and insecure; Jeanette, the psychology student: stroppy, wild, and full
of a lust for life.

These women are portrayed both as individuals and constructs of other people’s
lust, vanity, prejudices and sexual jealousies, as the narrative follows their
power struggles with the world and with themselves. As black people and
particularly as black women, their acts, and especially their sexual
relationships, carry a significance that goes beyond them.
Underpinning these three characters is a reminder of the past - a fourth woman
whose haunting narrative weaves a mysterious spell through the book.
Jamaica’s presence is a reminder that these women carry their multi-national
history - personal, political, sexual - with them at all times. The novel
illustrates the results of racial and sexual power struggles in 90s London,
but perhaps could go even further to demonstrate how we got to the particular
disjunction that is contemporary female politics.

The relationships between Nicola and her famous white boyfriend shows the
creases and flaws in a mixed race relationship. Alex confronts the white-
dominated world of television by being true to herself but always with nascent
terror inside and alcoholism close at hand - drink is one of the few
salvations. While Jeanette’s exuberant sexuality is ultimately used as a
weapon against her.
Ross’s characters are rich and their stories compelling, but rather than
reveal who they are through their actions or their words, the author shows us
around their minds with a patter of psychobabble.
The narrative is infused with powerful sensuality. Sex is both an expression
of the characters’ ferocious freedom and a stick to punish them with. It is a
powerful current: a visceral, messy, overpowering force throughout the novel.
The backdrop to the three womens’ lives is the voice of Mavis, a Jamaican
woman whose story of poverty and prostitution establishes the theme of sexual
slavery and denial. In the end, the brothers close ranks to acquit a black man
accused of rape, the sisters team up to expose a black man for sexual
harassment, and somehow Ross manages to pull triumph out of the emotional and
political turmoil. Only Mavis fails to pull a positive message out of her
All The Blood Is Red is a promising novel, though ultimately its themes and
its fractured narrative do not add up to a whole. That said, Ross’ next novel
will be eagerly awaited.

Clare Longrigg.
This review was published on the Orange Prize/Guardian web site in April 1997.


With wit and perception, Ross delves into the psyche of each of her
characters, from the confused Nicola, to the troubled Alexandrea and the
rapist with his twisted rationale. All The Blood Is Red constitutes a
sensitive and skillful treatment of some controversial and deeply emotive

Madeleine Bailey
Pride Magazine, 1996.


Reader Comments:

“I loved these young women’s reality. I recognised them. They are all of us,
from everywhere, who have felt, are feeling, who have yet to feel and who will
never feel the awesome enlightenment of pain.”
- Joan Frankson, New York

“Spellbinding, is what I have to say about it. I’ve devoured it, gulping it
down. I am amazed that one so young has such a grasp of the ‘female
condition’. The language is lyrical, the metaphors perfect.”
- Margaret Lescene, USA

“Move over, Terry McMillan. This is a book made more potent by its will soon find yourself taking sides, giving advice,
turning pages in anticipation of the next heartbreak, success, scandal...”
- Kirk Axle, New York

“Oh yes. Everything: from patois to prostitution, from ecstacy to terror.
Black women, unite!”
- Julia Goldberg, London

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Leone Ross 1999
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