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Bad Blood: A Memoir [Hardcover]

Lorna Sage
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Sep 2000

A literary memoir of the highest calibre by this highly-regarded critic and academic.

From a childhood of gothic proportions in a vicarage on the Welsh borders, through her adolescence, leaving herself teetering on the brink of the 1960s, Sage vividly and wittily brings to life a vanished time and place, and illuminates the lives of three generations of women.

Lorna Sage’s memoir of childhood and adolescence is a brilliantly written bravura piece of work, which vividly and wickedly brings to life her eccentric family and somewhat bizarre upbringing in the small town of Hanmer, on the border between Wales and Shropshire. The period as well as the place is evoked with crystal clarity: from the 1940s, dominated for Lorna by her dissolute but charismatic vicar grandfather, through the 1950s, where the invention of fish fingers revolutionised the lives of housewives like Lorna’s mother, to the brink of the 1960s, where the community was shocked by Lorna’s pregnancy at 16, an event which her grandmother blamed on ‘the fiendish invention of sex’. Bad Blood is often extremely funny, and is at the same time a deeply intelligent insight by a unique literary stylist into the effect on three generations of women of their environment and their relationships.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: 4th Estate; 1st edition (7 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841150428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841150420
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 13.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 432,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

This is one of those memoirs of a difficult, sometimes violent girlhood, that makes riveting reading--not as harrowing as Andrea Ashworth's brilliant Once in a House on Fire, but every bit as good. Whether this is voyeuristic is debatable, but clearly the author, Lorna Sage, felt she had something to tell, and she tells it vividly. She grew up with an absent father, a quiet and docile mother, and--the two most powerful figures of her formative years--a pair of ferocious, tyrannical, impossible grandparents. Her grandfather is the most striking of all, not least because he was a Church of England clergyman. Sage offers an unforgettable evocation of this bitter, hard-drinking, womanising cleric, as he strides through the desolate churchyard with his little granddaughter clinging onto his black skirts in the wind. "He was good at funerals, being gaunt and lined, marked with mortality. He had a scar down his hollow cheek, too, which grandma had done with the carving knife one of the many times when he came home pissed and incapable." The place, too, is strongly evoked: a small, isolated, squalid village on the English-Welsh border in darkest Shropshire, the very landscape of that haunting writer of the 1920s, Mary Webb. Sometimes, though, Sage's girlhood--we're only talking 1940s and 1950s here--feels more like it is something out of the pages of the Brontës, and indeed she acknowledges this freely. "Perhaps I really did grow up, as I sometimes suspect, in a time warp, an enclave of the 19th century?" That weird sense of anachronism makes this a riveting if sometimes uncomfortable read.--Christopher Hart


'Extraordinary in its intensity of recollection. Everything's so palpable - the sucking mud, the smells, the inflection of the langauge, the haughty misery of solitude. This is an important document in English social - and feminist - history, as well as a narrative that manages to envelop one in the press of its sensations.' -- Jonathan Raban

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rekindling old memories 3 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This book was recommended to me by my mother - but not for the usual reasons. A school friend of hers had written it and she wanted to hear my thoughts on it. I must admit to not being very keen on the idea. However, I felt duty bound and so I bought my copy. It sat on my book self for a few months until the guilt finally started tapping on my shoulder and curiosity got the better of me!
I loved the book. It recounts the childhood of Lorna growing a small hamlet in an area know as the English Maelor/Wrexham Maelor in North Wales on the Shropshire/Cheshire borders with Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham all within an hours drive. The area consists of nine hamlets/parishes. My family all grew up in that area. Everyone knows everyone else, no matter which hamlet they grew up in. It was and is a very close-knit community - few people leave and those that do rarely stray far!! Despite the difference of 40 -50 years and ration books - life remains much the same.
I suppose part of my reluctance to read this book was my basic concern that I would find it annoying and irritating - relating life in that area as something different to the way I saw it. In fact - it was so accurate it took my breath away at times. Rekindling old memories - putting nursery rhythms and sayings into context. Introducing different perspectives on the people I knew. She recounted the village relationships and divisions so accurately that I would laugh out loud whilst reading the book.
This memoir is well written and I think well deserving of its award. It truly reflects the attitudes of the times in that area - some of which still exist. Whilst for me it was in many ways a journey back to my childhood, for anyone else it would be an accurate reflection of rural life on the borders of England and Wales. Lorna Sage's style of writing is a relaxed one that is easy to delve into.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They were "fed up with being young" ... 3 Jan 2011
This is a beautifully written, literary, earnest book about the author's early years in North Wales. Her grandparents and both parents could have become mere caricatures in someone else's telling of the story, but Lorna Sage chose just the right words for her descriptions. Her friends as well as parents and grandparents come to life as she takes us right into her youth, including my favorite line from the book where she is talking about her friends and their budding sexuality as young teenagers and she said we were "fed up with being young". I've never heard it put quite that way and I loved it.

I've read several memoirs by literary types, and I always love how they found escape from their lives at home in books. I always come away with a list of books to read, and I am always grateful that these ladies (and occasionally men) have written their stories. This book began with some very tough family situations and I didn't love it right away, but I ended up loving it and not wanting it to end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A moving readable memoir capturing country life in Britain from the 1940s to the early 60s. Lorna Sage writes of growing up in a dysfunctional family in a North Wales hamlet, the granddaughter of a stormy philandering vicar and a neurotic harridan. she describes herself as an unlovable child, whiny and weepy, and the life of her working father and her delicate mother.

Ultimately she writes of her school years in the 50s and her pregnancy at 17 at a time when pregnancy out of wedlock was still a taboo.
In an inspiring way, she describes how her and her later to be husband broke the mould and went on to study and achieve success at university
Ms Sage sadly died days before she was due to receive the Whitebread award for this successful autobiography. Ultimately the value in this book is how it captures the social history of mid 20th century Britain.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hamner House of Horrors 9 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This splendid, beautifully-crafted memoir reads like an omnibus edition of the Archers, with a magic realist twist to the tale. The author's family are malcontent Ealing Comedy characters, desperate to be centre stage, but grandpa, the inebriate vicar, really steals the show. Wickedly funny in parts, this book also speaks for a generation of women born in the Forties, who unknowingly were part of a huge social experiment. Unlike many of our mothers who left school at 14, or were educated at home by private tutors, we all went on to university, armed with our S-level distinctions and County Major scholarships, under the aegis of a visionary Labour Government. Many of us took the academic route (like Sage): Firsts, PHds, university lectureships. Others had equally creative lives. My friend, Gail Bracken, and I were the only pupils in our village school to pass the 11+ and go on to the A-stream of the local grammar school. Like Sage, we studied Latin, played hockey and read voraciously. The opportunities ahead of us seemed limitless. Sage's intelligence, resilience, beauty and courage shine out from every page of this haunting, atmospheric, almost hallucinatory piece of writing. Brilliant and brave.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I had heard and read all the hype and this book was strongly recommended by work colleagues but I was rather disappointed. Maybe I expected too much? I found the opening section the most interesting but as the book wore on I found myself losing interest. The last section, about her early relationship with her husband and the birth of their daughter, seemed rushed. I would have liked to know more about that period in their lives, especially how she coped at university with her young child being left behind at home with her parents.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Alright...
Personally I didn't find this half as interesting as the critics lauded it to be. I'm not sure I liked the style in which it was written and I found myself not really caring about... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ms. Hr Jackson
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a great book!
I loved the way this book was written - such honesty and clarity.

There are plenty of reviews telling you what the book is about, so I won't, but I must tell you that... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jill in East Kent
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad Blame Throwing
If you asked a robot to live in a post-war family in provincial Britain, and write a memoir, it may have come up with this book. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mrs Miggins
3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky and sweet
Lorna Sage paints a sweet and quirky picture of her family. I warmed to her, but the book does lose pace later on and slightly pulls its punches in terms of revealing much about... Read more
Published on 19 July 2012 by Ruth
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad Blood by Lorna Sage review By Linda Corby
I loved reading this book, I bought it at a car boot book sales, simply because my autobiography shared its title. Read more
Published on 18 July 2012 by Mrs. Linda Corby
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but not gripping
Whilst I enjoyed the style of writing, I just wasn't gripped by Bad Blood. I'm not really sure why. I found some parts more interesting than others, but generally found that I was... Read more
Published on 9 April 2012 by Manda Moo
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and Touching
A wonderful autobiography. Lorna Sage gives us a witty, moving and always fascinating account of her life from early childhood - during and immediately after World War II, when she... Read more
Published on 23 Feb 2012 by Kate Hopkins
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Bad Blood' by Lorna Sage.
I was so taken with this autobiographical tale of a scruffy childhood spent in a dysfunctional country vicarage, lent me by a friend, that I had to buy my own copy when I returned... Read more
Published on 8 Feb 2012 by M. D. P. Cook
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad Blood
Although there is much here that is interesting and often funny, the more I read the more I came to dislike the narrator. Read more
Published on 4 Nov 2009 by Reader 11
2.0 out of 5 stars a little disappointed also
like others, i read this, largely on the basis of the awards it won.

also like others, i found the first part of the book most entertaining and perceptive - it was... Read more
Published on 29 Sep 2009 by minty
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