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The Needle in the Blood Paperback – 1 May 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 May 2007
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Product details

  • Paperback: 575 pages
  • Publisher: Snowbooks Ltd (1 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905005393
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905005390
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 829,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'A thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating historical novel which brings the period to life. The Bayeux tapestry will never look the same again.' Patricia Duncker, author of 'Hallucinating Foucault' "First, before I write anything else, I want to tell you just how good this book is. I dona (TM)t want to be coy about it; I dona (TM)t want to prevaricate. I just want to say, honestly: measured on a scale of books that are good and books that are ok and books that suck, this book is mind-bogglingly good. I mean, I liked it. I mean, I loved it. I mean, I was so filled up with the pure joy of reading it, that I forgot that Ia (TM)m ever a stickler or a critic or a cynic. I forgot that medieval historical a "romancea (TM) makes me twitchy and that the merest whiff of a "womensa (TM) fictiona (TM) gives me hives. her prose is honestly quite startling. She has a gift for simile, and for descriptive language. .. Languid and deliberate in its telling, vivid and tangible in its world-building. Characters are similarly well-made, composite pieces and shown rather than told... Bower has an excellent grasp of the bonds of kinship, obligation, religion and biology that bind these women together Finally though, it is the way The Needle in the Blood stays true to the spirit of its endeavour that beguiles me. The way it seeks to evoke its period and the way it maintains its characters in context, the way it wears its research lightly and heavily at the same time, the way it makes no concessions to the cliches of its romance plot. The way it alienates and then reconciles its readers to the difficult themes of the eleventh century and of the Conquest. Truly, if there is such a thing as a good medieval historical romance, this is it. " Eve's Alexandria

Book Description

2007 Susan Hill Book of the Year --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What on earth is it about Sarah Bower's books that I find so incredibly enjoyable and yet so frustrating?! This is the second book of Bower's that I've felt this way about, and I found bits that I loved and equally bits that I loathed.

Take the writing style in The Needle in the Blood. There's no denying that Bower is a knowledgeable, skilled writer of language. The descriptions are rich, evocative, thoughtful and intelligent. The worlds that Bower creates are fleshed out and full, imaginative yet plausible. You feel like you could be right there. That's the mark of a good writer. Not only does Bower display a genuinely good knowledge of language but she uses it and applies it creatively. However, I felt that there were a few issues. I just didn't get along with the third person present tense format that the book was written in. Occasionally it also obfuscated who was doing or saying what to whom when. This just made reading The Needle in the Blood more of a slog than it needed to be.

Then there are the characters. My reaction to Gytha varied throughout the book, ranging from real like to genuine frustration with her. Unlike Violante of Sins of the House of Borgia, Gytha's an adult, she knows her way around the world, and she wasn't hampered by Violante's adolescent mix of utter gullibility, wild delusion and desperate fantasy. Gytha is practical, sensible, and intelligent. I like that. This is a character with sense and a good head on her shoulders, and the maturity of an adult. I can identify with that, I can connect with that. But then at various points in the book Gytha would do something inexplicable that had me mentally yelling at her "Why?!
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Format: Paperback
I haven't read any historical fiction for a while, nothing has really appealed, but the headline on the beautiful cover of The Needle in the Blood offered a tale of sex, lies and embroidery so I thought I would give it a go. The book grips from the first chapter; you are thrown into the middle of the Battle of Hastings, with Odo, brother to William the Conqueror, rallying the Norman troops, fearing his brother has died on the battlefield. We soon learn that the battle is won and the history of England changes forever. In the aftermath of the battle the rumour is that Harold has been killed by an arrow in the eye; it's the first lie, the reality is that his body has been hacked to pieces and mutilated but the arrow in the eye story will be recorded for posterity in the Bayeux tapestry.

Amongst the Saxon women who come to claim his body is Gytha, handmaid to the mistress of the fallen king and a talented embroiderer. She returns to Winchester with the women, only to witness the pillaging of her mistress's home and to submit to rape to save a Saxon soldier about to be put to death. When the unconventional Bishop Odo decides to commission a wall hanging to commemorate the battle, Gytha is among the women recruited to work on the embroidery. Forced to work as a prostitute to survive, she reluctantly agrees to work for the Norman court; she sees an opportunity for revenge and when she meets Odo again she is armed with a sharp knife and a thirst for vengeance. But in this book nothing is as it seems and as she falls in love with him and so the lies and intrigue begin, with as many lies stitched into the tapestry as are told among the wonderfully full and vibrant cast of characters that people this book.

This is a must read for anyone looking for a strong and intense story, beautifully told by someone with the skill to bring this extraordinary period in our history so colourfully to life - and is a must read for anyone visiting Bayeux to see the tapestry.
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By Mr. Joe HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
"Love changes, that is all, it is a shape shifter. The challenge lies in continuing to recognize it." - from THE NEEDLE IN THE BLOOD

In January 1066, the English King, Edward the Confessor, died childless. This prompted a scuffle for the throne. Harold Godwinson was elected King (Harold II). However, Duke William of Normandy claimed that Edward had promised the kingship to him and, furthermore, that Harold had previously sworn to him fealty and support of his claim. William invaded England and defeated Harold's army at the Battle of Senlac outside Hastings, during which fight Harold was killed. William assumed the throne as William I, thus permanently bringing Saxon England into the Norman French sphere of influence.

Accompanying William's army at Senlac was his half-brother Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux. Following the victory and William's assumption of the crown, Odo was granted the earldom of Kent.

The events surrounding the disputed succession, from Edward's choice of successor to William's crowning, and including the battle near Hastings, are depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry - actually an embroidered cloth, not a tapestry - that measures one-half meter by seventy meters and which is on permanent exhibit in Bayeux, Normandy, France. It's thought to have been commissioned by Odo, created in Canterbury, and hung in the Bayeux Cathedral at its dedication in 1077.

There's one particular embroidered scene problematic for historians, which depicts a cleric striking the face, or, alternatively, caressing the cheek, of a woman named Aelfgyva. It's captioned "Ubi unis clericus et Aelfgyva", translated as "Where a certain cleric and Aelfgyva". (See Image 8 at the website "Bayeux Tapestry.
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