The Needle in the Blood Paperback – 1 May 2007
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'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
2007 Susan Hill Book of the Year --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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?!Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Approx 40 pages missing in the middle. A brilliant story fantastic but there is a bit i don't know..... Would like a replacement copy pleasePublished 17 months ago by LYNNE CARRINGTON
Good read, a little stilted in places but interesting viewpoint.Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
The story of the Bayeux Tapestry is seldom told, and this, although not what I thought it was going to be, was a very interesting and unusual take on the subject. Read morePublished on 18 May 2014 by Cool Grandma
about The Bayeux Tapestry, ambition, loss, obsession, hope, passion and an unimaginably great love. This is one of the best books I've ever read. Read morePublished on 24 July 2013 by Dreamer Girl
I have to say I was rather disappointed with this novel. I found it rather heavy going and sometimes difficult to keep interest going. Read morePublished on 7 July 2013 by grandma
I usually enjoy this type of historical fiction - character-led sagas, rich in historical detail - and these days it's certainly a relief to get as far away from the Tudors as... Read morePublished on 6 July 2013 by Bookwoman
To celebrate William the Conqueror's conquest of Britain, Bishop of Bayeux, Odo, commissions a wall hanging. Read morePublished on 31 July 2012 by Elizabeth Perrat
When charismatic bishop Odo of Bayeux decides to comission a wall hanging to celebrate his role in the conquest of Britain, he becomes embroiled in the lives of the women who make... Read morePublished on 25 Feb. 2012 by Paula
I was a little reluctant to read The Needle In The Blood as the 1066 period is one I am particularly passionate about - I am a firm Harold II supporter. Read morePublished on 23 Jan. 2012 by Helen Hollick