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Blood trickles down through every generation seeps into every marriage An international bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Biography Award Bad Blood is a tragicomic memoir of one woman's escape from a claustrophobic childhood in post World War II Britain and the story of three generations of the author's family and its marriages In one of the most extraordinary memoirs of recent years Bad Blood brings alive in vivid detail a time the '40s and '50s not so distant from us but now disappeared As a portrait of a family and a young girl's place in it it is unsurpassed


10 thoughts on “Bad Blood

  1. says:

    35 stars It was a surprise to read about the unusual childhood of Lorna Sage a well known literary critic While her father was away fighting in World War II young Lorna and her mother lived with her grandparents in a vicarage in Hanmer Flintshire Her grandparents had a terrible marriage and were constantly fighting Her philandering minister grandfather loved to freuent the pubs He was very bright and passed on his love of reading to Lorna Her relatives wondered if Lorna had inherited his bad blood because they had many interests in common Her grandmother was useless when it came to cooking and cleaning and spent most of her time complaining about men eating sweets and missing the comforts of her childhood homeWhen Lorna's father returned to their village in Wales she had a normal life but never felt that she fit in with her family She felt that her parents were so close that they really had no need to let anyone else in emotionally Reading and running wild outdoors were her salvationsIn the final section of the memoir Lorna became pregnant and married at age 16 She left the maternity ward one day and took the first of her A level exams the next day She and her husband Vic Sage both graduated from the university in Durham with degrees in literature in 1964The book was an entertaining look at Wales in the 1940s and 1950s Lorna's experiences as a child were both humorous and painful The three parts of the book also showed how three different married couples related to their spouses and how each couple faced the challenges of life She seemed a bit hypercritical of her parents considering that she was not the easiest child and later received an enormous amount of support and childcare while she was away attending university Overall the memoir was well written and was awarded the Whitbread prize for biography in 2001


  2. says:

    Lorna Sage's Bad Blood has like many of the books I review been on my to read list for years I so enjoyed her non fiction book Moments of Truth Twelve Twentieth Century Women Writers and was eager to read of her work Rather than a collection of critical essays Bad Blood is a memoir of Sage's early life in rural Wales during the 1940s and 1950s and ends with her University graduation It was published in 2000 and won the Whitbread Prize for Biography just a week before Sage passed awaySage's childhood was 'dominated' by her 'brilliant bitter grandfather a drinking womanising vicar exiled to a parish' just over the Welsh border with England After the war when Sage left the 'gothic eccentricity' of the vicarage she moved into a nearby council house with her parents and younger brother Clive Here she 'soon discovered that real family life was marked by myths secrets and disappointments of its own' 'A dazzlingly vivid account of one girl's coming of age in post war provincial Britain' writes its blurb ' Bad Blood is now universally reclaimed as one of the most extraordinary memoirs of the decade' Hilary Mantel praises it 'both for its generosity of spirit and its intensity as an act of self recovery' and Claire Tomalin calls the novel a 'classic account of childhood' and Sage herself a 'writer of rare intelligence' Margaret Drabble writes that Bad Blood is a 'vividly remembered honest generous shocking story A fine transformation of pain into something redeeming I don't think that's too grand a word A very moving testament' Bad Blood has been split into three parts which cover distinct periods in Sage's life the first her early life at the vicarage in Hanmer the second her transition to grammar school and living with her parents and the third her surprise pregnancy at aged sixteen and her determination to receive a University degree These sections are peppered with photographs Of Hanmer Sage writes 'So Hanmer in the 1940s in many ways resembled Hanmer in the 1920s or even the late 1800s except that it was depressed less populous and out of step and isolated in time as the years had gone by'Sage had such a gift for capturing vivid scenes and unusual characters The memoir opens with the following description 'Grandfather's skirts would flap in the wind along the churchyard path and I would hang on He often found things to do in the vestry excuses for getting out of the vicarage kicking the swollen door cursing and so long as he took me he couldn't get up to much 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 back pissed and incapable' Due to the sheer amount of time which Sage spent with her grandparents who tolerated each other at best she had very few memories of being with her parents when she was little Of her soldier father away at war she recalls only that she was picked up by him and was 'sick down his back' Bad Blood presents a multi generational family portrait; Sage scrapes away at the veneers of her family and reveals what it has been hidden far beneath the surface She writes with such sincerity about her somewhat dysfunctional upbringing spent with books than people and describes the changing post war landscape with such detail Throughout Sage's narrative voice is lilting and friendly and she speaks about such varied things from fashion farming and food to schooling swimming and sharing I enjoyed the second and third sections of the memoir the most; in these Sage played a active role in proceedings rather than merely telling the reader about her grandparents and parents in rather an omniscient manner


  3. says:

    Beautifully written memoir of a childhood in Wales granddaughter of a local vicar whose wife barely tolerates him and after discovering his diaries somewhat improves her lot by blackmailing him Despite his misgivings his granddaughter inherits his love of books and a few other characteristics which the grandmother might have considered bad bloodThough childhood takes up much of the book her teenage years are intriguing for here the family rises above convention and supports Lorna in her time of need at a time in history when many young women in her position would have been shamed and treated in a worse manner That she gets through this challenging period in her life supported by her family and goes on to complete a university education without hindrance is astoundingSo many great uotes and wonderful that she managed to get this memoir written and published as her life was coming to an end it won the Whitbread Book Award a week before she died at the tender age of 57More complete review to come


  4. says:

    A peaceful nearly affectionate memoir of a challenging and poverty driven childhood Lorna Sage is a fine story teller and steps back enough from her own life to let the reader see and feel for herself Hers is the story of an angry philandering grandfather a grandmother who hated her husband and a little girl who grew up believing that she was as bad as her grandfather In post war England there was grimness and shortages shared by all especially in remote villages in the countryside and in Wales Sage details what the privations and fears looked like in one family one village


  5. says:

    There is an arrogance in this book A haughtiness that keeps the reader at arms length There is something petulant and mincy about her writing drudging up the mistakes and misery of others judging it snidely and throwing it down A good memoirist doesn't come off sounding like a tattle tale or if they are they let their anger and hurt pour out for justification Her voice is so ha ha look at these pathetic fools Unpleasant despite some poetic writing


  6. says:

    For some reason before reading this book I didn't check when it was published; if I had I would've found it a safe conclusion that the author is dead And I have no idea why that fact cast a pall over the book; often our authors are never really dead anyway Poe and Bronte and Wilde and Mailer are as alive to me today as they ever were But Sage writes with such piss and vinegar with all of the arrogance and angst and condemnation of the teenager she was that her death was strangely effecting And somehow her book was transformed and I had the image of her own grandmother gathering the family around for one last rant about men's evils The virtue of the book is its fire and the images of class and virtue of the old vicar peddling his bike from spinster to spinster It lost me a little with the descriptions of literature and the role of schools as reproduces of class rather than enablers of class mobility but still four stars


  7. says:

    Bitter overwrought screechy self absorbed and self important can NOT understand why all her reviewers were so complimentary although could guess it might be something to do with fear Sorry thumbs down


  8. says:

    A uite excellent memoir Learning about Sage's deprived mucky childhood you will be stunned what she made of herself An academic award winning literary critic and author


  9. says:

    Gail had a gift for intentness She could caress shapeless moments as if she was stroking a puppy until they wriggled into life and sucked your fingersThis review is dedicated to EVK my outstanding student who gave me this bookLorna Sage's Bad Blood 2000 is an extraordinary literary work I could not believe that it is non fiction I felt everything was so real as if it were a work of fiction by a great writer Non fiction books almost never feel real to me because they do not transcend the particular the specific the individual Their meaning and reach are constrained by the connection to concrete facts like a balloon that wants to soar high in the sky but is tied to a child's hand Fiction books are able to much better convey the truth since they allow the reader to focus on the humanness in general rather than on particular people or concrete eventsMs Sage's prose is fabulous She is an extraordinarily accomplished writer with a wonderful turn of the phrase Just take this caressing shapeless moments until they wriggle into life phrase from the epigraph Reading this I instantaneously recalled people who had this gift How many of us though would have the talent to describe them in this apparently frivolous yet extremely precise way? A metaphor like that carries meaning than a faithful and detailed account of real life behavior But wait there is Ms Sage has written one of three best accounts of childhood and adolescence that I have ever read along with J Joyce's and JM Coetzee's which are perhaps universal and realistic as they are at least in part fictional Playing doctor in the bushes the horror of braces schooling torture and malevolent teachers like the one in the following unforgettable passage One day he lined up his class and went down the line saying with gloomy satisfaction 'You'll be a muck shoveller you'll be a muck shoveller' and so on and on Still the magnificent account of the first school dance a momentous event in a schoolchild's life For me also the mention of Paul Anka's song Diana The event must have taken place about 1962 Well I had my first school dance around that time too and I also remember the horrors of worrying who if anyone I would dance with; and I also counted one two three under my breath while dancing And yes Paul Anka's Diana was there too A sort of disclaimer is needed maybe I like the memoir so much because the author belongs to my generation?The author's grandparents on her mother's side are the main focus of the memoir Their hatred towards each other is the dominating motif So married were Grandpa and Grandma that they offended each other by existing and he must have hated the prospect of gratifying her by going first On the other hand she truly feared death thus he could score points by hailing it as a deliverance and embracing his fate The entire thread of the grandfather's diary is stunningly well constructed and presented The diary itself and the author's commentary seamlessly move from one to the otherI could keep enumerating the literary values of the memoir but the review is already too long Let me only mention that we get an evocative account of life in deeply provincial Great Britain in the 1950s and 1960s Oh and my three favorite sentences it's a good idea to settle for a few loose ends in a story because even if everything in your life is connected to everything else that way madness lies And what about He too was only fifteen but he smoked and drank and was fed up with being so young And let's end with the best uote about the endingIt's the sense of an ending that's timeless Four and a half stars and I am rounding up Yay First maximum rating since February


  10. says:

    Bad Blood feels like an unintentional baring of the soul Without seeming to aim for higher things Lorna Sage has written an autobiography of true beauty a stripped down revelation of youth and memory That she does it with such natural unpretentious calm just makes the books a thing of wonder It feels so effortlessly unconstructed and yet so perfected shaped She tells the story of her family from the days of her grandparent's arrival in a small rural parish on the Welsh border till the end of her school days While it is very satisfyingly complete as it is I have rarely been so disappointed to run out of pages Reading Sage's uncomplicated intelligent and heartfelt prose is pure joyIt really takes off around the third chapter when Sage digs out her grandfather's sparse note like diary of his first two years as village vicar in Hamner uoting liberally as she paints a picture of a charismatic bored young man who doesn't love his wife and tells the story of his love affairs that shook his marriage and scandalised the village It is so precariously balance Sage's love of the grandfather who took her under his wing whom she loved as an eight year old until he died and left her with a crystalised memory that would never change and the maniacal lustful dishonest and promiscuous figure she finds in the diaries Sage judges harshly but she somehow remains on her grandfather's side Her mother and grandmother are in some respects the enemy Her love for her grandfather reflects her conflicts in personality with them As the story progresses into sexual awakening Sage's fate is mirrored in the warnings of her female family members that she is too much like her grandfather This mixture of regret and bouyant spontaneity is what gives Lorna Sage such a tragi romantic character and her story such poignant lovelinessShe is however very critical of her grandfather's womanising ways especially when his attentions fall upon her mother's school friend The diary provides moments of brief photographic memorialising It's a photo album of something familiar and yet totally unbelievable The setting is eually split between its realism and its idealism Sage conjures up the 50s with technicolour clarity her explorations of the countryside the family outtings to Chester in the car that always broke down her mother's hatred of cooking and the gradually post war widening of people's diets the last horse and cart in Hamner When the family move both out of the council house and out of the shadow of dreary poverty and Sage moves into the stories of her teenage years the shades of the past fade a little and you feel the arrival of modernity Through the simple descriptions and well chosen anecdote Sage brilliantly traces the passing of time both physically and idealogically There is a sense of the opening up of a century as the war drifts into memory and the opportunities for girls like Sage begin to appearThe events that cloud and illuminate the presence of both that makes Sage's writing so wonderful her teenage years are both a departure and an independance from the family and the memories that clutter her youth a breaking out and also a connection and a playscripted stumbling block The romance with Vic is a thing of true beauty from the awkwardness of the school dance to the heat of the tennis court the mystery of accidental conception and the metamorphosis into sibling affection and love It is a rapid sad and beautiful depiction of passion transformed the trouble it causes the unexpected happiness that springs from disappointment and difficulty Behind the touching and inspiring albeit briefly told story of their successes at university and the coming together of the family in times of need one sense's the emotions and the trials that they must have gone through the years of doubt and sadness to arrive at her position of mature hindsightThat's the key the woman inbetween the words Sage reveals something of a soul without ever forcing herself upon us Her modesty and her lack of agenda make her story something that most writing aspires to too hard true beauty through language and storytelling 9