Monday 27 April 2009

Bad Blood by Lorna Sage

Pages - 281
Challenges - Non Fiction Five, 100+, In Her Shoes Challenge
This book won the Whitbread Prize For Biography in 2001.
I am also a little wary of biographies that have titles like Bad Blood, because there has been such an influx of biographies dealing with children being abused, that I am always concerned it is going to be of the same vein and I just can't read books like that. Luckily this book is not like that at all. It is quite a tragic story but there is nothing in it that would have made me not read it.
This memoir looks at three different marriages within Lorna's family. She looks at how these relationships made her the person she became. By being an integral part of her family, you realise why she strived so hard in her later life, as if she was always trying to clear the family name.
The first part of the book looks at the very destructive marriage of Lorna's adored grandfather, the local vicar who introduced Lorna to her love of books and her grandmother who never really grew up and took charge of her family and responsibilities. Her grandfather became destroyed by this unhappy marriage in the end and moved on to having two affairs, the second affair with his daughters best friend which shocked the small village they lived in and ruined his reputation.
The second part of the book deals with the marriage of Lorna's mum and dad. Lorna's mum never really recovered from her father's affair with her best friend. She spent most of her marriage secluded in her own house, also unable to take responsibility for her home and her family. Her father kept up a front by covering for her mother and obviously loved her completely.
The third part looks at the early relationship and marriage between Lorna and her husband Vic. Lorna ruined the family name and was seen to follow in her grandfathers footsteps by causing scandal to the family. Lorna fell pregnant before she left school and had to deal with the affect it had on all the family. During that time, it was the worst thing a girl could do, to be pregnant out of wedlock and she had to fight very hard in order to keep her child and to carry on her education. She eventually went on to university and Vic and Lorna were featured in the Daily Mail as the first married couple to graduate in the same subject at the same time and both get Firsts.
All through Lorna's life, you read about her love of literature, which she grasped with both hands from a young age. She had never needed much sleep and her doctor prescribed her with a light and a set of books to keep her occupied through the hours she no longer need to sleep through.
I enjoyed this book, it was interesting to be able to compare the three different marriages, but I would have liked the section on Lorna to be a bit longer. From the book, it is very clear how much Lorna adored her grandfather and writes about him in a way to try and win his redemption from everything wrongdoing he committed. She often writes scornfully about his antics, but there is definitely a firm underlying love for him. From the first couple of sentences you are aware that her grandfather wasn't your run of mill vicar. I couldn't help but think of the drunken vicar in Father Ted. See what you think.
' 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. I was a sort of hobble; he was my minder and I was his'
The book is partly set in places that are familiar to me, such as Tonypandy is South Wales. My family come from there and my aunt still lives there. Lorna's grandmother owned the little shop up amongst the houses and I couldn't help but imagine my nan visiting the shop when she lived there as it would have been one of a few shops in the area.
It was an interesting biography and I am really glad I read it. I don't know if I would have picked it myself, so I thank Annie for lending it to me. I would definitely have liked to read more about Lorna, but she obviously felt that the story of her grandfather was more interesting than her own life story. Personally I found her own story gripped me more, as she defied the way teenage pregnancies were treated during that era and went onto pave the way for other young unmarried mothers to achieve an impressive education and further along the line have a really successful career.
Lorna Sage was a professor of English at the University of East Anglia and also wrote a couple of non fiction books. She passed away in January 2001 after witnessing the success of her memoirs.
Has anybody else read this book?Thanks for stopping by.


  1. I haven't read this one, but it really sounds interesting.

  2. I haven't heard of this one but it sounds very interesting from your description. Some of these memoirs are often hard to read but I still find them interesting. Mostly because I think the people writing them need to tell their stories but also because my mind has a hard time wrapping around what some people experience in their lives. It makes you gratefful for yours.

  3. I haven't read this one. I remember I bought it though. When it first came out and I had two other books I wanted to buy and needed a third for a 3 for 2 thing. But then I thought biographies aren't normally my thing and gave it away to a friend (or maybe a charity shop). Reading your review makes me think though that maybe I should have given it more of a chance. I like the idea of comparing different marriages over generations and also the teenage mom going on to get an education and career.

    Father Ted isn't my sort of thing, but I've seen enough of it to see the similarities :) Anyway, loved your review.

  4. This is on my "to read list" and I'm really looking forwarded to it!
    While I'm here, I'd like to promote my new book, "Beth:Love Along The B.G.Sanford," and just released by Eloquent Books. It's the story of a woman who overcomes all odds, including 2 bad divorces, to find Love......Along The Way. It's a story you won't soon forget. It can be ordered on line or have your local bookstore get it.
    All my best,

  5. I havent read this one but it does sound goo. great review. thats a cute cover.
    I like how you write 'mum'. lol...I know i'm being random now, but you must have a nice accent :)

  6. Sounds interesting. Might look out for the book on my next trip to the bookstore.


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