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February 2009: Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Sun February 15th, 2009, 10:19 pm

Thanks for posting the link to the reviews, Lil. EC's is very good, and I appreciated the examples of some of the anachronisms. Most of them I did not notice while I was reading, but I did notice those glass windows and just decided to let them slide (if that's not too awful a turn of phrase :D ). I'm pretty sure such a large expanse of glass would not have been used in a building until, perhaps, Victorian times with that exposition center (you Brits will have to remind me what it's called), which absolutely awed people when it was built some eight centuries after the Conquest.

But the characterization and the interplay between characters was just so rich and psychologically realistic, I was willing to let the anachronisms slide. I wouldn't call the novel fantasy, because I think the term implies magical or occult events that wouldn't be realistic in any century, and this book doesn't have magic in it, just a setting that doesn't truly match the time of the Norman Conquest.

I completely missed the fact that it was written in present tense. Guess I've finally gotten used to that. Present tense became so trendy a few years back, and I hated it, but evidently it no longer bothers me!

I'll have to take a look at Book of Love. I don't think it's on my website yet.
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Leo62
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Post by Leo62 » Sun February 15th, 2009, 10:23 pm

[quote=""Margaret""] I'm pretty sure such a large expanse of glass would not have been used in a building until, perhaps, Victorian times with that exposition center (you Brits will have to remind me what it's called), which absolutely awed people when it was built some eight centuries after the Conquest.

[/quote]

Do you mean the Crystal Palace? :D

I live just up the road from there...or where it used to be, anyway ;)

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Sun February 15th, 2009, 10:35 pm

I think that's it. It's somewhere in Kew Gardens, isn't it? Nice place to live!
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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Sun February 15th, 2009, 10:58 pm

[quote=""Leo62""]Do you mean the Crystal Palace? :D

I live just up the road from there...or where it used to be, anyway ;) [/quote]

Yes, it'd be The Crystal Palace. Interesting how the mind plays tricks. I thought I'd inherited a book about it from my Gran, but when I went to look just now, it's actually a big book of pictures from the World Fair in St. Louis in 1894!

Back to The Needle in the Blood. I'd not checked back on the review I wrote, and yes, I guess that first paragraph sums up my feel about it. In hindsight it has continued to feel even less 11thC as I've moved away from it and more like brought to life scenes from a Book of Hours. I always wondered about the scene where Gytha comes across that refugee in the stables. He's supposedly survived the Battle of Hastings minus an arm and a leg. That's just not possible, in fact it's downright silly, so it led me to wonder if it was put in their with other meanings, such as the Fisher King type of thing from Arthurian legend. Was it symbolic of a country no longer whole? Was the person Harold? It left me asking all sorts of questions to which I didn't have an answer. That's what novels with layers do. Rather than just being straightforward story, they make you think. It's also what made me think that there are more layers to this story involving myth and fairy tale rather than just being straight narrative.
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Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
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For never will cowards fall down there.'

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annis
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Post by annis » Sun February 15th, 2009, 11:53 pm

I haven't quite finished "Needle in the Blood" yet, so may have more to say later. I've just been discussing my impressions with Chuck, so thought I'd add them here. I'm finding it compelling reading, and the writing is exquisite.

"Yeah, I haven't quite finished "Needle in the Blood" yet, so will reserve judgement till I reach the end. The story is beautifully written and I feel as if I'm actually there. The love scenes are strikingly elemental rather than prurient, but Odo as romantic hero? He always struck me a classic Mk2 Viking - it's all about the plunder :) He appears from the various chronicles as a man with an eye for the main chance, and certainly the uncle from hell- he didnt hestitate to pit his nephews against each other when William died, with his own interests at heart. Somehow i can't see a mere English female with no rank or property to recommend her getting in the way of his ambition.

But I guess that's the role of fiction- to play with different possiblities and interpretations, and I've always been rather intrigued by the mysterious Aelfgyva, who is the only woman in the Bayeaux tapestry to have been named, though no-one has been totally able to identify her or her role in events."
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/...yva_Edwige.JPG

About the glass windows- in early medieval times Normandy was one of the European centres of glass-making and most glass used in England was imported. Plain glass was much cheaper than coloured glass, so it is conceivable that Odo could have had sheets of glass brought over from Normandy. it would have had to be set in lead, though - i'm pretty sure that the technology for creating plate glass wasn't avaiable at that stage.

* Edit. Re Aelfgyva, I'm sure that I've read a theory that she may have been a lady of the household of Ponthieu whom Harold Godwinson was rumored to have seduced during his enforced stay in Ponthieu. This is supposed to account for the mutilation of King Harold's sexual organs by Hugh of Ponthieu when Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings. William banished Hugh for this act. That puzzled me for a bit because that type of mutilation was not uncommon, but I think that if William was present and struck the first blow as reported in early accounts of the battle, that he may have been anxious to diassociate himself from such a barbaric act. In NITB Odo chooses to repeat this horrific mutilation on the still-living Tom. It's interesting tp speculate on his motivation.
Last edited by annis on Mon February 16th, 2009, 1:10 am, edited 9 times in total.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Mon February 16th, 2009, 1:31 am

[quote=""annis""]
B

About the glass windows- in early medieval times Normandy was one of the European centres of glass-making and most glass used in England was imported.
Normandy was Annis? That's the first I've ever heard of it. Do you have provenance for this out of curiosity? I always thought Italy was THE place and later than 1066
Plain glass was much cheaper than coloured glass
Yes, it was, but wasn't glass much of a muchness re colour then (greyish or greenish) and very thick and uneven? It was like coke-bottle bottoms! To get coloured glass you had to paint it. Stained glass windows were painted glass back then. The technique for sheet glass making was not known as far as I recall - although it's in the distant past that I researched up glass. I do have The London Museum household book somewhere on my shelf (hiding!) which has fitments for glass windows and the glass was made all in teeny weeny bits and pieces held together by lead tracery because they didn't have the capability to make sheets - and this was 13th or 14thC at least.

,
so it is conceivable that Odo could have had sheets of glass brought over from Normandy
I very strongly suspect not. I would be astonished to be proven wrong, but I'm willing to admit I'm not 100% - just 99.9 % :D
it would have had to be set in lead, though - i'm pretty sure that the technology for creating plate glass wasn't avaiable at that stage.
[/quote]

So am I!!! :D :D
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

annis
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Post by annis » Mon February 16th, 2009, 2:50 am

EC , I read so much stuff that I could well have imagined it, especially as my brain cells are deteriorating at a rapid rate these days! In that case I must apologise for talking rubbish :)
I can't remember where I saw this originally,but there is a bithere (pg 94) about the making of glass in the Rhineland and Normandy in the early medieval period.

Also this mention here
"Up north, in the colder climates, Germanic tribes could have used these sheets of glass, but it took hundreds of years before they actually adapted glassmaking to their needs. In the Middle Ages, around 600 A.D., the Germans established window manufacturing plants along the Rhine River.
Good glassmakers were few and far between at that time. It took a great amount of skill and a long apprenticeship before a man was qualified to do the job properly. That’s why they called a glassmaker a “gaffer” – German for “learned grandfather”.
Glassmaking in those days was done in two ways. The method that was most widely used, but produced inferior-quality glass, was called the cylinder method, where the glassmaker blew molten silica into a sphere and swung it back and forth until it was shaped like a cylinder. Then they cut the cylinder lengthwise and flattened it into a sheet."
The other method, called the crown method, was a specialty among Normandy glassmakers. These craftsmen also blew a sphere, but attached an iron rod to it before cracking off the blowing iron, leaving a hole at one end. Then they’d rapidly rotate the sphere, using centrifugal force to expand the hole until the sphere opened into a disk. Crown glass was thinner than cylinder glass and could only be used for very small window panes.
Full article

But I have to agree that neither of these two articles give specific dates.

Norman glass didn't become well-known until later. There's an interesting theory that glassmaking in Normandy really took off with the aid of Jewish artisans.
"It became evident that the only reasonable manner in which the art could have appeared in Normandy and Piedmont was by relocating glassmakers from Palestine to Europe.
This process was not unprecedented. It was an already documented fact in Christian annals that the Norman Crusader, Roger II, after invading Byzantium, took its most valuable treasure, the Judaic silkmakers of Thessalonica and Thebes to Sicily, then under Norman rule. The art of glassmaking likewise appeared in Sicily and Normandy during that period. The connection between the Norman Crusaders and the appearance of the art of glassmaking in Norman territories was evident."
http://www.hebrewhistory.info/factpaper ... altare.htm

(I was joking about the plate glass :) )
Last edited by annis on Mon February 16th, 2009, 2:59 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Post by diamondlil » Mon February 16th, 2009, 8:17 am

I have Book of Love here to read at some point! I will be interested to see how her second book is!
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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Mon February 16th, 2009, 9:29 am

[
QUOTE=annis;20601]EC , I read so much stuff that I could well have imagined it, especially as my brain cells are deteriorating at a rapid rate these days!
Mine too! One of my oft quoted statements is that my goldfish brain cell has swum off into the weeds again! :D

Many thanks for all the information you sent through. I can feel a glass making scene coming on somewhere in a future work! I went hunting too just before bedtime. I have that first book you cited but haven't yet read it as it's a new aquisition from e-bay. I do have English Medieval Industries though, edited by Blair and Ramsey. This has a whole chapter devoted to glass and the Norman contribution to Window glass is explained. Apparently there were 2 main methods of making window glass. The 'crown' and the 'muff'. The former had its home in Normandy and reached England with immigrant workmen in the early 14thC (which would bear out the date for the Museum of London finds). The method was practised in the Near East and Byzantium from an earlier date (doesn't say when, but gives a citation to a book). The crown method consisted of blowing a glass bubble then transferring it to a solid iron rod, cutting it from the blowing iron, then spinning it after re-heating so that the centrifugal force opened up into a flattish circular disc. Normandy was capable of producing larger crowns than the norm elsewhere (which is probably why it was famous). The glaziers would cut smaller panels from the disc but would be left with a central 'bull's eye' The advantage was that the clarity of the panels cut was good. So all those 'bull's eyes' you see in Dickensian windows was the almost waste product of a spun glass technique!
The muff method produced sheets of glass (although not like modern sheets and small by comparison. Tbis technique didn't flourish in England until the 16thC when Huguenot families brought it with them from Lorraine. It had the disadvantage of lacking clarity.
Interesting.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

Ash
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Post by Ash » Mon February 16th, 2009, 2:38 pm

[quote=""EC2""]I always wondered about the scene where Gytha comes across that refugee in the stables. He's supposedly survived the Battle of Hastings minus an arm and a leg. That's just not possible, in fact it's downright silly, so it led me to wonder if it was put in their with other meanings, such as the Fisher King type of thing from Arthurian legend. Was it symbolic of a country no longer whole? Was the person Harold? .[/quote]

Interesting ideas that make sense, but on a more silly note: was I the only one who immediately thought of Monty Python's Holy Grail when you got to that part? 'Its just a flesh wound...'

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