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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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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Mon February 16th, 2009, 2:54 pm

[quote=""Ash""]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...'[/quote]

Oh yes! I did at the back of my mind, I admit! That is one priceless scene (the Monty Python). Also from that film, I have brought away 'the knights whos say 'Ni'. Every time we go to a garden centre, I can't pass the shrubery section without having a 'Python' moment!
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

enelya
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Post by enelya » Mon February 16th, 2009, 3:57 pm

I have just finished reading the Needle in the Blood...and I thought it was a good read.I just don't think it was a real historical fiction...I found some anachronisms, they bugged me until I really became interested in the characters.I think it is more of a romance, with a sort of historical background.I found the relations very interesting, the characters have real depth and development.
I was bothered by the writing style, and now I know why. I read it in one of the posts here, it is written in present tense, and the sentences are rather short.
All in all it was a very enjoyable read, one I would have never found without this forum.I am already looking forward to the next read.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Mon February 16th, 2009, 5:41 pm

All this information about the history of glass is fascinating. I think if Odo did fill all those huge windows with leaded glass, it would have been as big a project as the embroidery of the tapestry! It's possible Bower didn't mean for the windows to be as big as we readers pictured them when we read the scene. To an eleventh century person, a row of several 5-foot windows filled with glass would probably have looked absolutely magical. But I was picturing great arched windows two or three times the height of a person, like in some of the cathedral and abbey ruins I've seen.

We modern folks live astonishingly pampered lives when you think about the way even very wealthy medieval people lived. People embroidered a lot during the middle ages, and I think they almost always did it in rooms with windows completely open to the breezes. They needed the light to embroider. I'll bet that embroidery was a summers-only task, even with the Bayeux Tapestry. But I also think that medieval people were a lot more tolerant of cold hands and feet than we are, and a lot more tolerant of dim light. The clothing of the upper classes was generally lined with some type of fur, so it was a lot warmer than our clothes.
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Post by annis » Mon February 16th, 2009, 6:40 pm

Originally Posted by Ash
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...'
Lol! Yes, that scene definitely did come to mind! I could just about hear the faint clack of coconut shells in the background --

EC, one thing which I discovered when trying to track down the Norman connection to glass was that in northern Europe it was the Germans who carried on the craft of glassmaking through the Dark Ages. The Romans didn't really bother with glass for windows- living in a warm climate they just used shutters when it was chilly and the glass occasionally used in windows was the greenish coke bottle variety. It was the Germans (probably with the incentive of a cold climate) who developed the technique for making sheet glass, in the eleventh century as it happens :)
"The 11th century also saw the development by German glass craftsmen of a technique - then further developed by Venetian craftsmen in the 13th century - for the production of glass sheets. By blowing a hollow glass sphere and swinging it vertically, gravity would pull the glass into a cylindrical "pod" measuring as much as 3 metres long, with a width of up to 45 cm. While still hot, the ends of the pod were cut off and the resulting cylinder cut lengthways and laid flat. Other types of sheet glass included crown glass (also known as "bullions"), relatively common across western Europe. With this technique, a glass ball was blown and then opened outwards on the opposite side to the pipe. Spinning the semi-molten ball then caused it to flatten and increase in size, but only up to a limited diameter. The panes thus created would then be joined with lead strips and pieced together to create windows."

I'm sure that Margaret is right and that the hardy embroiderers of the Middle Ages probably tried to set up close to an open window in summer, and relied on candlelight in winter. imagine doing embroidery with chilblained fingers - ouch!

As others have suggested, I feel that the tower with its glass windows in NITB is probably allegorical, and a reflection of legends and fairy stories where the maiden is trapped in a tower and has to be rescued by the prince. In this case maybe Gytha is trapped by her frozen emotional state; the loss of her children exacerbated by the destruction of her way of life has left her numb, the only feeling remaining the hatred which has become focused on the person of Odo. Actually, I have an idea that the "maiden in the tower" image may have some sort of sexual significance, too, phallic symbols and all that.
Last edited by annis on Mon February 16th, 2009, 7:21 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Mon February 16th, 2009, 7:01 pm

In haste as I'm off to do stuff, but it's interesting to look at visual sources such as The Web Gallery of Art http://www.wga.hu/index1.html and check through the paintings from the later medieval and even early Tudor period for Northern Europe. It's interesting to check the window spaces and see whether there's glass in them and how big!
- displacement activity, moi? Seriously, it does make one dig and delve - and that's all to the good! I rather enjoyed the peasant pics of Pieter Brueghel :)

Thanks Annis for more info. I've read it once but will digest it further anon.
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

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Margaret
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Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Tue February 17th, 2009, 2:36 am

What a wonderful website, EC! You're full of fabulous research ideas. I'm bookmarking this one. It's full of obscure artists we don't usually hear about, from countries that aren't usually featured in art exhibitions etc. The portraits are great for seeing what people of various social classes and occupations were wearing at particular periods in particular countries. I've just been looking at German portraits from the early 16th century, and the guys all look like they're freezing, despite their heavy fur collars.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue February 17th, 2009, 4:08 am

Wow, thanks for the link, EC! This is gong to occupy more time I don't have! :D

annis
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Post by annis » Tue February 17th, 2009, 4:46 am

Great site, thanks EC. I love all those Gothic and Renaissance architecture, manuscript and stained glass window links as well as the paintings.

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Cathedrals and stained glass......

Post by chuck » Wed February 18th, 2009, 6:16 pm

[quote=""annis""]Great site, thanks EC. I love all those Gothic and Renaissance architecture, manuscript and stained glass window links as well as the paintings.[/quote]

In my College days I recall reading a very good NF book by Henry Adams "Mont-Saint- Michael and Chartres"....a comparative study about the two famous Cathedral/Monastery.....The M-S-M The Archangel Abbey built on a rock, Romanesque, Militant,Dark and very heavy architecture vs. the Chartres Cathedral, Gothic.... the soaring flying buttresses, well lit by the breathtaking stained glass Rose windows....dedicated to the Virgin Mary......I'm considering re-reading it....so much history/culture.....I love the architecture comparisons and all the Historic players that were involved in each of the Cathedral/Abbey...The book is available on Amazon and has it displayed as a "Look Inside" feature...My preference is the Mont-Saint-Michael Monastery....but then again those magnificent stained glass windows of the CC......sorry I'm babbling on....
Last edited by chuck on Wed February 18th, 2009, 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

annis
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Post by annis » Thu February 19th, 2009, 6:42 pm

Hi Chuck - Seeing I seem to be obssessed with glass in this discussion I'll add this link to images and info about Chartres' stained glass windows. The earliest date from 114O and I believe, but don't quote me on this, that a Greek glass craftsman was responsible for those first windows - maybe he had Byzantine connections?
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/fran ... indows.htm

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