Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

The Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

The Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower

Postby EC2 » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 4:04 pm

I enjoyed this novel a lot. It is told in the present tense, and I would call it literary fiction.
The above bald summary does not do justice to how richly textured this story is with nuance and meaning. In many ways it's not so much a historical novel, as a fantasy story like the Arthurian tales of high Medieval literature. You will find hermits and forests, women's magic that almost hints at the Shelagh Na Gig. It's like an illuminated manuscript glimpsed through trees. I don't think the author particularly engaged with the straightforward world of the 11th century, but it is still a world in which the reader can become absolutely immersed. There are some interesting comments referencing the content of the Bayeux tapestry and they made me want to get out my copy of the work and look at it.
It is not a fast read. The detail and richness of the language means that the reader needs to absorb it slowly and think about the ideas and layers between its pages. It took me nearly a month. Like bitter chocolate or strong cheese, it's wonderfully intense on the taste buds, but a little goes a long way. It's almost like poetry.
There are a lot of historical errors, but not of the kind that most people would notice. The references to brandy, friars, hourglasses, lockets containing hair, none of them known to 11thC society, would probably pass most readers by. Even more so the detail that dye is not actually set with urine - It's used as a mordant in the case of woad, or that woad actually produces a better blue-black colour than indigo. That's just nit-picking because I happen to know an Anglo Saxon dye and textile expert. If you don't know, it doesn't detract from the story.
In some ways, Sarah's Bower's richly detailed use of language, and indeed some of her characterisation, reminds me a little of Dorothy Dunnett. It also has a feel of Nicole Galand's The Fool's Tale in the way it treats the medieval content, but it's ten times better.
This novel is going to be entered for the Orange Prize, and it may well be a contender.
Verdict: Enjoyable literary fiction and well worth the read.
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

User avatar
Perdita
Reader
Location: London
Contact:

Postby Perdita » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 9:30 pm

This one has been lying on my bookshelf for about 4 months and I'd completely forgotten it was there :rolleyes: I'll definitely make a start on it now!

User avatar
Eyza
Scribbler
Location: Seattle, Washington
Contact:

Postby Eyza » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 11:10 pm

I had rather mixed feelings about The Needle in the Blood. I think Ms. Bower had a wonderful idea, of a love story between Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and a fictional woman who is embroidering the Bayeux Tapestry. And I was willing, for this reason, to overlook the fact that it is written in present tense. But I kept wondering why Also, though I'd have to check back a bit, I had some real questions about the historical accuracy of what she came up with(as I said, I can't give details on this without checking back, because I can't quite remember the details that made me wonder since it's been a little while since I read it). I do think it's a good read, and though it's not a "fast" one, I had little trouble following what was going on. Ms. Bower is obviously quite talented, and it will be interesting to see how she develops as a writer.

Also, I wrote a review of it on my The Writer's Daily Grind blog, which you can find here

http://www.writersdalygrind.blogspot.com should any of you be interested in the thoughts I had closer to the time I actually read it. ;)
Anne G

User avatar
Eyza
Scribbler
Location: Seattle, Washington
Contact:

Postby Eyza » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 11:14 pm

All:

Addendum here:

I did notice some of these historical errors, and some EC didn't mention, like the one about imposed curfews. . . .the lockets with hair sounded more like a Native American "medicine bundle" to me, rather than an actual locket. I didn't "catch" the "brandy" one, but I can't claim to be the kind of expert EC is, though I've read a lot about this period for my own Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece! :D
Anne G

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 11:32 pm

Welcome back to the forum Eyza!
Sarah actually teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia.
One of the major stumbling points for me re historical accuracy was the glass in the windows - of the women's sewing room. Absolutely not at this stage in history. But it's a nice literary conceit. I also scratched my head at the guy in Winchester (I think!) who was a survivor of Hastings but he'd lost both an arm and a leg. Eh? Why didn't he bleed to death? Again, I think one has to take it as allegory with imagery beyond the initial one. I suppose it's like an art historian reading a painting for clues behind the meaning of everyday objects - and that's part of why I would call it literary fiction.
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

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 12:37 am

This one finally came from the library last month but I'm sorry to say I bailed on it at about 50 pages. Perhaps I was in the wrong mood, the there was something wrong in the constant sex references that was bugging the h*** out of me at the time. Although I think I recall diamondlil saying this was a tough book to get in to.

User avatar
michellemoran
Bibliophile
Contact:

Postby michellemoran » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 12:48 am

I just ordered this and it arrived last week. It's sitting on my stairs (where books tend to sit when I'm too lazy to carry them up to the library!)...
Visit MichelleMoran.com
Check out Michelle's blog History Buff at michellemoran.blogspot.com

User avatar
Eyza
Scribbler
Location: Seattle, Washington
Contact:

Postby Eyza » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 4:36 am

EC2:

I didn't mind the glass windows in the sewing room. I've heard from several reliable sources that they actually had[I][B] glass windows then. They weren't very common then, and only the richest people could afford them. Which Odo supposedly was. What I [B][I]did mind was the sewing room being called an "atelier". That struck me as extremely unlikely, whatever else it might have been called. And if you(or anyone else reading this) are interested, I have a review on my blog The Writer's Daily Grind. You can find it by clicking here:

http://writersdailygrind.blogspot.com/2008/07/odo-oh-no.html

Some of you might find it worth your while to read,
Anne G



"EC2" wrote:Welcome back to the forum Eyza!
Sarah actually teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia.
One of the major stumbling points for me re historical accuracy was the glass in the windows - of the women's sewing room. Absolutely not at this stage in history. But it's a nice literary conceit. I also scratched my head at the guy in Winchester (I think!) who was a survivor of Hastings but he'd lost both an arm and a leg. Eh? Why didn't he bleed to death? Again, I think one has to take it as allegory with imagery beyond the initial one. I suppose it's like an art historian reading a painting for clues behind the meaning of everyday objects - and that's part of why I would call it literary fiction.

User avatar
diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 8:53 am

"Misfit" wrote:This one finally came from the library last month but I'm sorry to say I bailed on it at about 50 pages. Perhaps I was in the wrong mood, the there was something wrong in the constant sex references that was bugging the h*** out of me at the time. Although I think I recall diamondlil saying this was a tough book to get in to.



This is one of those books that I had to struggle to read. Not because it wasn't a good story, because it was, but more because the writing was so dense that while i was reading it I had to really concentrate on it, and then when I put it down other books were a little tempting to pick up instead.

In the end I did enjoy it because the story was interesting and ultimately rewarding.
My Blog - Reading Adventures

All things Historical Fiction - Historical Tapestry


There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Edith Wharton

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Two Houses by Fran Cooper
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Postby Vanessa » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 9:15 am

The author has written another book - Book of Love. Anyone read that one? I like the cover.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind


Return to “By Author's Last Name A-F”