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Bad Blood

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,458 ratings  ·  161 reviews

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

Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 18th 2003 by HarperCollins (first published September 7th 2000)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,458 ratings  ·  161 reviews

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Connie G
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 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 frequent the pubs. He was very bright and passed on his love of reading to Lorna. Her relatives wondered if Lorna had inherited ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: july-2018
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 more 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 ...more
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
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. ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, autobiography
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 blood".

Though childhood takes up much of the book, her teenage years are intriguing, for here the family rises above convention and supports Lorna in h
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 i
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: McGeorge Bundy
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: The New Yorker
Shelves: own, memoir
A quite 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.) ...more
Claire Fuller
I read this when it was first published, 20 years ago, and although I remember loving it, I couldn't recall anything about it. In post-war Wales and England Lorna Sage recounts her girl-hood and her family, especially her womanising vicar grandfather (using two of diaries to relate what he got up to with the community nurse). But it is her grandfather who moulds her, making her bookish and independent, and Lorna's mother blames him for what happens to Lorna towards the end of this memoir - which ...more
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 more 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 t ...more
Lukasz Pruski
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"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 fingers."

[This review is dedicated to EVK, my outstanding student, who gave me this book.]

Lorna 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 t
Lucy Kaufman
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book for 50p from a plastic tub of second books in my GP surgery. Its cover denoted quality and the spine seemed vaguely familiar (I realise now, my mother has a copy on her shelf). One of the best 50p pieces ever spent, Lorna Sage’s memoir turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Well-remembered and exquisitely observed, Bad Blood is a poetic blend of personal psychology, social history and an academic love of literature, which never succumbs to schmalzy sentimentality or nos
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not being familiar with Lorna Sage, I read this strictly from an interest in autobiography. I found myself waiting for something, anything to happen, but the story was told in such a gray, weary manner, even the "big" events in her life seemed mundane. ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
It took a little while to get going for me but when it did, I think when Lorna became a rebellious...ish teenager I loved it.

It is also uplifting, funny in a grim way and has some great pictures showing what a stylish lady she was. I was saddened to learn that Lorna Sage died in 2001.

Fine book.
Sarah Tittle
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Having absolutely no idea who Lorna Sage is/was, I ventured into the memoir because I was hungry for a woman's story—but not looking for trigger-warning events. I apologize for that; I just can't stomach horrible news on top of what's already out there.

This memoir, which spans the 2oth century, opens with the lives of her grandparents on her mother's side, with whom she lived for the first decade of her life. Sage then tells the story of her mother, before she finally gets to her own life. This
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ms Sage is a wonderful writer. The structure and style are somewhat unusual for a memoir, and I definitely appreciate that.

Spending time in a post-war Welsh vicarage with Lorna's lusty vicar grandfather, perpetually sour and angry grandmother, and her ditsy mother----none of whom could manage to lift a broom or to teach Lorna to bathe, apparently---was definitely one of those "Gee, I didn't know people lived like that" experiences. Again....a plus for me Moving out of the vicarage and into "coun
Rachael Eyre
Dec 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Possibly the oddest memoir I've ever read. Sage's girlhood reads like a real life Cold Comfort Farm, with a coterie of barmy relatives - the promiscuous Rev, her stirring grandma, the pervy socialist uncle. It's a powerful evocation of a time where transgressions such as teenage pregnancy and divorce were beyond the pale, and turned ordinary people into pariahs. It also demonstrates the harm that unhappy families can do, because her relations seem to have deliberately kept her in the dark about ...more
Jennifer Summers
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I picked this book up purely because I like memoirs and saw it had good reviews. I wasn't familiar with Lorna Sage's non fiction writing. I can imagine if this isn't the case, and you are a fan of Lorna's work already, it would be really interesting to read about her life and upbringing. However as a stand alone memoir I felt it was lacking somewhat in terms of plot.

It is undoubtably well written with some really interesting parts, but overall wasn't that impactful for me. It also ended just as
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the print reviews call this memoir tenderly written, an exuberant celebration, generous. I'm going to say no to all of that. For the most part the author is a sullen observer of miserable people. One reviewer said it described a time in English villages that England continues to run from - that comes closest to my perception. However there are some pertinent observations on women and their lives and the fact that intelligence, education, self determination and books can pull them out of ...more
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
A memorable and convincing memoir that begins in a vicarage on the Welsh border, moves to a council house in the village and ends at university. Lorna Sage's autobiography is about family history and shame, good intentions and mistakes; the escape offered by books, education and good friends, the sad results of keeping silent about sex and bodies, the everyday trials of fitting in, finding work, being short of money and maintaining appearances. ...more
Jun 13, 2007 rated it liked it
Well-written but not terribly enjoyable memoir of a woman growing up with the world's worst grandparents and mother in post-war England and Wales. These people are so mundanely awful that it's jot even entertaining or heartbreaking to read about them, such as with "The Glass Castle" or "Running With Scissors." ...more
Ok read, but nothing special, I didn't think she really had anything particularly new or different to say about the period, and she didn't really have all that exceptional a life, although I was impressed at her determination to sit her exams and go to university despite having just given birth, and would rather have read that story, rather than it just being the last chapter!! ...more
Cheryl Armstrong
Jul 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Wonderful, compelling beginning, the grandfather and grandmother, locked in a dysfunctional marriage, descriptions of the vicarage and the relationship between the author and her family. Though Lorna Sage is an excellent writer, descriptions of place and people are detailed and vivid, the story bogs down as the chapters progress and seems all too familiar.
Jennifer Rolfe
Sep 30, 2011 rated it liked it
I found this book a good analysis of social life in the post ww2 period in rural Wales but she told the story and I don't feel very connected to the people. Where was the resolution? Felt the author was rather detached from the whole process. ...more
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not the page turner it should have been. Had a hard time caring one way or the other about the author. At one point, I almost returned to the library half read. Don't know why I perservered. Now that I am done, I just feel ambivalent. ...more
Sep 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
I couldn't finish it. It reminded me of The Gathering - nice writing, moving story, but it just felt too far away to relate to. For some reason, I just couldn't focus on it long enough to finish it. ...more
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
So beautifully written I could not put it down. Lorna Sage writes perceptively and without sentiment about growing up in England after the war.
May 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting slice of life for post WWII Britain. No dialog made it a little slow going.
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
British literary critic's coming of age memoir clouded by unlikeable family. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please combine Bad Blood plus add description 3 25 Nov 14, 2012 11:20PM  

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The eldest child of Valma and Eric Stockton, she was named after Lorna Doone [1]. Sage was born at Hanmer, Flintshire, Wales, and educated at the village school, then at the Girls' High School in Whitchurch, Shropshire. Her childhood in the late 1940s and early 1950s is recalled in her last book Bad Blood. Sage became pregnant when she was 16 but was able to continue her education and won a schola ...more

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