From a childhood of gothic proportions in a vicarage on the Welsh borders, through adolescence, leaving herself teetering on the brink of the 1960's, Lorna Sage vividly and wittily brings to life a vanished time and place and illuminates the lives of three generations of women.Lorna Sage's memoir of childhood and adolescence is a brilliantly written bravura piece of work, which vividly and wickedly brings to life her eccentric family and somewhat bizarre upbringing in the small town of Hanmer, on the border between Wales ...
From a childhood of gothic proportions in a vicarage on the Welsh borders, through adolescence, leaving herself teetering on the brink of the 1960's, Lorna Sage vividly and wittily brings to life a vanished time and place and illuminates the lives of three generations of women.Lorna Sage's memoir of childhood and adolescence is a brilliantly written bravura piece of work, which vividly and wickedly brings to life her eccentric family and somewhat bizarre upbringing in the small town of Hanmer, on the border between Wales and Shropshire.The period as well as the place is evoked with crystal clarity: from the 1940s, dominated for Lorna by her dissolute but charismatic vicar grandfather, through the 1950s, where the invention of fish fingers revolutionised the lives of housewives like Lorna's mother, to the brink of the 1960s, where the community was shocked by Lorna's pregnancy at 16, an event which her grandmother blamed on `the fiendish invention of sex'.Bad Blood is often extremely funny, and is at the same time a deeply intelligent insight by a unique literary stylist into the effect on three generations of women of their environment and their relationships.
I knew when I read Bad Blood?s opening sentence, "Grandfather's skirts would flap in the wind along the churchyard path and I would hang on.? I knew that I would hang on too. Lorna Sage spends her early years growing up with her grandparents in north Wales while her father is off fighting in the World War II. Her brilliant grandfather, a vicar, is exiled to Hamner, a remote village on the Welsh border. ?He was good at funerals, being gaunt and lined and marked with mortality.? She writes too that he had a scar down his hollow cheek, which Grandma had done with the carving knife one of the many times when he came home extremely drunk.
Bad Blood is an extraordinary story of a failed marriage, a failed ministry, of family lies and secrets. From the vicarage Lorna watches the disintegration of the old world and the disintegration of her grandparents' marriage. Lorna?s grandfather dies when she is nine years old, her memories of him grow in her imagination. Lorna eventually realizes that her grandfather had not let her down as he had all the others starting with her grandmother. For Lorna, ?Instead he vanished into the dark with his mystique intact.? When Lorna?s father returns from the army the family moves into a newly built house. Many years later Lorna?s father acknowledges that her grandmother had been blackmailing her husband for years with the threat of showing his diaries to the bishop. The diaries her mother had hidden away were two small volumes covering the years when he had first arrived in Hanmer. She learns from the diaries her grandparents? world of secrets ? her grandfather had carried on numerous affairs with local women, the most scandalous with the best friend of his then teenage daughter. Lorna discovers that people in the village knew about it though they did not talk about it. It was too shocking --? ?for Marj was my 16-year-old mother's best friend, only 17 herself.? This was the sin that spoiled his relationship with my mother for good, prevented his promotion in the church.? And despite his reputation people flocked to hear his sermons.? Longing to escape from her family, Lorna finds solace in books. ?I had acquired from Grandpa vanity, ambition and discontent along with literacy...my addiction to print was part of my general delinquency." Along with her best friend she vows she will never marry or have children, but at the age of 16 she becomes pregnant. Her mother is so enraged that she threatens to send her away to a home for unmarried woman. Her grandmother intervenes and Lorna marries Vic, the bookish young man she can barely remember having sex with. The young couple determines to continue their education. Leaving their child with family they attend Durham University where they both study literature. As Lorna says, "...we broke the rules and got away with it, for better and for worse, we're part of the shape of things to come." It is in writing about her grandfather that she comes to understand him. ?I was trying to bring him back to life, I succeeded in ways I hadn't expected. I realized that I didn't really want to take after Grandpa when it came to deviousness and self-pity and self-dramatisation. There were moments when he seemed to reach a skinny hand out of the past to take hold of me, as when he confided to the diary, ?Today? (October 7 1934) I had the old inspiration back again to write?; and again in December, ?I make another resolution to spend my time in journalism and writing. I think I can make good now...?" Though Lorna recognizes that her grandfather ?doesn?t make it,? she ends her memoir feeling that ?in a strange way he was now doing it through me.? The old codger ? indeed like the rest of us --lives on through the generations with the best and worst of him revealed.
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