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 memoirs of recent years, Bad Blood brings alive in vivid detail a time - the '40s and '50s - not so distant from us but now disappeared. As a portrait of a family and a young girl's place in it, it is unsurpassed.
Nobody's unhappy family was ever quite like that of Lorna Sage, whose ruthlessly funny, excruciating, inspiring memoir Bad Blood won England's Whitbread Biography Award. She grew up in the '40s on the Welsh border, in the crossfire between her grandparents, a bitter, bibulous, bookish vicar resembling Jack Sprat and his short, "fat doll" of an ignorant wife. He preached earthy sermons about how one might prefer for a wife "Martha before dinner, Mary after dinner." His wife's "notion of marriage [was] that a man signed you up to have his wicked way with you and should spend the rest of his life paying through the nose." Grandma blackmailed the vicar with his diary of adultery, in which she scribbled vicious comments invaluable to the family historian. She gobbled sweets; he drank, fumed, and helped make Lorna Sage a noted literary critic. There is much more: the vicar's affair with his daughter's school chum, the cosmic impact of Bill Haley and his Comets, Lorna's precocious pregnancy, and the strange way lives ricochet and echo each other. Sage manages to give her rural upbringing a brooding Gothic poignance and the comic force of Cold Comfort Farm. She describes a moment after her grandfather's death in the vicarage, "where everything seemed to be wearing thin and getting see-through, as though a spell were dissolving." But the shades of her clan won't quite fade, and thanks to this book, they're here to stay. --Tim Appelo