Bad Blood

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Bad Blood

Post by Rebecca H. on Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:10 am

I'm not sure I'll get a post written about Bad Blood (being the bad blogger than I am lately!), but I did read the book and enjoyed it a lot. Becky from Musings From the Sofa said yesterday that she read the book but didn't like Lorna Sage herself -- or at least the way she portrayed herself on the page. I was struck by that because while i didn't have that opinion as I read, afterward when I thought about it, I realized that Lorna is quite the difficult person. She grew up in a very difficult situation, but she is quite difficult herself. I think I get so caught up in the writer's voice that I sometimes forget to look at him or her critically.

I really did like the book -- the portrayal of what life was like in that time and place in particular. I couldn't believe all the horrible things she went through during her pregnancy and giving birth. I know things were difficult for women back then, but this book brought it home in a new way.

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by EL Fay on Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:59 am

I liked the first part Bad Blood when she was living in Hanmer, but after that I got tired of it.

I didn't see enough of Lorna Sage to really form an opinion as to whether or not I liked her. But I was surprised at how biting and insightful she was, and how much she was willing to reveal to the world. She did strike me as maybe someone who might have a difficult personality but, considering what her life was like, I don't blame her.

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by iliana on Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:15 am

I had the same feeling about Lorna... I never felt close to her. Like I still didn't really get to know her which was odd because her grandmother really came through for me in the way she wrote about her. Or maybe it's just that her grandparent's life was really just more interesting to me.

I did feel really sad for Lorna though when we find out about her pregnancy. It seemed she was so alone and had no idea as to what to expect. I'm so curious what kind of relationship she had with her daughter.

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by dsimpson on Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:28 pm

I really liked this--actually I feel similar to how Pete does (if you see his comment on Stefanie's blog)--when I finished it I was quite bowled over by what she had written. (Now after reading other people's reactions start to question my own). I tend to pick up and put aside books and this is one I read pretty much straight through over the long weekend so it was an intense read for me. Strangely it never occurred to me to think about whether I liked her or not (which is something I think about when reading fiction). I think I just appreciated the story she told, which was difficult, and how well she told it. Her "voice" was so completely absorbing that I was caught up in it. Even now I am not sure what I think about her, and maybe she was a difficult person, but I'm not sure I care, and that (for me anyway) that that even matters. Does that sound strange? As memoirs go, this has been one of the best I think I've read.

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by Litlove on Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:52 pm

I did really enjoy this too - for me it was the quality of the writing that swung it. There is something very classic about Lorna Sage's life in the 50s in austerity post-war Britain. The war had messed up most people's lives, there was little to be cheerful about when living was still such a chore and a trial, and morality was a strange thing - split between the public facade which had to be spotless and the reality of people's messy relationships. I felt that she honored all these difficulties, remained honest not sentimental, and created wonderful characters out of her family members. Was it just me, then, to think that they were drawn with affection as well as honest frustration?

I found an interesting review online that was more of an obituary, written by one of Sage's PhD students. The student says she was a fantastic person to work with - very genuine and encouraging and inspired by the spirit of literature. The only odd thing that struck me was that this student said she felt Sage's outrage to be disproportionate to the hardships she had suffered. Other people went through much worse. And then the PhD student told a story from her own family, about an uncle who won a university place to study modern languages, which was so alien to his father's understanding of the world that he went out and bought the uncle a set square as the only preparation he could think of. Now this struck me, because good anecdote that it is, it is certainly no worse than Sage's situation. And I wonder whether the memoir suffers precisely because it IS ordinary unhappiness that it discusses. No misery memoir excessive abuse here, just common or garden family madness. I wonder whether the trend for memoirs to discuss extreme situations means that it becomes more of a puzzle to the reader to understand why an ordinarily difficult life may be of interest? And yet, childhood is a time of outrage, I think. No matter how happy the family, no child fails to learn shame, resentment and distress in the heart of the home.

Anyway, I did enjoy it - but then, anyone who is saved by books is going to be worth reading about for me!

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by Litlove on Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:53 pm

Oh and Danielle - I quite agree - I never thought for a moment about whether or not I liked Lorna Sage, and ultimately, it didn't matter. I felt she was talking about where she'd come from, not who she'd become (hence the cutoff point, just as she gets her own life).

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by dsimpson on Tue Jun 01, 2010 3:31 pm

That's interesting about the student's comment. How can anyone else determine another person's suffering and how can it be measured anyway? But maybe we are all judgemental that way. I suppose there are extreme situations and it has inured us to the common garden variety--still, I think life isn't easy and childhood is a time of outrage and you can't really belittle what someone else has gone through. Well, at least I think you shouldn't anyway.

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by iliana on Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:04 pm

Litlove that is so interesting about the student's comment. Like Danielle, I also don't think anyone can "measure" the suffering. And, actually that is one thing I really liked about this memoir. Sure there were hard times and such but nothing extreme. I really appreciated that because it seems like a lot of memoirs almost try to outdo each other in showing just how much pain the writer has gone through. I don't think you need extreme circumstances to write an interesting account of a family's life.

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by Stefanie on Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:50 pm

Like Danielle and Litlove I didn't even think whether I liked Lorna until I read the comments here! I can certainly see how she can be called difficult but I kind of like that about her. Her stubborn determination, her outsider status, her ability to plow through and carry on and get what she wanted, these she needed in order to find the success she did.

That is an interesting comment from her student and I must agree with all of you who said you can't measure someone else's suffering.

One of the things I really liked about the book is that Sage gave everyone the respect and dignity they deserved. She never once disparaged anyone, paint them as clowns or ogres, or even pass judgment on anyone. I wonder if she went through years of therapy to be able to refrain from that or maybe she wrote it and got it out of her system and then revised it out of the book? All I know is, I'm not sure I'd be able to be so generous to my family and I had it much easier growing up than Sage did!

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by Rebecca H. on Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:11 am

Litlove, I agree that Sage communicated both frustration and affection toward her family members. She seems admiring of her grandparents, in a way, and of her parents, too, for their strength, twisted as it often was.

It didn't really occur to me while I was reading that what Sage went through wasn't particularly bad. Whether it was or it wasn't, it was interesting, and I think that's what matters. It was a good story and she captured it well. It would be sad if the popularity of misery memoirs meant that readers couldn't appreciate Sage's story because it wasn't awful enough.

I do think it's interesting that she did very little thinking about what it all meant. It reminded me of Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle, which focused on the story alone and didn't have much analysis of larger meanings. I suppose it leaves the reader to come to her own conclusions, but I do like it when authors answer such questions themselves.

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Re: Bad Blood

Post by dsimpson on Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:07 pm

I think you're right Dorothy. In retrospect and seeing the whole picture it seems bad to me (the adultery, drinking, poverty, dirtiness, how she was treated when she gave birth, etc), but since Lorna grew up in that environment it would have been her normal and probably other families were dealing with the same exact types of things. (But I think that type of behavior affects people even if they don't realize it when it is happening). But she was such a good storyteller that I didn't care either or even really think about it until now. And it would be sad if this sort of book would have less appeal to readers because the awfulness aspect was less than other's experiences, as she's such a remarkable writer.

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