Blasts from the Past: Bad Blood by Lorna Sage (2000)

Cover image for Bad Blood by Lorna Sage This is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy in as many hands as I could.

A rare non-fiction blast from me, this time reprising Lorna Sage’s Bad Blood, her wonderfully eloquent, witty, heart-wrenching memoir which became a surprise bestseller.

Born in Hanmer, Flintshire in 1943, Lorna Sage spent her first years with her mother and grandparents in the village vicarage. Locked in constant combat, Thomas and Hilda were an ill-matched pair: she, constantly hankering after the sweet delights of the Rhonda where she was born, while he drowned his sorrows in communion wine and philandered. When Sage’s father returned from the army, the family moved to a council house. Sage was a lonely child, forever on the fringes, seeking refuge in books. Sexually alluring yet desperately naïve, she became pregnant at sixteen by Vic Sage, a fellow misfit. The two married and, determined to continue with her studies, Sage took her A-levels shortly after giving birth to her daughter. She won a scholarship to Durham University where both she and her husband gained Firsts, later becoming a successful academic.

Bad Blood won the Whitbread Biography Award just a week before Sage died from emphysema in 2001 aged fifty-seven. As she wrote in her Guardian obituary of her close friend, Angela Carter, who died of lung cancer at fifty-one “it’s no use pretending that she wouldn’t have produced new work just as wonderful given the chance”.

What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?

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19 thoughts on “Blasts from the Past: Bad Blood by Lorna Sage (2000)”

  1. Oh yes, I remember reading this many years ago and really enjoying it. Blasts from the past? No, I’m afraid not. I need to get better at re-reading. I’m always looking at that tottering TBR pile. But I really should change my habits. So many books deserve a second – or third – look.

  2. When I was living in Norwich, England, it seemed everyone was speaking of Lorna Sage. She was loved around there, UEA and such, and her death was recent. In a strange twist of fate one of my best friends is quite close with the husband of ‘the daughter’ of Sage’s. I have a copy of Bad Blood and this prod has put it on my TBR list for real. Thank you.

      1. That’s what I was going to say: what a cover! I’ve got the original too. Like Rebecca, it was one of the books that put me onto reading non-fiction, which I’d stubbornly resisted for the most part until then (though not necessarily family memoirs for me, anything even slightly bookish instead, which I wouldn’t have initially thought this book would be, but of course it is). Her essays are wonderful too.

        1. I try to have something non-fiction on the go, often history or politics, but I read this one partly because I sold so many when I was a bookseller and I’m so glad I did. Extraordinary life!

  3. I was trying to figure out where I’d heard this author’s name before and then your mention of Angela Carter confirmed it. I think she wrote (or compiled?) a book about Carter many years ago…
    Anyway, this memoir does sound very powerful…

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