The bad blood had missed a generation. You′re just like your grandfather, my mother said.
Blood trickles down through every generation, seeps into every marriage. Lorna Sage′s long-awaited adventure in autobiography is a searing anatomy of three marriages. Her early childhood is dominated by her brilliant, bitter grandfather, a boozer, a womanizer, a vicar exiled to a remote village in the Welsh borders. His wife loathed him, lived on memories and shook her fist at any parishioner bold enough to call at the house. From the vicarage Lorna watches the fading away of the old world and the slow dissolve of her grandparents′ disastrous union.
Then her father returns from the army, her grandfather dies, and she moves with her parents and baby brother into a newly-built housing project. The open-plan future is a place of rural dereliction. Living with her real parents she quickly learns that the post-war world is full of secrets and lies that mark her family -- the silence around sex, her mother′s thwarted dreams, her father′s addiction to work, and the mysterious emotional economy of their proper marriage. Longing to leave, Lorna vows she will never marry or have children. But she grows up so fast that she finds herself pregnant without noticing she has lost her virginity.
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.
Questions for Discussion
1. ′He got so impatient with my favourite books that one momentous day, before I was four, he taught me to read in self-defence. This confirmed me as his creature.′ Assess the different ways in which Lorna became her grandfather′s creature, and the way in which he continued to influence her after his death.
2. Discuss the role that books and reading came to play in Lorna′s life.
3. Compare and contrast the atmosphere in the three family homes in Bad Blood: the Vicarage; no. 4, The Arowry; and Sunnyside.
4. ′Hanmer was a most picturesque place from a certain distance, but close up its substance was heavy and strange.′ Discuss Lorna′s relationship with her hometown.
5. What can we learn about post-war England from Lorna′s experiences in Bad Blood.
6. Amongst other things, Bad Blood is a vivid anatomy of three marriages; Lorna′s maternal grandparents; her parents; and her own, with Vic Sage. Discuss the very real differences between these three marriages.
7. ′The magic of the Church no longer impressed us. Our own bodies were more mysterious than the wine and wafers...′ Discuss the changing role of religion in Lorna′s life through Bad Blood.
8. ′She and I now formed a kind of miniature generation ourselves, we were furiously impatient to be teenagers.′ Discuss Lorna′s friendship with Gail and their experiences in adolescence.
9. Rachel Cusk, reviewing in the London Evening Standard, suggested that ′this "memoir" has all the qualities of fiction.′ Discuss the ways in which Lorna Sage achieves this in her writing.
About Lorna Sage