We are delighted to welcome Sarah Bower to the blog as our guest blogger of the month. Sarah works as Literature Development Officer for Norfolk and teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She was UK Editor of the Historical Novels Review for two years and remains a regular contributor.
As you might expect from Sarah's background, her first novel 'The Needle in the Blood', is absolutely steeped in the sights, sounds and smells of the middle ages. This is no wallpaper history but the real thing, full of the pleasures, horrors, obsessions and passions of the era - an eleventh century tale of sex, lies and embroidery.
And now, over to Sarah.
The Bayeux Tapestry is so familiar to most of us we might almost think of it as our history's wallpaper. Yet how much to we actually know about it? Who had it made, and why? Who made it, how and where did they work? Why are its margins full of mythological beasts and rampant naked men, and who were Aelfgytha and her unnamed cleric? Nearly a thousand years after the event, it's unlikely we shall ever know the answers to such questions for sure, but in The Needle in the Blood, I have tried to imagine what they might be and how this great and unique work of art might have changed the lives of the people who brought it into being.
It's January 1067. Charismatic Bishop Odo of Bayeux commissions a wall hanging, on a scale never seen before, to celebrate his role in the conquest of Britain by his brother William, Duke of Normandy. What he cannot anticipate is how this will change his life even more than the invasion itself. His life becomes entangled with those of the women who embroider the hanging, especially that of Gytha, once a waiting woman to the mistress of the fallen Saxon king and Odo's sworn enemy. Against either of their intentions, they fall passionately in love, bringing Odo into conflict with his king and his God. Odo's friends mistrust Gytha's hold over him, and his enemies exploit it. Friends and family become enemies, enemies become lovers. Nothing in life or in the hanging is what it seems."
This is an area of history which is often overlooked in fiction, and anyone who loves unusual time periods, as well as authentic history, is going to love it! Reviewers certainly did.
'Truly compelling...vivid, intriguing and masterfully portrayed' Susan Fletcher, author of 'Eve Green', winner of the 2004 Whitbread First Novel Award
'The author is brilliant at evoking all the senses, from the stench of blood on the battlefield, the taste of someone’s perfumed skin, the rasp of a needle against the finger.' Sally Zigmond, 'The Historical Novels Review'
'The Bayeux Tapestry will never look the same again.' Patricia Duncker, author of 'Hallucinating Foucault'
To find out more, visit Sarah Bower's website by clicking here
You can buy it from bookshops in the UK - here are the useful details:
Book Title: 'The Needle in the Blood'
Publisher: Snowbooks www.snowbooks.com
Publication date: 1st May 2007
Paperback original RRP £7.99
Or of course you can buy The Needle in the Blood online at Amazon or your favourite online seller.