As part of 4th Estate’s month-long celebration of women’s writing, we’ll be bringing you personal picks from the 4th Estate team. Those who make up our editorial, marketing, publicity and sales teams will be sharing their favourite piece of women’s writing. An incredibly tough question to be faced with, we know, but one that certainly got everyone thinking.
Today’s pick is from Publishing Director Nicholas Pearson.
Last month 4th Estate sold its four-hundred-thousandth copy of Lorna Sage’s extraordinary memoir Bad Blood. It is a book that has never been far from my thoughts and it is hard to imagine it ever out of print.
Lorna Sage was, up until her death in 2001, Professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia, where she spent her entire career. Before Bad Blood, which was published a few months before her death, she had edited The Cambridge Guide to Women’s Writing in English. In the Preface to that book she wrote, ‘In concentrating on women’s writing . . . you stress the extent and pace of change, for the scale of women’s access to literary life has reflected and accelerated democratic, diasporic pressures in the modern world.’
Bad Blood describes Lorna’s somewhat gothic upbringing in the village of Hanmer, on the borders of Wales and England, between the second world war and the 1960s. Her grandfather, the local vicar, self-destructive and embittered, looms over the family and is very much the epicentre of Lorna’s early life, which was harsh and suffocating. Her escape and the moving and ultimately uplifting ending to this remarkable story, is Lorna’s pregnancy and the birth of her daughter before she takes her A-levels.
There are many ways to write a childhood memoir. Some are total reinventions of events, imagined dialogue and all, memoirs that set themselves out like novels. Bad Blood isn’t like that – from memory there are only three or four scraps of dialogue which Lorna could actually remember verbatim, and so deserved their place in her story. Everything in this book is as it actually was. It is the truth.
Find out more about WOM4N, a month wide celebration of women’s writing at 4th Estate.
Read Publishing Director Helen Garnons-Williams’ choice here.
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