Guest Post by Sarah Bower + Giveaway of THE NEEDLE OF THE BLOOD

Passages to the Past is pleased to bring you a guest post by Sarah Bower in honor of the release of her novel, THE NEEDLE IN THE BLOOD!  And thanks to Sourcebooks I have one copy of THE NEEDLE IN THE BLOOD up for grabs, so be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post!

And now, please enjoy this fascinating guest post from Sarah Bower...

Let me begin by thanking you for inviting me back on your blog to talk about my new novel, THE NEEDLE IN THE BLOOD.

When considering what to write for this post, I decided to take my cue from your title, and reflect on the route that brought me to write about the Bayeux Tapestry. The English are famous for being able to transform defeat and embarrassment into a virtue, whether in war or on the soccer pitch. We still somehow manage to regard the evacuation of our troops from Dunkirk in 1940 as one of our finest hours when it was, in historical fact, one of the lowest points in all our long history.

In 1940, we were nearly invaded by Hitler. In 1066, these islands were successfully invaded by William Duke of Normandy, aka The Bastard, but known henceforth as The Conqueror. As a result, 1066 is the most recognised date in English history. Everyone knows that is the year in which Anglo Saxon King Harold was defeated by William at the Battle of Hastings. King Harold’s legend portrays him as the archetypal Englishman – tall, blond, honourable, courageous... and a heroic loser.

William’s invasion, and his reasons for pursuing it, are the subject of several works of contemporary propaganda, but none so famous as the Bayeux Tapestry which, given our English nostalgia for glorious lost causes, has become the ‘wallpaper’ of our history, its images so familiar we no longer really see them. I hadn’t given this remarkable work a second thought since I was in primary school, when a set of circumstances came together to change my relationship with it forever.

I had recently been offered a place to read for a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia. I was beginning to think about what I would write while there. I sat down one evening to watch Simon Schama’s ‘History of Britain’ on TV, and found myself looking at a somewhat crude embroidered image of a woman and child fleeing a burning house. ‘This,’ said Schama, ‘is the first image in Western art of what war does to civilians.’ It was as though somebody had switched on all the lights in my head. That, I realised, was the seed of the story I wanted to tell, the story of how that remarkable image came to be.

Once I began to research the Tapestry (which isn’t a tapestry at all, but an embroidery), however, I discovered that story was impossible to tell. We cannot say how or why the Bayeux Tapestry came to be. We do not know who commissioned it, who made it or why. Why, for example, when only a patron of substance could have assembled the skills, resources and materials need to produce a work over 230 feet long, is it made of such humble materials: woollen embroidery on linen, using a limited palette of what it is reasonable to assume were the colours seasonally available from dyes distilled from local vegetation? When was it made? How was it made? What were the working conditions of the embroiderers, and where was their workshop situated? There are firm answers to none of these questions, merely informed speculation and blatant guesswork. Once I discovered how little was actually known about the Tapestry, I realised it was a perfect subject for fiction. There was plenty of room to make stuff up.

Once I began to look at the work itself, there were more disconcerting and unexpected revelations. The narrative of the Battle of Hastings and the events leading up to it fills up only about two thirds of the available space on the long strip of linen. In the upper and lower margins other stories are being told, fables, small tales of individual lust and extreme violence, obscure and allusive parables, pastorals of ploughing and vine tending. In the margins of the Tapestry the conquered stitched their resistance, their rage and fear, their jokes, their secret life. There is a truth in the margins which is absent from the swaggering propaganda of the main narrative, but it is a fictional truth, arrived at through storytelling.

As I read into the many interpretations that have been put on these mysterious marginal images, I began to form an impression of who had made them and why, of who would understand them and who be deceived by them, and thus arrived at the spine of my story, the tension between the over-mighty Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the ambitious half-brother of The Conqueror, and a workshop full of English women whose only route to resistance was through their needles. While Odo bestrides the real world of blood and politics, the embroiderers exist in the liminality of the workshop, in creative imagination. Their bodies are at the bishop’s command, but he cannot control their minds.

I didn’t know, when I began the book, that it would be a love story. I thought it would only be a war story, about the wanton exercise of power. But it became a particular kind of love story, one that begins with a rape, and that image, of love out of violence, reconciliation out of hate, seems to me to be symbolic of what the Norman Conquest means to the English. Ultimately, Harold’s heroism is doomed to become myth whereas William’s pragmatism has endured, in everything from the Tower of London to trial by jury, from our great cathedrals to the ubiquity of rabbits (introduced by the Normans, who farmed them for meat and fur). Having begun with nostalgia for a past which never really existed, I found myself moving through the mythology of the Tapestry, and the brutal fairytale of Odo and Gytha, to a sense that the English identity didn’t die with Harold Godwinson but was born out of William’s victory.

My novel shows this, I hope, through the eyes of an ill-matched pair of lovers, unable to live either together or apart, each traumatised by the experience of conquest out of which grows the Tapestry, whose capacity to survive neglect, abuse and even the Nazis is, to my mind, nothing short of magical.


Publication Date: March 1, 2012 | Sourcebooks Publishing | 544p


His lust for power gave him everything. But it might cost him the love of his life.

The Bishop hired her for a simple job: embroider a tapestry. It is an enormous work, a cloth trophy of the conquest of England. But her skill with a needle and thread is legendary. It would be uncomplicated.

She plans to kill him as soon as she gets the chance. He and his brother, William the Conqueror, murdered her King and destroyed her world. Revenge, pure and clean. It would be simple.

But neither planned to fall desperately in love. As the two become hopelessly entangled, friends become enemies, enemies become lovers, and nothing in life—or the tapestry—is what it seems. An unlikely love story born of passion and intensity, crafted by critically acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Bower,The Needle in the Blood is a "story of love, war, and the tangled truth of England's birth." 

About Sarah Bower

Sarah Bower is a literature development officer for Creative Arts East. She teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She was UK editor of the Historical Novels Review for two years until the beginning of 2006, when she stepped down to make more time for her own writing. She is the author of Sins of the House of Borgia and The Needle in the Blood.

Giveaway Information

- To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address (only comments with email addresses will be entered in the giveaway).
- Giveaway is open to to US and Canada ONLY.
- +5 additional entries become a follower of Passages to the Past. If you are already a follower you will automatically receive the bonus entries. 
- +3 additional entries join the Passages to the Past FB Page.
- +3 additional entries follow me on Twitter.
- +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting or posting this giveaway on Facebook or Google+.  You can use the SHARE buttons below.
- Giveaway ends on March 14th.

Good luck to you all!



  1. I'd love to enter for this one Amy. You know I already stalk you through all the places you mentioned. Lol.

    darreads (at) gmail (dot) com


  2. This sounds very intriguing. I love tapestries! Have to read this one!

    +5 follower
    +3 fb follower
    +3 twitter follower
    +1 tweeted,shared on google+ and fb


  3. Thank you for the chance to win this book.

    +5 follower (griperang)
    +3 facebook follower (Angela Holland)
    +3 twitter follower (@griperang)
    +1 twittered contest
    +1 facebooked contest
    +1 google + contest
    +1 blogged contest (

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  4. What an interesting story. It is strange that something that like the tapestry has no distinct history of who made it. I would love to read this book.

    I am a gfc follower +5

  5. This book sounds very interesting I would love to read it ; ) Lynda

  6. I'm a big fan of this era of historical fiction, and the earlier edition of this novel has been on my wish list for over three years. Thanks for the giveaway.
    +5 - Google follower

  7. What an interesting interview, there is a lot to learn about the Bayeux Tapestry.
    My email is: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx
    I follow this blog by email and am also a member of the Facebook group (Carl Scott)
    I also follow you postings on Twitter. (@carlrscott)
    I Tweeted about the giveaway:!/carlrscott/status/175573120286081024
    Thanks, have a great weekend.

  8. I would love to win this book - my email is


  9. I think most people who have read my novel about 1066 know by now that I am not a big fan of Duke William - but I did enjoy Sarah's lovely book
    (don't include me in the comp I've already got a UK copy!)

    Good luck in the States Sarah!

  10. This book looks fascinating; I'm definitely adding it to the TBR list...


  11. I loved Sins of the House of Borgia, looking forward to Needle in the Blood. Also, interview with Sarah was fascinating. I'd never heard of the Tapestry of Bayeaux; I agree, great subject for a historical fiction book!

  12. Amy , I forgot to put my email address in my comment, can it be added, or should I re-submit?


  13. I CANNOT WAIT to read this book! I really liked Sins of the House of Borgia and have been waiting for this one to come out!
    +5. GFC follower (Colleen Turner).
    +3. Facebook member (Colleen Turner).
    +1. Shared on Google+.
    +1. Shared on Facebook.

    Thanks Amy!

  14. This book is listed on my blog's Wish List! I would love to read it!

    +5 GFC Follower
    +3 Facebook Member
    +1 Followed you on Twitter
    +1 Tweeted about the giveaway

  15. This sounds really good and the cover is gorgeous!

    +5 GFC follower
    +3 Facebook member
    +3 Twitter Follower

  16. Would love to read this.

    +5 Facebook follower
    +3 GFC follower
    +3 Twitter follower, under different name than I'm using

    tradingaddress at gmail dot com

  17. A very original subject to write about! Sounds like a wonderful read!

    Thank you for the entry!

    +5 Facebook follower
    +3 GFC Follower
    +3 Twitter Follower (FctionAddiction)
    +1 Tweeted:!/FctionAddiction/status/175601199586869249



  18. I am one of your most ardent followers already by mail, FB and twitter. I have twittered and FB'ed this giveaway. I have read Ms Bower's Borgia book and loved it and I am DYING to read her interpretation of events leading to the 1066 invasion--the last time Britain was invaded. Please enter me. I am so "into" historical fiction in general and love Ms. Bower's art.
    Thank you so much.


  19. I enjoyed this interview and am really looking forward to reading this novel. I'm currently fascinated with this time in history.

    I enjoyed Sins of the House of Borgia, but thought Book of Love was actually a better title. :)

    Please enter me into the giveaway.

    Sara G.

  20. Please enter me for this book! It looks so fabulous!


  21. Oh, yeah!!! I am SO wanting to read this one! Thanks for the giveaway! :-)

    +5 Blog follower
    +3 FB follower

    tiger_fan_1997 AT yahoo DOT com

  22. I really enjoyed The Sins of the House of Borgia, so I can't wait to get my hands on Sarah's latest.

    Thank you for the giveaway.

    I am a GFC Follower

  23. I think I goofed by only doing my comment b4.
    I tweeted joekathbia
    GFC kathleen bianchi
    email follower
    facebook kathleen bianchi
    I shared on facebook

  24. This story has so many elements to it that I like. The love sounds passionate as well as dangerous.

    GFC follower

  25. I've been waiting for Sarah Bower to release her next book. Thanks for the chance to win it.

    nanze55 at hotmail dot com

  26. This sounds like amazing historical fiction and I would love to win a copy!! Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention and for the giveaway:)

    +5 GFC follower
    +3 FB fan: both Julie Witt
    +3 Twitter follower: @jwitt33

    jwitt33 at live dot com

  27. Thanks for the giveaway.


  28. Like you on FB


  29. tweet!/maynekitty/status/176090619196882946


  30. email subscriber


  31. I enjoyed reading about the inspiration for the book. It sounds very interesting. Thanks for the giveaway.


  32. I would love to read this, and I'm a follower.


  33. What a fascinating guest message from this author. I always thought I knew everything about the Tapestries, and her perspective gave me new insights. Loved this review in every aspect, Amy. I would love to have a hard copy of this book for my library. Please sign me up for the giveaway! Thanks: I'm a follower in every aspect of yours, and a fan of the author, too!


  34. What a great giveaway! Please enter me!
    +5 additional entries become a follower of Passages to the Past.
    +3 additional entries join the Passages to the Past FB Page
    +3 additional entries follow me on Twitter

    bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

  35. Great interview and give away! Please enter me.
    (blog follower)

  36. A fascinating post and wonderful giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  37. What a great guest post! I'm intrigued by your book and this tapestry. The detail must be beautiful and to think it's so old...I love that kind of thing. Your book sounds delightful. Thanks for the contest :)


    +5 old time stalker
    +3 for Twitter (you're one of the very few I follow!)

  38. Tapestry's are beautiful and I'm sure they had to be very talented.+5 follower
    Theresa N

  39. Sounds like a good read. Thanks for the giveaway

  40. Wow! It sounds like a great book.
    Sign me up!

    +5 follower of the blog
    +3 Facebook follower

    My email is:

  41. this sounds like an exciting book ! I would love to win it ; )

  42. This sounds like a very good book. Please enter me in your contest.

  43. I'm a follower- thanks for the giveaway!

  44. +5 I am a follower!!
    +3 I have joined! (LainaHas TooMuch SpareTime.)
    +3 I follow you. (Lainasparetime)
    +1 Blogged here:

  45. Another great book that I found out about because of you. Truly, thank you!

    +5 follower, of course!
    +3 I'm a member of Facebook page (Michelle Stockard Miller)
    +3 Twitter follower (@truebookaddict)
    +1 tweeted:!/truebookaddict/status/179921669140393986
    +1 shared on FB:
    +1 Google+:


  46. I'm so excited to get my hands on this book!
    +5 Following (Love_er_girl)
    +3 for facebook (I requested to join- Nicole Andrea)
    +3 for Twitter (@Fireflyflames)

  47. I love historical fiction and embriodery. This story sounds so thrilling. I would love to learn more about the Bayeux Tapestry!!!

    +5 I am a longtime follower of Passages to the Past

    +3 I joined the Passages to the Past Facebook Page.

    +3 I follow your blog on Twitter as Carolee888,

    +1 I posted on Facebook:

    +1 I tweeted:

    +1 I posted on Google+

    Carol Wong - 2:48 PM - Limited


  48. Already a fan, and I appreciate the opportunity to win this marcelous book.
    +5 follower
    +3 facebook
    tweeted and follow
    and told all my friends!!! lol


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