The Needle in the Blood, Paperback Book

The Needle in the Blood Paperback

4 out of 5 (4 ratings)


January 1067. Charismatic bishop Odo of Bayeux decides to commission 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 utterly this will change his life - even more than the invasion itself. His life becomes entangled with the women who embroider his hanging, especially Gytha - handmaiden to the fallen Saxon queen and his sworn enemy.

But against their intensions they fall helplessly in love; in doing so Odo comes into conflict with his king and his God and Gytha with Odo's enemies, who mistrust her hold over such a powerful man.

Friends and family become enemies, enemies become lovers; nothing in life or in the hanging is what it seems. The Needle in the Blood - a powerful tale of sex, lies and embroidery.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Snowbooks Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical fiction
  • ISBN: 9781905005390

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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

Some nice period details. I wished for more of an ending to the story. Some bits felt a little disjointed - as though I had missed part of the story or it had been edited out.

Review by

The Needle in the Blood is the story of Bishop Odo of Bayeux and his mysterious mistress, Aethelgytha. One of the mysteries of the Bayeux Tapestry is a certain panel in which there is a cleric striking (or touching) a woman’s face, with the caption “here is a cleric and Aelfgifu.” The speculation is that the scene refers to a well-known scandal of the day; maybe that of Odo and his mistress? This is where Bower fills in the gaps, and she does an admirable job with it. In the novel, Gytha is a Saxon woman, brought low after the Norman conquest, when she is brought in to assist in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry, commissioned by Odo and designed by his sister. Although Gytha hates Odo at first, she is nonetheless attracted to the Bishop, holy orders notwithstanding. The novel covers a ten-year period, from the Battle of Hastings to 1077. Although William the Conquror never makes an appearance in the novel, he’s always at the center of attention, because he controls Odo’s life so much.The story is very well told. Although the technical process of embroidering the tapestry is only discussed in any detail at the beginning of the book, it was fascinating for me to learn that the events depicted on it were comprised of the experiences of the many people who created it—and that those people had different perspectives on what happened during the Conquest. There are a number of other mysteries surrounding the figures on the tapestry, and Bower fills in the missing pieces very neatly. For example, was Harold really shot in the eye with an arrow? In part, a lot of historical texts are revisionist, and the Bayeux Tapestry is proof positive of that, so I think the author did a good job with discerning fact from fiction.The love story is very strong, though the sex scenes were a little over-the-top. In real life, Odo was later accused of defrauding the Crown and his diocese, and then planning a military expedition to Italy, ostensibly to make himself pope. It was believed that his wealth was gained through extortion and robbery. It was interesting to me to see how the author tackled Odo’s prickly reputation, and I think she did it admirably.

Review by

Prior to reading this book I knew very little about the Bayeux tapestry. When I was in high school the school librarian would show us the slides taken of her trip to France and what I remembered most was her account of the Bayeux tapestry. However, I have never had the privilege of seeing it in person and I never read very much about it. Sarah Bower has done a good job of filling in the back story of the tapestry (which isn't strictly speaking a tapestry but a work of embroidery). William the Conqueror's half-brother, Bishop Odo, saw a tapestry in England and envisioned something similar but on a grander scale to grace his new cathedral in Rouen. He springs his sister Agatha from the convent and commissions her to design the embroidery and find women to do the work. One of the women she chooses is Gytha, a Saxon who served in the household of Edith Swan Neck, the mistress of Harold Godwinson. Gytha was present when Edith went to ask William for the body of King Harold, killed at the Battle of Hastings. William refused to let her have the body and later Odo pillaged Edith's house and sent all the women packing. Gytha was on an errand for Edith and missed being included. When Agatha asked Gytha to become an embroiderer she agrees because she wants the opportunity to kill Odo.Of course, instead of killing him Gytha and Odo fall into bed and begin a passionate love affair. Being a bishop does not stop Odo from keeping a mistress nor does it keep him from acquiring jewels and lavish belongings. As William's staunchest ally he has to attend all the conferences and battles. The time comes when Odo has to choose between Gytha and William. Try as he might to resist William, blood is thicker than water (and other bodily excretions).I found the reading of this book exhilirating but also hard to follow at times. I'm still not sure how Odo and Sebastian first came to meet. The occasional lapse into Latin also confused me because it seemed like it would occur in the book when I was in bed and unable to check for a translation.

Review by

The characters are interesting, but the plot moves very slowly and sometimes the book seems overly descriptive. I gave up about halfway through the book since I have other more interesting books to read. The book seems like its a lot thicker than it has to be.<br/><br/>