A Needle in the Right Hand of God

  • by R. Howard Bloch
  • Narrated by Stephen Hoye
  • 7 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Bayeux Tapestry is the world's most famous textile: an exquisite 230-foot-long embroidered panorama depicting the events surrounding the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is also one of history's most mysterious and compelling works of art. This haunting stitched account of the battle that redrew the map of medieval Europe has inspired dreams of theft, waves of nationalism, visions of limitless power, and esthetic rapture. In his fascinating new audiobook, Yale professor R. Howard Bloch reveals the history, the hidden meaning, the deep beauty, and the enduring allure of this astonishing piece of cloth. Bloch opens with a gripping account of the event that inspired the Tapestry: the swift, bloody Battle of Hastings, in which the Norman bastard William defeated the Anglo-Saxon king Harold and laid claim to England under his new title, William the Conqueror. But to truly understand the connection between battle and embroidery, one must retrace the web of international intrigue and scandal that climaxed at Hastings. Bloch demonstrates how, with astonishing intimacy and immediacy, the artisans who fashioned this work of textile art brought to life a moment that changed the course of British culture and history.
Every age has cherished the Tapestry for different reasons and read new meaning into its enigmatic words and images. French nationalists in the mid-nineteenth century, fired by the Tapestry┬┐s evocation of military glory, unearthed the lost French epic "The Song of Roland", which Norman troops sang as they marched to victory in 1066. As the Nazis tightened their grip on Europe, Hitler sent a team to France to study the Tapestry, decode its Nordic elements, and, at the end of the war, with Paris under siege, bring the precious cloth to Berlin.

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What the Critics Say

"With estimable clarity and evident enthusiasm, Bloch delivers variety, surprise, and understanding for history readers." (Booklist)
"The tapestry, now in a museum in Bayeux, brings history to life, and Bloch's splendid account does the same for the tapestry itself." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Hard to get the picture

I have listened to books about art before; but this one, while competently narrated, and while apparently well researched and written, was difficult to follow. Even using various on-line sources for viewing the Bayoux tapestry, I was lost most of the time. At points in the text, there are references to specific images in specific panels, and I found no good way to follow along. The tapestry is 230 feet long (nearly 80 yards!) and viewing it online was simply not very satisfactory. Parts of the story, however, do not really require following the tapestry. The tapestry tells the story of the Battle of Hastings, (1066) where William of Normandy conquered the English King Harold. The book tells what is known of the tapestry; explains some of the artwork; notes that it is the source of much of the written history of the battle. There is also some interesting history of the tapestry itself, such as the fact that the Germans were interested in it during World War II to show that the Germans had a historical right to Britain. Other facts, such as when it was made and by whom are the subject of much debate.

I enjoyed much of the book, and think I would have enjoyed it more had I a decent copy of the tapestry to follow along with.
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- Jody R. Nathan

Recommended for textile historians only

If you're deeply, deeply interested in historic textiles, this is a wonderful, well-written book. I don't believe it will have much appeal to other readers, for example those interested in the details of the Norman invasion or biographical information about the dramatis personae of that era.

To appreciate the subject, you must have a detailed image of the embroidery. There are amazing images, visual puns and puzzles, and so much storytelling in the needlework.

I was lucky enough to have access to an old book with large, multiple fold-out images, and as a more useful alternative, there are many sections which can be viewed online. Without visuals, this book is about as useful as trying to read about Van Gogh without ever seeing one of his paintings.

Note: "The Bayeux Tapestry Embroiderer's Story" by Jan Messent is a hand-written and illustrated book which may also be of interest to the textile-obsessed who wish to delve deeper into the artistic elements and craftsmanship of the embroidery itself.
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- Die Falknerin

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-12-2007
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio