Trespassing With Tremain Updates…

Just a quick post to give you some updates on Trespassing With Tremain which hopefully you have been joining in with and enjoying. Firstly apologies as I have not yet posted my thoughts on Restoration, this is because I haven’t finished it yet and don’t want to rush a book which frankly I am hugely enjoying. Secondly I have been two timing Rose Tremain, with Rose Tremain. Whilst having started Restoration I also started The American Lover which is Rose’s newest release, out a mere week or two ago, and is a collection of wonderful (as in amazing) short stories one of which even features Mrs Danvers AND Daphne Du Maurier AND is about Rebecca. I almost passed out when I read this…

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The reason for my two timing Rose with Rose is because, and here I may explode with excitement, I am meeting her on Wednesday night to record You Wrote The Book and have a natter about The American Lover (and now obviously Rebecca) plus her back catalogue of works. How amazing is that? It feels like Granny Savidge is up there somewhere making magic happen. She would be thrilled, then jealous, then demand to join me – she will be there in spirit, possibly literally.


So I thought whilst I have this exciting opportunity, you should all be able to join in. So if you have any questions you would like to ask Rose let me know and I will do so!

 

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Reading Other Languages

…Is not something that I can do as I was reminded today when I was on a trip to IKEA earlier today. As I was mooching, funnily enough at the bookshelves which I wasn’t there to buy (honest) I noticed all the books on the shelves which are Swedish best sellers or other well known editions translated to Swedish. This made me think about translated books, again…

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Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to read any of these, because I am one of those lazy people who have never learnt another language, I wanted to have a flick through them and even borrow them. I do this when I go abroad. I head straight to the bookshops (well maybe after I have been and seen some of the main tourist sights and treated myself to some of the cuisine) and have a look at the books by authors that are completely new to me and the books that I know in their new translated international guise. I was slightly saddened to realise I don’t own any of my favourite books in translated editions, I feel like I should. Anyway as I said it made me think about translated fiction again.

Firstly it reminded me that here in the UK we barely get the tip of the iceberg of books translated from around the world, which is rather scary if you think about all the amazing books that you might be reading but are missing out on. When I was writing my thoughts on Byrd earlier in the week it was playing on my mind how many books I must be missing from America, Canada, Australia etc and they are all in my own language. What about the books from everywhere else in the world?

This of course reminded me that I don’t read as much translated fiction as I should. I follow wonderful publishers like Peirene, Europa Editions, And Other Stories and many more who either solely publish in translation or do so in abundance. I also follow the wonderful blog of Stu’s, WinstonsDads Blog, which is one of the most wonderful promoters of translated fiction that there is. (This reminds me I really should do a post on all my favourite blogs!) Stu has also just reached 1,000 posts so hoorah to him. Yet still I feel I don’t read or know enough, am I the only person who feels like this?

I also wonder if when I do read them, am I missing something by not reading in their original language? Am I missing out on subtle cultural inferences or social observations that people might miss if a book from the UK is translated elsewhere. Do you know what I mean? It isn’t that I don’t trust the translators, as I am very grateful to the people who translate novels and simply don’t get paid enough or enough credit frankly, it is just something that as I cannot answer definitely I always ponder. Maybe I should finally get around to learning a language, which I’ve always wanted to do, and then I could read some of them in both. But would I want to read the same book multiple times and which language would I start with? I like the idea of learning Italian and/or Spanish, maybe this is the kick I have needed.

What are your thoughts on translated fiction? Do you ever worry that the book is missing something from the original language? Have you ever read a book in the original and the translated and what was the comparison? Where do you hear about translated books and who are your favourite translated authors? Finally, have you ever bought your favourite book in another language just because you needed to own another copy?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Byrd – Kim Church

One of the things that I said I really wanted to do with Savidge Reads was to try and uncover some books that I hadn’t heard about and therefore maybe you hadn’t and introduce you all, like some kind of book and reader dating site. I think that Byrd by Kim Church is one such book. It is a book I had the pleasure of reading sharing a room with the person who recommended it to me first, the lovely Michael Kindness, and on a bookish retreat in North Carolina which the author was also on too. Yes, Booktopia Asheville, part of my American trip which I still haven’t told you all about – I will honest. Anyway, it is a book that is not released here in the UK but I would urge any agents, editors and publishers to hunt down and publish pronto as it is a gem of a novel.

Dzanc Books, paperback, 2014, fiction, 239 pages, kindly thrust into my hands by Michael Kindness

Addie Lockwood thought, as a young girl, she would become a famous writer and marry Roland Rhodes (the boy at school who mainly ignores her) who himself would become the next Bob Dylan. Life didn’t turn out that way. Yes, she and Roland had a relationship of sorts both as teenagers and again in a mad whirl of nostalgic romance in their thirties. Yet these romances didn’t end up as a love story in a fairy tale, instead they ended up with Addie pregnant in her early thirties with a baby she is just not ready for, not now, maybe not ever and so she gives her child, who she calls Byrd as it is a name no one else will ever give him, up for adoption.

Byrd opens with a letter that cleverly sums up all this in a letter, which we later learn social services have advised she writes to her son. What follows on from this are the four main parts of Addie’s life, and indeed Byrd’s, as she would define them; Unborn, Born, Missing, Grown. We follow Addie as she first meets Roland and that flush of teenage awe and obsession over flow her, and then as life moves on reality sets in more and more, the question we are always trying to find the answer to is will Addie, Roland and Byrd ever be united.

Church does many wonderful and admirable things with this novel. Firstly there is the way that it is all structured. As I mentioned the book is made up of four parts, within which there are short chapters which themselves are made of short bursts of paragraphs. This gives the novel a real pace and you whizz through thinking ‘oh go on, just another chapter’ as you race to find out what comes next. Additionally what might have made this confusing, but doesn’t which is a sign of how good Church’s writing is, is that as we go on we see Addie’s life through the eyes of others not just hers. Sometimes we will flip into the head of her brother, mother, father, lover, friend etc and so her character becomes more and more vivid.

Interspersed throughout all this are the letters from Addie to Byrd. In the wrong hands these could have been over dramatised and clichéd pieces of prose that made you want to roll your eyes, stick your fingers down your throat or throw the book across the room (and so could a book with a character called Byrd) yet Church writes these with a brutal and honest clarity which Addie has of her situation that again they add to her character, and not always in good ways, and give a true insight into the way she feels at particular points. It’s cleverly and subtly done, poignant without ever verging on saccharine.

Dear Byrd,
I would like to tell you your father and I loved each other. Maybe we did; maybe love is the right word, though it’s not one we ever used. What I can tell you is, he trusted me. He let me see the purest part of him, the music part.
Trust is a sweet thing, and fragile. I was not always as careful with your father’s as I should have been.

Addie is one of the main reasons you will keep reading this novel, Church creates a brilliantly complex character. She is endlessly flawed. She sleeps with her tutor, she can be horrible to her siblings, she sleeps with Roland without protection and when he has a girlfriend, hides her pregnancy from everyone including Roland, tries to have an abortion and then gives her child up for adoption. In the wrong hands you would read her as heartless bitch or she would be the villain of the whole piece. Instead because we see her as she tries to love her family, with a distance because her father is a bit of an alcoholic and so family life is turbulent when she is young, how she tries to keep her life on the straight and narrow despite temptation and rebellion, how she is with her other lovers in the future etc. Oh and she loves books, winner right there. All in all she is human, she is like us, we have all made mistakes, done some bad things but we try and be better, we try and be the people we know we should be or can be.

Addie believes in books. They are more interesting than real life and easier to understand. Sometimes you can guess the ending. Things usually work out, and if they don’t, you can always tell yourself it was only a book.

I also really admired the way that Church looks at adoption with Byrd. All too often we are given fiction about adoption that looks at the hard and difficult times of a child given up for adoption, rather than how actually their life might be better than if they hadn’t been. Or they will be tales of young mothers who have to give their child away or have them taken away. I have never read a book before where a woman in her early thirties gets pregnant and knows the time isn’t right, and may never be right, so makes what she thinks is the only and right choice. How her choice affects her and those around her is what follows, all told without judgement either way.

If I am making this sound all doom and gloom and a bit melancholy, fret not. Church combats this in a few ways. Firstly there are the short sharp bursts in which the novel is written which means when things get very emotional, and they do, it is a quick pin prick or two. That makes it sound throw away, it is actually very effective because the emotion is intense. Yet she also throws in some wonderful set pieces, some of which come when Addie works in a bookshop and then gets her own and with some of the customers she meets and the second hand books she is given, did I mention this book is very, erm, booky? There are also some wonderful scenes between Addie and her brother Sam in her youth, plus all the awkward moments of adolescence, and then with William later on, which I loved.

William believes that no act, if it’s purposeful, is too small. He protests junk mail by filling postage-paid return envelopes from one company with advertisements from another. Addie follows his example and sends Time magazine the fake check for $58,000 dollars that came from the credit card company.

Too often you read about coming of age tales which focus on your teens as if after that everything is tickety-boo, it  blooming isn’t! When we are young we think that life is all we could want it to be. We think we could meet the prince or princess of our dreams, we think we could one day be superhero’s or if not then surely a life as a vet, pop star, wizard or famous writer awaits us. Life however has other intentions and the dreams we have get turned and twisted a little, chipped slightly now and again by situations we didn’t expect and circumstances we often didn’t ask for. Byrd is a story which conjures that wonderfully, encapsulating the difficult times and yet with a wonderful sense of humour, even when times are tough, and with a sense of hope. There need to be more tales about coming to terms with your ages as you go through your life, Byrd is an example of that. I cannot recommend it enough.

Like I said at the start, publishers here there and everywhere should be fighting to get their mitts on this and publishing it all over the shop.If you have read Byrd then do let me know what you thought of it. If you haven’t then you should be trying to get your hands on a copy. If you have read any gems like this that aren’t published everywhere yet and you think they should be I would love to hear about those too!

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Filed under Books of 2014, Dzanc Books, Kim Church, Review

Exciting News… The UK Blog Awards 2015

I bring some rather exciting news! The UK Blog Awards 2015 longlisted blogs were announced yesterday and thrillingly Savidge Reads is up for the public vote to be shortlisted. I had an email a few weeks ago to tell me that my blog had been nominated (whoever did it, as I genuinely do not know, a big BIG thank you from me) but until I saw the list I refused to believe it. It happens it is true and I am really excited.

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So as I mentioned you can vote for me if you would like, no pressure, I just wont blog ever again if I don’t get short-listed.

Ok, that was an attention seeking empty threat. Ha! Suffice to say if you would like to go HERE and vote for me I would be utterly delighted as while I have always done this for the love the idea of an award on my non-existent mantelpiece would be really lovely. Oh, I can dream can’t I?

PS I havent had chance to go through the whole list but I did spot that Kim of Reading Matters is up for the same categories and I love her and her blog so do feel free to vote for her too! It doesn’t take long honest!

PPS If you are having problems with the link here it is in full http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/savidge-reads/

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Through the Woods – Emily Carroll

Those of you who have been visiting this blog for some time will know that I am a huge fan of the fairy tale and have been since I was a youngster, so much so that I named my first pet, a duck, Rapunzel. Imagine my delight then when Faber emailed me and asked me if I would like to read a copy of Emily Carroll’s graphic/comic short stories, Through the Woods, a collection of creepy fairy tales and urban legend like tales. Of course I practically bit their hands off through the medium of email and what arrived in the post a few days later was a thing of beauty, though as we know even the most beautiful of things can have a dark heart…

Faber & Faber, hardback, 2014, graphic short story collection, 208 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Through the Woods is a collection of five very eerie, gothic and deliciously chilling tales. Each tale manages to do that wonderfully uneasy thing of somehow allaying themselves to your childhood, and indeed grown up, fear.  First there is Our Neighbours House which tells of three sisters who are told by their father, before he goes off hunting in the snow, that if he does not return they must head to their neighbours house, of course he disappears and so the sisters must decide what to do alone with only each other and the mysterious neighbour through the snow and woods. Second up is A Lady’s Hands Are Cold about a second wife who moves into her new home where something isn’t happy about her arrival.

Next up His Face All Red looks at how dangerous jealousy can be even between siblings, though admittedly this is the one that worked the least for me. Penultimate tale My Friend Janna is a tale of a medium which has a very, very clever twist as it goes on which I admired very much. Then finally we have The Nesting Place which is all about a young girl who visits her brother and his wife and soon wishes she had never made the journey and superbly describes one of the most sinister written noises, skreaaak skriiiick, which has just made me shiver thinking about it. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who has the joy, or terror, of this collection to come so I will say no more on how the tales twist and turn out.

Carroll does some very clever things with this collection. The first of which is that, as I mentioned before, she marvellously plays with fears we have as children such as isolation or being lost, be it in a wood or the middle of a snowy wasteland. She also plays on more adult fears like the loss of teeth, which is something I have nightmares about now and comes up in one of the tales. She also plays with things that bother us, even if we don’t admit it, as adults and children the noises that you hear in the middle of the night and tell yourself that the house is either warming up or cooling down for the night for example. We all do this even as adults don’t we? No, just me? Oh, let us move swiftly on…

She also delightfully, be it for the blatant inner fairy tale geek in you or the nostalgic one in your subconscious, brings back and plays homage to the fairy tales of your childhood. Notably it is the darker  well know ones like Red Riding Hood (come on, who wasn’t petrified of meeting a wolf in a wood that would eat your Granny?) and the lesser known but very, very dark tale of Bluebeard. She also does it with some of the more modern gothic tales, with I thought a nod to Rebecca in one, but I would think that wouldn’t I? She also plays with the tropes that we know so well, for example swapping the wicked step mother figure in one tale to being a different new member of the family. These nods and winks add to the delight of the collection.

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She also plays with emotions we all know all too well and have done all our lives; jealousy, rage and most importantly fear. At the start of Through the Woods there is a brilliant introduction in the form of a tiny piece of memoir which explains how as a child Emily would read long into the night herself and be scared to turn the light out just in case something was outside waiting at the window or ready to grab her from under the bed.

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In channelling that into these five tales along with the incredibly atmospheric and (cliché alert) haunting illustrations Emily Carroll genuinely creates a book that will properly creep you out, not just give you the odd chill or two. The Nesting Place, which was my favourite tale, is one that actually wormed (once you have read it you will see what I did there) itself into my brain and stayed in there bothering me, especially at night when I dreamt about it – and I know about three other people this has happened to with one or two of these stories.

Through the Woods is an incredible achievement and a cracking collection.  Somehow in using just the right words and just the right images Carroll creates a piece of work that genuinely gets into your head and plays with your fears in both a good shivery way and a really uncomfortable one. You will be reading it well into the early hours and left wondering just what on earth could be lurking outside your window on one of these cold dark nights before you turn the light off.

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Who else has read Through the Woods and what did you make of it? Will anyone else admit to be genuinely bothered by it? Which other collections of spooky stories or fairy tales, be they retellings or originals, would you recommend?

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Filed under Books of 2014, Faber & Faber, Graphic Novels, Review, Short Stories

Read Any Warhol?

This week I had the pleasure of going to a special preview of the new Andy Warhol exhibition which has come to Tate Liverpool (yes, we do much culture and art oop North – there is more to the UK than just London, ha!) this week.

It was amazing to see some of the wonderful art that, being Warhol, I have seen pictures of but never in the flesh before. There’s something very surreal (and a bit tingly) when you see world famous pieces in the flesh. I couldn’t get over the Brillo boxes, Campbell’s soup tins and of course the Marilyn’s…

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The beard and I managed to selfie bomb with Marilyn as you can see. Anyway, one of the things I hadn’t realised was that he had designed so many books covers, being the geek I am I will have to look up these titles…

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I had also forgotten about the books that Andy Warhol had written. I knew they existed and am sure one of the libraries had them recently. Now of course, as is always the way, I am really intrigued by them. Especially by A.

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The only things that worry me are that it will be too bonkers/experimental for me or too clever. So I wondered if any of you have read A and if so what you thought of it? I am tempted to give it a whirl. (If you have read any of the books he designed the covers of above let me know about those too!) Oh and if you are in Liverpool at all anytime before the 8th of February do check out this marvellous exhibition, though one room had me really trippy – which might be the point, at the brilliant Tate Liverpool on the Albert Dock!

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After Me Comes The Flood – Sarah Perry

Some books are rather tricky to read and therefore tricky to write about. Sarah Perry’s debut novel, After Me Comes the Flood, was the first book I read when I returned from America and I have to say at first I thought was the worst possible choice of book to read whilst in the throes of jetlag. Now Sarah, on the off chance you have popped by, don’t fret because once I realised that it wasn’t the jet lag (or that it was me being a bit thick) and that you cleverly, and trickily, wanted me to feel rather thrown and confused initially. Yet I soon got enveloped in a wonderful and often tricky (have I mentioned the tricky factor yet or mentioned the word tricky so many times its gone weird) dark and unsettling gothic world somewhere on the Norfolk coast.

Serpent’s Tail Books, paperback, 2014, fiction, 240 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

If you decided, after being sick to death of a seemingly never ending heat wave in London, that you would go and take a trip to visit a family member before breaking down in a wood and then finding a house where a bunch of strangers are waiting for you to turn up, you might think something really weird was going on. This is the case for John Cole, a bookseller who, after a thirty five day drought of rain and indeed customers in his bookshop, finds himself in this very predicament. Why would people that he has never met be waiting for him? Is there more to it than merely just some strange coincidence?

John is naturally wondering just what the funk is going on, feeling both saved and yet, quite naturally, completely disorientated and confused. We too as the reader are instantly thrown into a world where we feel that the rug has been pulled from under us and can’t work it out either. I have to admit I was feeling rather confused and cross at first, yet Sarah’s wonderful writing and the mystery of what was going on with this strange cast of characters and why they new John kept me reading – then the penny dropped. It wasn’t the book that was confusing, John was confused and bothered and through his narrative so was I. Clever. Tricky. A risk. Yet one that pays off if you let it just take over you and go with it.

‘I know. And I don’t know which would be worst. Isn’t it odd,’ she said, smiling: ‘You turned up and I never for a minute thought it might be you, though even as strangers go, you’re fairly strange.’ Much later John was to remember that phrase, and wonder why it had felt so like an unexpected touch on the arm. Pressing her hands against the dip in her spine and turning her face to the sun she said, ‘Let’s not talk about it anymore.’ Then she ran to peer at the shadow on the broken sundial, swore beneath her breath, and vanished into the cool dark house. Clare stood, examining a bitten-down thumbnail, while the sound of a piano played in intricate swift patterns reached them across the lawn.
‘How did she know the time,’ said John, when the sundial’s broken?’

I mentioned that it is the intrigue that carries you through the initial confusion. There is of course the mystery of how on earth these characters know, or think they know, John. There is also the question of why he allows them to go on thinking this and what will happen should they realise he might not be who they think, if he isn’t who they think. There is also the mystery of the characters that have come together in this crumbling old mansion, which is often a character in its own right.  We have head of the house, the unnervingly ugly yet motherly Hester who is clearly in charge; a former preacher named Elijah who has pages from the bible all over his walls; the beautiful yet cold Eve; the childlike (to the point of dim) Claire and her brother Alex who everyone is concerned about and a man named Walker, who stays aloof. Why have this group of strangers come together when they have no family ties, how do they know each other, what ties them together? It gets stranger and more mysterious as it goes on. Oh and there is the question of what on earth Eadwacer is? I will say no more because one of the wonders of this book is how it unwinds and unravels slowly but surely revealing all.

If I can’t say much more about the plot, what else can I say about the book? Well, Perry’s writing is rather wonderful. It takes a very accomplished author to write a book that is so strange, other and confusing at times you almost throw the book across the room, almost, never quite. The strangeness and confusion give it a rather beguiling nature which, along with the aforementioned characters and mystery, carries you on through. There is also the wonderful way in which Sarah Perry plays with words, often flipping them on their own meaning, how strange can a stranger be; can a stranger get stranger and stranger for example. There is a love of words and what they can do which shines through in the text which gives a playful nature to the book and can make an oppressive moment seem like a funny one and vice versa.

The gull padded scowling towards him and screamed again. The sound startled the pair inside the glasshouse – another of the windows flew open and a small white pebble was flung out. It startled the gull, which gave a weary thrust of its wings, shot John and aggrieved glare, and wheeled away towards the reservoir where Alex and Clare lay unmoving on the bright grass of the embankment, It found a rising current of hot air, and rode it out of sight.
‘Do you remember being a child and drawing birds so they made the letter M?’ said Eve, watching it go and bringing her tilted head against Walker’s shoulder. ‘And every house had a chimney, and the sky was a blue stripe with nothing between it and the green earth.’

There is also a wonderful duality to the novel which I really enjoyed. After Me Comes The Flood feels like it is set in the past, with its almost Victorian gothic atmosphere, and yet could easily be set in the future when global warming is rife. The book also has both a sense of nostalgic innocence and a knowing darkness. Sometimes is it maddeningly mysterious, other times thrillingly so. There is also a real sadness etched within its pages, yet it is also very funny, sometimes quite darkly and inappropriately so.

After Me Comes The Flood is a book that I would call brilliantly confusing and compelling. Oh and of course tricky, both in it playing joyful and dark tricks with its reader, though now I have used that word so much it does indeed seem wrong so maybe quirky is better. It is also incredibly original, whilst having nods and winks to literature from the past. It is a book which is both maddeningly and thrillingly strange and will require you to stop trying to rationalise everything and just go with it. Some people might be put off by this and that is their loss, I interestingly wanted to start it all over again when I had finished and think it could be one of those books you read every few years and get something completely different from. It is a fantastic example of a modern gothic novel and I am very excited about what Sarah might just do next, though I guess I should already be expecting something quite unexpected, which is very exciting.

Who else has read After Me Comes The Flood and what did you make of it? Which books have you read that have really thrown you off kilter initially before becoming brilliant and quirky tales you will never forget and even go back to?

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Filed under Review, Sarah Perry, Serpent's Tail