Granny Savidge Reads (The First Column)

Oh dear! As my late, lamented mother-in-law would say. As in ‘We are going to France for two weeks Mother’- oh dear… or ‘we are buying a new  washing machine, Mother’, Oh dear! What has this to do with a book blog you may ask, well my reaction when Simon asked me to  write a Granny Savidge Reads piece was exactly that, oh dear!

Anyway, here goes. I belong to three book groups which may seem a bit excessive but as a retired person I do quite a bit of gadding about and by belonging to three I usually get to at least one each month. But sometimes life catches up with me as it did last month when I was able to go to all three in the space of 5 days, whoops! Two of the three books were whoppers, ‘Wolf Hall’ being 600 + pages, ‘They Were Sisters’ 400+pages and then the more modest ‘Border Crossing’ by Pat Barker.

What about Wolf Hall? I’m sure not everyone has enjoyed this magnificent tour de force but everyone in our group did. Sometimes we had difficulty in knowing who was speaking but usually the ‘he’ in the text referred to Cromwell. We found it tantalising not knowing where fact ended and fiction began and we would love to have known more about his early life. I suppose not much is known about that and I think Mantel did rely on contemporary evidence where possible. The dialogue though must have come from the author’s imagination. Cromwell is a real living person in this novel, there before us on every page, it’s almost as if we are living his life with him. I already knew something about Wolsey, from school, about Thomas More from the film ‘A Man for all Seasons’, which, my recollection tells me, made him out to be a just and upright man, I may be wrong here, but anyway Hilary Mantel paints a different picture. Cranmer I remember from a wonderful series on Henry the Eighth that the B.B.C. made way back in the mists of time. I knew nothing about Cromwell before reading this book, though I had seen the Holbein portrait on a recent visit to New York. Now I can’t wait to read more about him in the sequel. I’m not sure I want them to make a film based on the book but it is intriguing to guess who might play Cromwell.

Now for the Dorothy Whipple. This book is published by the wonderful Persephone Books, visit their shop/office in Lambs Conduit Street if you get the chance and haven’t already. They seem to publish forgotten authors from the past whose books have long ago gone out of print. The book covers are a classy grey and the paper the novels are printed on is lovely and soft. The feel of the paper the novel is printed on is quite important to me, does anyone out there feel like that?

In Much Wenlock in Shropshire there is a reading group that only reads Persephone books! Anyway, Dorothy Whipple was a famous author in her day and ‘They Were Sisters’ was a best seller, one of our members who is over 90 can remember how well known she was at one time. Anyway this story is about three sisters and their lives. One of the sisters is married to an absolutely awful man, utterly selfish and boorish, an out an out emotional bully. My blood pressure soared at some of the things he did.   He ruined so many lives by his awful behaviour and nobody would stand up to him. But aside from this the book demonstrates how powerless women were in general in what, to me, is the fairly recent past. It’s certainly a book that would make any self respecting woman’s blood boil.

‘Border Crossing’ was a disappointment for all of us… I think. It tells the story of a child killer who, years later when he is released from custody, meets up, in a melodramatic way, with the psychologist whose expert evidence probably convinced the jury,up until then appearing sympathetic to the boy, of his guilt. I found parts of the book unbelievable such as the many meetings the two had subsequently, especially the one at the psychologists house. I don’t know that any clinical psychologists (and one of my daughtes is one) would act as this one did. Woven into the story is the secondary theme of the psychologists disintegrating marriage, this part of the book felt like a cliché to me and unnecessary padding. So there you have it.

Whats next? Well, in the next couple of weeks we are due to read ‘When Will There Be Good News’ by Kate Atkinson. This is the third in the Jackson Brodie, fallible man, series. I really enjoyed the first two, generally speaking I like Kate Atkinson’s books, she writes intelligently and amusingly and her books are often ‘page turners’. The second book is ‘A Mad World My Masters’ by John Simpson, the B.B.C. correspondent. I will miss this meeting so probably won’t read the book (sshhh don’t tell anyone) though I may peep inside it to see how well he writes, or not as the case may be. The third book is ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Toibin. I’m really looking forward to this one (Simon has raved about it). I’ve read ‘The Master’ and his collection of short stories ‘Mothers and Sons’ and am hoping this one will be as good as these two. Have you read any of these? Any thoughts?

That’s me signing off as I’m off to ‘Brooklyn’ now with Colm. Happy reading everyone,

Granny Savidge

P.S If anyone could think of a name for my new column Simon and I would be most pleased.


Filed under Book Thoughts, Granny Savidge Reads

20 responses to “Granny Savidge Reads (The First Column)

  1. Ooh, enjoy Brooklyn – one of my favourite reads from Christmastime. I love the fact that you belong to a Persephone book reading group – fantastic!

  2. Granny Savidge Reads seems like a good name to me, unless you don’t want to be identified solely by your granny status! Anyway this is a great column and I for one will be looking forward to the next one. I’ve just started Wolf Hall and I am finding the “he”s quite confusing sometimes but I can tell that I am going to love this book. Haven’t read the Whipple (though I will sometime as I keep hearing great things about her) or the Barker, which I don’t fancy. But When Will There Be Good News was my favorite of the three wonderful Jackson Brodie novels so I hope you and group will love it. Oh I do hope she will write another one!

  3. This has me itching to read Wolf Hall (I’ve read a few of Mantel’s previous books and really enjoyed them) AND Dorothy Whipple’s book (which I bought last year but still have not read).

    Hope you enjoy Brooklyn. I thought it was an amazing book, one of those stories that has stayed with me, and I still find myself thinking about Eilis Lacey almost 12 months later.

  4. Great post! I keep hearing more about Brooklyn and kicking myself (only mentally of course) for not picking it up when I saw it on sale recently. Luckily though, Wolf Hall is sitting pretty on my tbr pile waiting to be picked up 🙂

  5. Like Harriet, I think Granny Savidge Reads works very well as a title. I really enjoyed your post.

    I hope you enjoy Brooklyn, as I’ve heard so many good things about it.

  6. Granny, I think you should start your own blog. You write an in-depth, informative and amusing post! I’m impressed with the number of book clubs and the size of the books you’ve been reading. Wolf Hall scared me off. I’m sort of a newbie at historical fiction, and didn’t think that was the right one to start off with. I read Brooklyn (mostly becuase of Simon!) and while I really enjoyed it, I was disturbed by the ending. I had the reaction of wanting to shake some sense into the main character. Not good for the old blood pressure, but will be good discussion material!

  7. Ti

    My book club will be reading Wolf Hall later this year. I’m not sure it will be for everyone but I am looking forward to it myself.

    Granny Savidge Reads certainly tells me what I need to know, but if you don’t care for it then how about:

    “Granny Get Your Book” (like Annie Get Your Gun)…ok… bad.

  8. Bet

    Add me to the list of people who LOVED Brooklyn! I really should go out and get more Colm Toibin books. I have greatly enjoyed 2 Dorothy Whipple novels so I am eager to read They Were Sisters when I can order it from your side of the pond (it’s not available here- unfortunately, that’s the case with most of the Persephone books). I laughed my way through When Will There be Good News? Kate Atkinson has a wonderful way with words and I wish I had a backlog of her books to read when I need a good laugh. Oh, well, there’s always PG Wodehouse, right?

  9. Thanks for gracing us with your thoughts, Granny S! I’m definitely going to read Wolf Hall and They Were Sisters (and Brooklyn)..

  10. What a wonderful post, and you make me wish I had a bookish granny, or any granny, to write a guest post for me. Thanks for the thoughts on your recent reads–I look forward to the next ones!

  11. Two long books read around the same time, I’m not sure I could do that!

    I’ve thought about paper every now again, mostly when I come across a book that’s different. I read a book not long ago that was printed on paper as thin as the paper you find in bibles and I think it added to the experience and definitely made it more memorable.

    I like the column’s title, I think it depends on whether you want the feature to be more an addition or more of it’s own thing on this site.

  12. This worked really well and was an interesting new voice. Bits of personal detail make a blog come alive and I gained (I hope) a good understanding of what “granny” is like – a great reader

  13. I loved ‘Brooklyn’. It’s a human story, straightforwardly told. Best thing I have read in a long time. Like you, I had read and enjoyed ‘The Master’ and ‘Mothers and Sons’. Enjoy!

    Your recommendation of ‘Wolf Hall’ makes me all the more keen to read it … but our book group is currently reading ‘Revelation’ by C J Sansom. As it’s set in much the same period, I feel I will need to read something quite different between the two books. I wonder if you or your readers have the same concerns about reading two books of a similar genre or subject matter right after each other?

    Oh and one more thought: how does one encourage a book group that reads mainly novels and occasionally travel or historical writing to venture into the realm of short stories? Our group seems reluctant to try them, though I am an avid short story reader myself.

  14. Welcome to the world of blogging. I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts about books!

  15. Delyn Williams

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts.
    I bought ”Wolf Hall” – not too keen to read it – but it was going to be the choice of my book group but it was changed to an Elizabeth von Arnim. I was greatly relieved as I’m not a fan of historical novels and I admire Eliz. von Arnim’s writing.
    I also love Persephone books. Just to hold them with their smooth, silky covers is a real pleasure and they have introduced me to previously unknown, to me that is,writers.

  16. Isabel

    What fun to read your musing.

    Persephone Books must use paper with high cotton content. I dealt with old books (2 centuries or so), and the paper feels so different. And the writing is still legible.

    A suggestion for a name: Reading in the now

  17. ana

    From one gran to another, ‘love your work! Promise to read everything you write.

    And Toibin too. Just one of my real favourites. Can I recommend The Heather Blazing, which was my introduction to his writing. Superb. I would also listen to him reading the phone book as they say, but he has much more of value to say than that.

    He is currently in Sydney and about to speak at the Writers’ Festival here. Joy!

  18. dorothy

    Oh, dear!

  19. Hello Granny Savidge! Great to see you on here after hearing so much about you 🙂

    I completely agree with the pages of a book; the softer the better. I don’t like those grainy ones with really thick ink that are difficult to read.

    Hope you enjoy this months books – I am hoping to read Brooklyn too.

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