Well I have told you lots about her on and off over the last few years and so I thought it was about time (in fact I have been meaning to do this for ages) for my mother to get a grilling after all it was in part her love of books that must have caught somewhere in my DNA or upbringing. In fact she loves books so much she teaches them in schools as an English teacher, though she also teaches classics and drama. With almost (as you don’t start to read straight away) 44 years of reading experience here is what my Mum’s thoughts are on books, authors and everything in between…
Right now I’m reading ‘Sea of Poppies’ by Amitav Ghosh. I read ‘The Glass Palace’ some years ago and loved it. If I find a novelist I like I tend to spread the reading out, like treats, instead of guzzling them up in one go.
What books started your reading life, and which books kept your passion for reading alive?
My first favourite was ‘Little Black Sambo’ which caused some controversy at the time a few years after. I never thought it was racist, I am certainly not, but then as a kid you wouldn’t would you? I just remember being spellbound by the bright illustrations which were printed on glossy paper (a novelty in the Sixties) and found the tiger genuinely scary. As a child I read anything I could get my hands on; Famous Five, Chalet School, Narnia books but firm favourites which I kept going back to were ‘Anne of Green Gables’, ‘Little Women’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’.
You have rather book loving children, how have you made reading such an addiction for them? Can you take any credit or is it just genetic?
Some of it could well be genetic but I have always loved reading aloud. Mum (Granny Savidge Reads) always read to us as children and I used to read to my sister a lot even before I had my own children. I think there’s something very special about snuggling up with a book and sharing it with someone you love. There’s probably a ‘preachy’ element to it too: I am, after all, a teacher.
What are your reading habits, where do you most like to read? Are there any specific times which are your most responsive reading periods?
After my first husband died seventeen years ago I couldn’t read at all, this was worrying and odd because I needed the escapism. To be honest, I can, and do, read anywhere. My greatest bouts of reading occur when I’m on holiday because that’s when I have most time. I do try to read when I go to bed but more often than not am woken by the book striking me brutally on the nose.
How has your reading taste changed over the years?
I have always enjoyed an eclectic mix and will never rule anything out.
Have you read any books that have changed your life or books that have changed your view on life and the world?
There are several books that I feel everyone ‘should’ read. ‘Schindlers Ark’ and ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ would be two because they communicate some very important messages about being a generous and broad-minded human being without being in any way ‘preachy’. Personally for me reading ‘I Claudius’ by Robert Graves was the final incentive towards becoming a Classicist.
Has there ever been a classic (or two) that you have simply failed to love and why?
I didn’t enjoy ‘Mill on the Floss’ or ‘Wuthering Heights’ initially because I think I was too young when I read them. I grew to love ‘Wuthering Heights’ through teaching it, the jury is still out on ‘Mill on the Floss’ but I did read ‘Middlemarch’ some years ago and thought it was stunning.
Who is your fictional heroine?
When I was young I wanted to be Jo in ‘Little Women’ or Anne from Green Gables. I think they had a certain quirkiness and courage which, as a child, I lacked. I do, however, as an adult, have a fictional hero. His name is Hektor and he fights for Troy in Homer’s Iliad. He shows great humanity and typifies the conflict which can occur between our public and private personas.
Which authors alive today do you think will be most remembered in a hundred years time?
Matthew Kneale’ s ‘English Passenger’s’ should stand the test of time, as should Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’ – both are beautifully written.
Do you have a faithful favourite author you can always turn to?
Not as such but I have been ‘living with’ the characters from Homer and Virgil all my adult life. They are, by the way, real.
What is your fondest bookish memory?
I’m still living it. I love it when my husband reads Harry Potter to the children and does all the voices. They are incredibly lucky; sadly, very few fathers read to their children.
Who do you turn to for bookish advice, how do you hear about new books?
Family, friends………………Simon, of course!
What book do you most want to read at the moment that you haven’t?
I’d love to have time to read more Antony Trollop. The few I have read I’ve loved for his brilliant social observations and complete characters. I expect I might get round to him properly when I retire.