Monthly Archives: October 2011

The English Ghost – Peter Ackroyd

Happy Halloween to one and all! I think this might actually be one of my favourite days of the year, yes even more so than Christmas, because I really do love all things spooky that go bump in the dark. I am a Most Haunted addict; love a good horror movie that makes me jump and love curling up with a good ghost story too. With the dark and chilly autumnal night’s drawing in (even more since the clocks changed yesterday) I am in my element curled up late at night with the curtains open in my warm room, wanting to be lost in a terrifying tale. Therefore I thought that I would really enjoy ‘The English Ghost’ by Peter Ackroyd, and in many ways I did. Yes, you are right, there is a ‘but’ coming.

Vintage Books, paperback, 2011, non fiction, 288 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Because of Peter Ackroyd’s reputation for fiction as well as non fiction preceding him before I had even read a word I had very high expectations from this book. I wanted a really interesting and eye opening dialogue with Peter about the ghost stories that he had collected all over the UK and why indeed the British Isles seems to be a place where hosts are seen far more than in any other country in the world. I did get this… in the introduction, which I loved.

The problem was that from then on we simply had a collection/anthology of all the ghost stories that Ackroyd had found, and while I happily admit I enjoyed them I did want something more. The more I read the opening words in each tale like ‘the following letter by…’ or ‘the following report appeared in the ‘X’ newspaper’ the more I was thinking ‘hang on, is this a bit of a cut and paste job. Is this all research and no real revelation or conversation?’ It was a conversation with Ackroyd about the ghost stories and the facts and people involved with them that I wanted not really an encyclopaedia.

This makes me sound really ungrateful I know, and I did actually read it in just a few days because it is great to dip in and out of. I should have just thought ‘wow, what a collection of tales from the infamous Borley Rectory, to smaller unknown stories’ (I was excited that the Blue Bell Hill story was included as my Great Aunty Pat told me that tale as a kid as she knew the people involved) and some of the stories are genuinely unnerving (weirdly the more modern ones) as from the witness accounts you know several people saw these events happen and it does make you ponder on what on earth is really out there. I did also really like Ackroyd’s retelling of the stories when there were no ‘official’ accounts too, I just wanted more dialogue with him, more banter. There isn’t even an afterword or really any note on why he wanted to do this particular paranormal project.

I am aware this is rather a short set of book thoughts, and one I feel I have come away doing Ackroyd a slight disservice in writing. If you want a collection of true life, well it depends on what you believe – but I do, ghost stories then this would be an ideal read for you. If you are looking for a book that tells the tales and discusses why these might have happened or any other subjective thoughts and reasoning’s you might want to try elsewhere. I liked ‘The English Ghost’ a lot, I just expected more, so maybe the fault lies with me?

If you are hankering after more ‘spooky shenigans’ then do pop and listen to the ‘spooky special’ fourth episode of The Readers here. Me and Gav are in halloween costumes and everything!

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Filed under Non Fiction, Peter Ackroyd, Review, Vintage Books

Well Wishes Please for Mummy Savidge Reads…

Not really a very bookish post, but I know some of you like to know what is going on outside of the bookish part of Savidge Reads and so thought you might like to all wish my Mum well as she is having a rather big operation today and it is all a little scary (on Halloween too). Honestly if it isn’t one thing it is another. Bless her. My mother being my mother is not thinking about what she will be going through today, but instead thinking of all the lovely books that she will have to read while she is recovering in hospital and at home. I wonder where I get that from?

Anyway, send her all your well wishes and good lucks if you would be so kind.

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Filed under Random Savidgeness

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier; Discovering Daphne Readalong #5

So to end this years ‘Discovering Daphne’ season I begged and begged Polly to let us finish with ‘Rebecca’ as it is my favourite read of Daphne’s and indeed, I think, of all time so far. It was a toss up between this and Polly’s favourite ‘Jamaica Inn’ and Polly, being the lovely person she is, caved in. The thing was though, once I knew a ‘’Rebecca re-read’ was lined up I started to get really nervous. What happened if the book I loved suddenly felt flawed, what if I didn’t like the unnamed narrator this time or feel any empathy for her, what if Mrs Danvers left me cold, what if I didn’t find it as atmospheric and haunting? I started to get a little panicked.

9781844080380

Virago Books, paperback, 1938, fiction, 448 pages, from my bookshelves

After closing the final page of ‘Rebecca’ a few days ago it was a struggle not to head straight back to the start… yet again. If I could physically get lost in a book then ‘Rebecca’, and of course Manderley, would be the place I would be happy to be stuck in forever. From the very moment of those first immortal lines “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” to the final pages and THAT ending (no spoilers here don’t worry) I was hooked line and sinker and in for the long haul, and how it has made these long dark nights all the more bearable, and all the more haunting.

For those of you who don’t know the book, or its rather infamous plot, ‘Rebecca’ is a tale of ‘the other woman’ only in this case the other woman is dead – amazing, and clever, that she is one of the most formidable characters in the book and the lives of all those living who we join. The unnamed narrator tells her tale of how, when accompanying a rich American lady Mrs Van Hopper (who is a fabulous small character) on holiday, she meets Maxim de Winter and after a whirl wind romance marries him and finds herself back in England and the new lady of Manderlay, a wonderful gothic mansion. Yet once back in Maxim’s home his past, and indeed his previous wife Rebecca (and her mysterious death) come to haunt them, quite literally, along with a little help from the housekeeper Mrs Danvers.

Here I shall leave the story, for if you haven’t read it yet I don’t want to give anything further away, especially as this is a book which has some wonderful, and equally dreadful, twists and turns as it develops. I can say that on a re-read the unnamed narrator (who I once insisted was called Caroline after one re-reading) did annoy me a lot more than she usually does initially, not to the point where it affected the book, but I did think ‘oh get a grip love’ but then because of the psychological aspect of the book and indeed her situation as usual I did once more start to feel for her and could understand how some one like Mrs Danvers could so easily manipulate and scare a woman like her, she scares me.

One of my very favourite things about ‘Rebecca’ is undoubtedly Mrs Danvers, she’s psychotically obsessed with her former mistress and clearly has a dark background which we only get the vaguest notions of. She’s just wonderfully wicked and deliciously, dangerously demented. I have always thought because of her complexity and nature she is one of my favourite characters in fiction, unnervingly stealing the limelight on any page she appears. I have often pondered that I would love to write a fictional account of her life, I could never do it justice though I am sure.

Back to ‘Rebecca’ and along with its wonderful twists and turns, its atmosphere (which is incredible, you feel like you are there with these characters in this gothic, dark, spooky time and place which always, no matter how sunny or lovely come with a darkness in the corners) the one thing that I think makes it such an incredible story is what it says about people, the reasons they do things, the real motives and emotions both the dark and the light of the human condition. That probably sounds grand, but it’s true. There are lots of depths to a novel like this that lie behind what initially may seem a dark and gothic love story, which it also is yet is really so, so, so much more. In fact I would dare to suggest that this could be the perfect book, even if only for me.

As you have probably guessed by now I could easily ramble on about ‘Rebecca’ for hours and hours, I just hope if you haven’t read the book you might read this and pick it up/run for the nearest open book shop. If you have read it, maybe you will be tempted to pluck it off the shelves (because if you have read it I doubt very much you could have given it away) once more, and if you have re-read it for ‘Discovering Daphne’ I cant wait to see what you thought…

Actually I also can’t wait to see what Polly thought either, as she has been rather secretive about it until today.

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Filed under Books of 2011, Daphne Du Maurier, Review, Virago Books

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four… & Five (Again!)

One of my favourite meme’s (I have to say I have a love hate relationship with meme’s – in part because I have no idea what meme stands for) that I have ever come across was the lovely Simon of Stuck in a Book’s ‘One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four Book… & Five’ which was so brilliant I had to join in with it at the time. I just love having a nosey into what is going on in the book bit of everyone’s lives and this does prove a fascinating snap shot. So as he has done it again I simply had to join in, so here is mine…

The Book I’m Currently Reading…

As it is Halloween tomorrow and I absolutely love all things ghostly, I am tucking into a book described as ‘The Turn of the Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe’ and so far ‘Florence & Giles’ by John Harding is proving to be much more of a hit with me than ‘The Turn of The Screw’ was which sadly left me severely wanting. I am really enjoying the secretive book devouring thread that has been going on so far, bookish and ghostly – delightful. Let’s hope it keeps going so well, and also scares me.

The Last Book I Finished…

Another ghost story and one that did just what it should… scared me silly. Michelle Paver’s ‘Dark Matter’ took me from my old homeland of foggy Tooting in the late 1930’s we follow Jack Miller on a voyage to the barren, icy and dark expanse of the arctic and get embroiled in a genuinely terrifying tale. The hairs on my back stood on end and everything. Gavin and I have been reading this as an accidental first ‘joint read’ for The Readers which leads me to…

The Next Book I Want To Read…

This was the hardest to pick as I am trying to read in the most whimish was possible, however there is a book I do want to be dipping in and out of alot. ‘In Other Worlds; SF and The Human Imagination’ is a collection of the wonderful Margaret Atwood’s essays which covers the ‘sci-fi vs. speculative fiction debate’ along with superhero’s and Victorian otherlands. Gav and I are reading this as our next joint read as it seems the perfect book for us to discuss with our tastes. Me being a ‘lit-head’ and he being an ‘alien loving supernatural fantasist’ (ha, I can’t wait for him to spy that comment!)

The Last Book I Bought…

Is for a new book group I have started in central Manchester with my lovely American ‘buddy’ Joe. We have called ourselves the ‘Bearded Book Lovers’ as so far all the members are men and we all have beards. Will be interesting to see how this progresses as we have two lovely ladies who want to join. Hmmm. Anyway I have heard lots of good things about ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ by Patrick Hamilton and loved the sound of ‘The Rosamund Tea Rooms boarding house’ as the central place in a story set in wartime England in a small town on the Thames. It was also in Fopp for just £2 so I bought in bulk for everyone, not just me.

The Last Book I Was Given…

Was from my fellow ‘Bearded Book Lovers’ co-founder Joe who, like me, has a passion for all things M.C. Beaton and had spotted this title he had never heard of. Well I had never heard of this one off either and was frankly rather jealous, yet kindly I now have my very own copy of ‘The Skeleton in the Closet’ to read, it has a rather Halloween perfect title doesn’t it?

Well, that is me done. I have noticed that all the covers, bar the last one, are rather dreary and a bit grey, oh dear! Random. Moving on… Who else is joining in, or have you already? Do leave a link to yours in the comments below if you have done this, and if you haven’t do have a go and let me know afterwards. I am so nosey this is right up my street.

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Filed under Book Thoughts

Am I A Library Addict?

When the lovely Gavin and I were recording the third episode of The Readers the other day, we started talking about libraries as a journalist at The Telegraph said that they weren’t needed anymore. So Gavin and I were having a discussion about it, which will sadly not see the light of day in the form intended as I ended up waffling and going off on tangents, and when I said how many books I currently had our from the two different libraries that I have joined Gavin said it sounded like an addiction… I think he might be right.

You see currently I do have rather a lot of books from both Manchester and Stockport libraries.  In fact you can see as I took a picture (I won’t list them all, don’t worry)…

But really to have maxed my ten loans from one library (with three books on order) and seven out of eight possible titles from the other library I am pushing it a little, and even though I get lots and lots of books through the door it doesn’t stop me.

The thing is you should use your library, and not just for the free internet which is what said Telegraph journalist said that was pretty much the only reason people go, because if no one uses them then they will vanish. Yet you shouldn’t hoard from them either and keep renewing them, something I am an absolute nightmare for.

The thing is there is always a book I ‘quite fancy giving a whirl’ or a book ‘for book group’ you wouldn’t have picked up yourself, a recommendation from someone you aren’t quite convinced about, a book you simply cant find in any book shops or an author you ‘really must try’. All those apply to the books above and this is where the library is great. It costs nothing and you can try all sorts of books you might not other wise and therefore discover new future favourite authors. I mean I could ask a publisher for a book I might want to try, but what if I hate it? I would rather try it out via the library its part of their function. There is of course the problem of giving the ones you love back; a small price to pay though isn’t it?

I do need to stop pressing the renew button, so over the next few days I am trimming these books down, amongst of course reading lots of spooky stories. So what have you taken out from the library of late, what gems have you discovered in the past and what favourite authors have you befriended thanks to your library?

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Filed under Book Thoughts

The Readers, The ‘Difficult’ Second Podcast Was Easy, The Third Not So…

…But it is here, as it finallywent live yesterday. I have to say Gavin has done wonders with editing the whole thing and it actually sounds like we know what we are on about but after chatting away for over three hours (yes that is how long it takes to get a decent hour to make an episode) we listened back to it and it was an absolute mess. Tangents left right and centre, another rant from me which hopefully won’t ever see the light of day and much swearing that needed cutting. But it is definitely a learning curve; we have some wonderful bloopers for a special random episode in the future though. Even iTunes had an issue with the episode as it wouldn’t upload it for ages, a message perhaps?

Anyway this week’s episode features us discussing the Man Booker winner, which you may have noticed that I have been quite silent about, you can hear me interview Ian Rankin (I was seriously over excited) and here us discussing short stories with recommendations from Sam Jordison from The Guardian and Patricia Duncker, as well as lots of you. In fact a huge thank you to any of you who tweeted your recommendations for short stories, or messaged me it’s lovely to have your thoughts. We would love much more of your input and recommendations. We are recording our ‘spooky special’ on Sunday so if you have any spooky recommendations let us know. What are your favourite spooky tales?

Oh and you can listen to Episode Three here. Do let us know your thoughts on how we are doing too. We were rather in a funk about it earlier this week but are gearing up for a fabulously haunting Halloween epsiode. Any thoughts on how we can do better? Honestly it’s just ask, ask, ask from me isn’t it? Right I am scurrying off to read lots more, am gripped by two brilliant ghostly books, one fictional, one not!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, The Readers Podcast

Joan Bakewell & Bookmarked

I’m having a rather quiet week and just settling down and reading when I can rather than blogging. I thought I would pop in though and let you know just whats by the bedside. I have a fair few ‘research reads’ ahead of me but I am trying to do it in a whimsical (and I don’t mean funny) style as much as possible.

The main selection of reads are the memoirs/autobiographies/essays and novels of Joan Bakewell’s. Why? Well, I have always liked her when I have seen her on the television, her work on which has won many prizes, and in the UK she is deemed by many as a ‘national treasure’. I am getting very excited, and of course very nervous, as I will be in conversation with her on November the 10th at Waterstones Deansgate in Manchester where we will be discussing her novels, her CBE, her tv experiences and much much more…

There is also the fourth Bookmarked on the horizon in just under two weeks, when we will have our ‘supernatural and sci-fi’ night with Ben Aaronovitch and Paul Magrs. I will be reading both of Ben’s novels and Paul’s latest in the lead up, which as they are filled with spooky goings on will be just the things for Halloween, hooray!

You can find out more about Bookmarked here. Sorry about that mini plug, but it is all book related. Have you read any of Joan Bakewell’s novels or her autobiographies/memoirs? What about Ben and Pauls books? Hope to see some of you at either of these events. Any spooky reading suggestions at all?

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Filed under Ben Aaronovitch, Bookmarked Literary Salon, Joan Bakewell, Paul Magrs