Monthly Archives: March 2012

Savidge Retreats…

As you may have noticed over the last few weeks I have been really thinking about my reading habits and where I am, and where I am heading, as a reader. I have also been thinking similar things about blogging, which I love so this isn’t a navel gazing post, and where that is going, why I am doing it and how Savidge Reads has changed over the years. This is all good thinking though and I think we need some time to assess things now and again, so…

I have decided to have a blogging break; this might be for a few days, a few weeks or a month or two. It all started when I was freaking out about being 30 and my lovely co-host of The Readers and good friend Gavin said ‘it’s a new start; see it as Simon Savidge version 3.0’. This is an idea I really like so I am putting it into practice and am seeing it as a new start and have some ideas forming of what I am going to do in the future. I love a good brainstorming session don’t you?

While I am off the blogosphere I will still be popping by others now and again, chatting about books on Twitter (add me here), starting The Manchester Book Club and of course recording The Readers podcast (do pop and listen to the latest episode with me chatting to my mum, Gran and sister). Most importantly I will be reading lots and seeing where the books take me without feeling like I am doing it for the blog, some of these books will appear when I come back, some might not we will see. But look out for the new blog (there is going to be a new look and lots of new pages to mark Savidge Reads 3.0) when it appears in the none too distant future.

Until then, if I don’t see you on twitter etc, happy reading. Oh and feel free to let me know what you do and don’t like about the blog in the comments below and I might just bear them in mind…


Filed under Random Savidgeness

Three Generations of Readers

I know that you lot seem to like the posts which feature my Gran, my Mum and my little sister and how generationally the ‘we blooming love reading’ gene has been passed on. Well if that is the case then this week on The Readers we have all three of them in conversation with me in some kind of ‘Savidge Readers Special.’ That’s right… three generations of readers; how often do you get to hear that and at such differing points in their reading lives?

First in our trio of interviews we have my Gran, or Dorothy as you might want to call her, a self starting reader who left her studies in order to work. How did she get hooked on reading by herself? How important was it to read to her children? Why does she read about the countries she visits before she goes? What are her thoughts on a Kindle? What books would she recommend? Who does she re-read in her seventies and why?

Then we have my Mum, Louise, an avid book worm as a child and now a teacher of English Literature to secondary school children from 11-16 year olds. Was the influence of her mother part of her love of reading? What is great about exciting children into reading? Why don’t children read a whole book at school and does it matter? What are her thoughts on the Kindle and the future of the book? Which authors does she love and recommend in her forties?

Third and finally we have my sister, Miriam, who at 13 is in the middle of that young adult to adult transition of reading. Which books did she love as a child? What books and authors is she testing in the adult fiction market? Is reading cool at school?  Who does she turn to for her recommendations?

I thought that this might just be up all of your streets. So if you want to have a listen, and please do, then you can go here on the website or by downloading it via iTunes. Let me know what you think after you have!

Thanks again for the birthday wishes over the weekend. Lovely of you all!


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness, The Readers Podcast

The TV Book Club Tonight; Blink & You’ll Miss Me Again

Should you have the opportunity tonight, or after on catch up, you might just see my face popping up on The TV Book Club tonight as I review Kevin Wilson’s ‘The Family Fang’ in a mere 45 seconds (see a still below). I thought I would use this post to say something about reviews…


I’ve decided that as yesterday was the start of a new decade for me (thank you for all the lovely birthday messages) any pending reviews I have languishing as half finished documents on my computer or notes on scrap paper are just not going to appear. There’s probably a reason I haven’t finished writing about these ‘not bad books’ but there’s only two I really want to tell you about. Bar those two I will be reviewing only books I’ve read since turning thirty, and not every book I read will show up here either, only the ones I really want to talk about for good or not so good reasons.

It feels like a time for a fresh start again. In fact reviews etc will be on hold for a while, more on that tomorrow though as I’m shattered post celebrations and the like. Hope you’ve all had good weekends?

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Filed under Random Savidgeness

I’m 30!!!!

My first thought about being 30 is ‘happy birthday to me’, my second is ‘oh bugger, how did that happen’ yet my third thoughts on it are ‘oooh a lovely new decade that will be filled with lots and lots of lovely new adventures and experiences’.  It is that latter set of thoughts that I am going to be taking forward today should I have the odd wobble. I know lots of people say that 30 isn’t a big deal, but I think any birthday with an ‘0’ on it makes you think doesn’t it.

Anyway I mustn’t ramble, when you read this I am hoping I’ll be having a morning stroll around one of Shropshire’s picturesque towns (and not falling into all the charity/second hand book shops),  or be having a nice boozy lunch, or for a lovely dinner in a very fancy pub the evening, or possibly drunkenly dancing round my Mums old pub. This weekend I am with family and select guests, next weekend is my Manchester bash and then in a few weeks myself, Polly, Michelle and Dom are off glamping in some woods with the theme ‘1930’s Hollywood’ should be interesting.

Back to today though, ff my Mum hasn’t baked me a cake like the one below I shall be most disappointed.

In the past she has made me then in the forms of Thomas the Tank Engine, the witch’s house in Hanzel and Gretel, a white chocolate castle (because I don’t like milk/dark chocolate cake/cream/icing), various animals and once a cake in the shape of a pair of ladies… well you get where I am going. Actually we were discussing that some of these might have been made by my  aunty. Whatever the case there better be cake involved, and possibly some booze… just a bit, cough!

So will I really be feeling any different, apart from rather inebriated, probably not. I am hoping on the whole though it is definitely excitement I am feeling, and not just about what presents I might get but it is that ‘new phase’ feeling. The end of my twenties were a bit rubbish so here’s to my thirties and all the lovely things they bring. Hoorah.


Filed under Random Savidgeness

The French Lieutenant’s Woman; First Impressions

My aim to have read John Fowles ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ as one of my ‘Three for Thirty’ may just be achieved before the clock strikes midnight tonight, however my plan to have reviewed it before then hasn’t come to fruition as I haven’t quite finished it. I am actually about two thirds through at the moment, though I have a long train journey to Shropshire later so should finish it then. I thought I would do something I haven’t done before, might do again though if its popular, and give you my first impressions of the novel because I am thoroughly enjoying it, so much so I am very hesitant to rush it.

Vintage Classics, paperback, 1969 reissued 2012, fiction, 528 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Naturally with this being my first real impressions I won’t give any spoilers away, if you can avoid them in the comments that would be lovely too, but I think it is ok to say what the story is really about from the start. As the novel opens, with a superb atmosphere of Lyme Regis in the 1860’s, we follow Charles Smithson and his fiancée, Ernestina Freeman, taking a stroll. As they do they spot a lone figure staring into the sea, Ernestina tells Charles that this is Sarah Woodruff known locally in the village as ‘Tragedy’ or ‘The French Lieutenant’s Whore’ after she was disgraced when she had an a relationship with a French naval officer who was already betrothed. Shock, horror, the very idea! Charles becomes rather fascinated by her story, and so do we as the reader.

I loved how the novel started; there is a real atmosphere of some of the writing of the time, the slight sensation elements of the likes of Wilkie Collins etc, which I love anyway. There’s a certain darkness in the writing and the depiction of Lyme Regis and the people who inhabit it. This leads me to the characters, and what a marvellous bunch they are. Charles himself is both a complete charmer and a bit of a wrong ‘en as far as I was concerned, I didn’t think I would warm to him but strangely I have. Sarah is of course marvellously intriguing and Ernestine is brilliantly gossipy and demanding, I love her. My favourite character though has to be Mrs Poulteney

‘She was like some plump vulture, endlessly circling in her endless leisure, and endowed in the first field with a miraculous sixth sense as regards dust, fingermarks, insufficiently starched linen, smells, stains, breakages and all the ills that houses are heir to. A gardener would be dismissed for being seen to come into the house with earth on his hands; a butler for having a spot of wine on his stock; a maid for having slut’s wool under her bed.

Isn’t that just marvellous? Doesn’t it instantly evoke this woman? It also shows how wonderfully Fowles writes, which having not read him since ‘The Collector’ (which couldn’t be a more different book, apart from the dark tone) I had forgotten. I did worry that the way the narrator (and I have just got to the point where Fowles has introduced himself and it looks like there might be multiple endings coming) describes everything with hindsight and throwing a lot of information about the state of politics and the structure of society might get on my nerves. It isn’t hidden in the text, it’s fairly in your face, so I was worried I would feel like I was being lectured at, but I’ve gotten used to it and am learning even more about the Victorian period. Lovely stuff!

So you can imagine I am rather looking forward to several hours on the train with the characters and seeing how this possible multi-ending is going to go. I hope it carries on so wonderfully…

I am hoping to do a proper full review in timing with Cornflower Books next Book Group which ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ is the subject of, until then let me know your thoughts on this book. Though no spoilers please! Oh and let me know what you think of ‘first impressions posts’ good, bad, would prefer a full review at the end and nothing more?


Filed under Book Thoughts, John Fowles, Vintage Classics

Bookshops I Love; Reid of Liverpool

So while I was in Liverpool earlier in the week how could I not try and hunt down a good independent bookshop? I mean you have to when you go away to a new city/suburb/street don’t you, it’s only right and proper, in fact it would be rude not to.

With only a limited amount of time I couldn’t visit all the three that I wanted to, I did manage to find my first destination of choice and that was a second hand book shop on a wonderfully Dickensian, actually make that Victorian as I don’t really know my Dickens as we know, street… Reid of Liverpool.

It just tempts you from the outside doesn’t it, and its promise is fulfilled when you walk through the doors and are greeted by endless books.

What is quite quirky, though what could drive a quick browser to distraction, is that really there is no order to the books at all. Fiction and nonfiction are mixed together so if you are after a specific book you could get frustrated but I love walking along the shelves and seeing what gems I might locate and in what order. So I was in heaven.

Of course I couldn’t leave empty handed, again it would have been rude not to, and I did find not one gem but two, which are now back at Savidge Reads HQ waiting to be read at some point.

‘The Girl from the Fiction Department’ was a book I had never heard of before but grabbed me from the title which called out to me from its spine on the shelf. I thought it was fiction but discovered it is actually ‘a portrait of Sonia Orwell’ George Orwell’s second wife. I know nothing of her at all, I have discovered from the blurb that ‘portrayed by many of her husband’s biographers as a manipulative gold-digger who would stop at nothing to keep control of his legacy. But the truth about Sonia Orwell – the model for Julia in nineteen eighty-four – was altogether different. Beautiful, intelligent and fiercely idealistic, she lived at the heart of London’s literary and artistic scene before her marriage to Orwell changed her life forever. Burdened with the almost impossible task of protecting Orwell’s estate, Sonia’s loyalty to her late husband brought her nothing but poverty and despair.’ Now doesn’t that sound like a brilliant book? I don’t think it’s in print anymore. I also love how the cover is designed to look like its battered when actually pristine.

The ‘Selected Works of Djuna Barnes’ is a book I have been seeking out for ages; well actually that is not 100% accurate. I have been searching for ‘Nightwood’ since I read about it in Kate Summerscale’s ‘The Queen of Whale Cay’. Now my searching has paid off and I have an omnibus of three of her works, let’s hope I like her.

Anyway I thought that Reid of Liverpool was quite a find. If you are ever in the city do pop in. You can find more details about it here.


Filed under Bookshops I Love

A Lovely Trip to Liverpool…

On Monday I had the pleasure of going to the head offices of The Reader Organisation to meet them and see what they do and if I might be of any use/benefit/something to them. The meeting wasn’t until the afternoon and so as it was in Liverpool, a city I have been through but never actually wandered around, I thought I would make a day of it. So I thought, with the power of the virtual world, I would take you all with me, especially as it has become a ‘city of culture’ in the UK in the last few years.

Liverpool is a city that really I know nothing about which is rather naughty really considering that part of my heritage is from there. Granny Savidge Reads and her routes are in fact from Liverpool, the Wirral and Southport, so there is some Mersey blood in me somewhere. I am sure that my Uncle Derrick (Gran’s brother who used to tell me Sherlock Holmes tales on long walking holidays) once told me that if you see ‘Hill’ on a drain cover in the north that’s because that side of my family made them. How true this is could be debateable knowing the sense of humour of my great uncles and the fact that he was known to exaggerate, I will have to ask Gran this weekend. Anyway as I left the station I was instantly hit by the grandeur of the surrounding buildings, mainly museums.

I decided that my first port of call, pun intended, would be the Albert Docks down by the Mersey. It was weird walking around the city because when I was younger the only soap opera that my Mum and I would watch was Brookside and so I kept seeing buildings from the title sequence and so the theme tune was in my head for most of the day. If you haven’t seen it you can here. When I reached the docks I was stunned by what greeted me, the mix of modern and older buildings is quite something.

The reason for my visit there was to see the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Knowing that I don’t like boats or books based on boats you might find this odd. However there is an exhibition on the Titanic there and as I have something planned for the blog on the 100th anniversary I wanted more insight into it, more on that soon…

After being submerged/immersed in the history and events of the Titanic I popped next door to the Tate Liverpool…

I had a good old wander round; art is very subjective so I don’t want to bore you with everything I saw, looking at the permanent exhibitions. I have to say I do prefer going around art galleries on my own, I think it’s a very personal experience and some things you walk past and think ‘meh’ and others you feel like staring at for hours. I find if I am with a group you are all at different paces and I either rush… or get bored. I did pop and see the temporary exhibition but I didn’t think you would want to see what was inside. Is this sort of thing really art?

The other reason I was excited about the Albert Docks, and this is quite sad to admit, was that when I was a teenager this was where the UK’s breakfast show ‘This Morning’ was filmed. Who knew that this very spot would be where the Richard and Judy Book Club was started… sort of. I was sad to find that Fred’s floating weather map was no longer in the middle (if you are thinking ‘what??’ the weather man on This Morning used to do the weather in the middle of the dock on a floating set of the British Isles, whenever he jumped over to island we all watched in case he fell in.)

Now of course I couldn’t mention, or really go to, Liverpool without paying homage to their most famous export, The Beatles. I have to say I am not a huge fan (I think my Gran might have seen them at the Cavern, again this could be an Uncle Derrick story) but I do like some of their songs and it would have been foolhardy of me not to have found the cavern…

Only that wasn’t The Cavern, this was…

Oh no that’s not right, this is where it used to be…

I got very confused. The morning had whizzed by and so it was time to head to The Reader Organisation’s headquarters. I don’t want to talk too much about what went on, in case I jinx it, but it was wonderful to meet the staff and hear their stories of how the reading groups they run aren’t changing lives but are making them fuller and happier, plus then the Director of the company Jane who discussed why and how she set it up. I will admit at some of the stories, which were incredibly touching, I welled up. I then had to swiftly compose myself as I was taking part in a reading group, reading aloud (eek) and reading Shakespeare and poetry (my heart dropped) yet reading it and discussing it was wonderful (I am not quite converted, yet) and really got me into it, because there were no right or wrong answers.

A few hours later and it was time to head back (I did manage to pass, and fall into, a bookshop on the way but I will report more on that tomorrow)  as I was due to meet a certain Polly of Novel Insights, as we were off to have a lovely dinner before going to see the singer Caro Emerald. She was AMAZING, if you ever get the chance you must see her. Stunning.

There was some boogying in the aisles from me and Polly but all too soon it was time to say goodbye.  After 26 years of friendship we were both discussing how scary it is now we are thirty… before we then started to pretend we were auditioning for Spooks in Manchester Station while we waited for her bus.

I am not sure I am ever going to really grow up. Anyway, what a day! Liverpool I thoroughly loved you, I will be back very soon. Have any of you been to Liverpool, is there anything I missed? If you haven’t been to Liverpool do go! Where have you been off to for a visit recently? Shall I take you on more of these trips, by the power of the internet and a bit of imagination, in the future?


Filed under Random Savidgeness