Dorothy Savidge; The Woman Books Built

On Wednesday this week we all said our final goodbyes to Granny Savidge Reads, aka Dorothy Savidge. I thought I would share the speech I gave as part of her eulogy with you all as it is fitting and also because it does show the importance of books in people’s lives. You can also hear Gran talking about books in an episode of The Readers that I recorded with three generations of the reading Savidge’s here. Thank you all so, so, so, so much for your comments, emails and tweets about Gran, the support has meant so much to me and my family. Savidge Reads will be back properly on August the 1st, I will leave this as a fitting interim post until then…

To say that my Gran, Dorothy, quite liked a book would be something of an understatement. She loved books. Gran once said that “one of the wonderful things about books is that despite reading being a solitary activity, in the main they can bring you together with other people”. Gran proved this often, with family, friends, neighbours, people in libraries younger than her whom she then founded book groups with, potential son in laws who liked Philip Kerr and random strangers on her travels. You name them, Gran could talk books with them.

The other thing she said recently was that “books can have the power to educate people and make you walk in their footsteps”. She would often read veraciously about places she was going to before she went and sometimes read a guide book so closely you would have to remind her she was actually in the place she was reading about. Yet Gran didn’t come from a bookish background, she was predominately a self taught reader.

Gran grew up in a house that only had three books, though a saving grace was that one of those was ‘Gone With The Wind’. Her father was away at war, her mum busy with all Gran’s siblings and so it was her eldest brother Derrick who would read Rupert Bear adventures to her and her younger brother Gordon from the Daily Express. However on his return from the war her father took Gran to the library often, it was there that she discovered the page turning addiction that is Enid Blyton and the adventures of the Famous Five.

From the library Gran progressed to Broadhurst’s book shop, which is still running, in Southport. Gran said “I couldn’t afford the books but I could sit in the corner and read, hopefully hidden”. She wasn’t as well hidden as she thought, thanks to a kindly bookshop owner though Gran was allowed to sit and read as she pleased from ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ onwards.

I don’t know much about Gran’s reading life when she was courting my Grandfather, Bongy, and had moved away from home to the suburbs of London. I do know that he influenced her reading, partly with his love of Anthony Trollope and how often he re-read ‘Barchester Towers’ which Gran soon caught. I also know that a discussion with Bongy made Gran read Hardy as, for some unfathomable reason, he mentioned there was a book in which a man sold his wife at a market like she was cattle’. Make of that what you will but it certainly made Gran read ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ even if out of incredulity.

Reading to her children Louise, Caroline, Alice and Matthew and helping them learn to read was something which gave Gran a great amount of joy. My mother, Louise, can remember hours with Peter and Jane and ‘This is Pat. Meet Pat the dog. Watch Pat run’ a little too well. It was the same with her grandchildren. I remember many an occasion cuddling up to Gran with a good story, even until quite recently. I still get that same feeling of excitement walking into a Waterstones as I did as a child. Trips to Scarthin Books with Gran have been a highlight of the last twenty years, or more, of my life.

Gran and I bonded over lots of things, books were a particularly constant source of conversation. She could be a book snob on occasion, only months ago asking if I had thought of reading ‘anything of any actual worth’ this year, scary. She often broke this snobbery though, sometimes by force like when she had to read all Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ trilogy as Bongy had done the awful thing of only allowing Gran to pack four books for a whole four weeks away… she unashamedly cried her way through the final book by the pool, secretly loving every moment of it.

Mainly her love of reading was infectious. I’ve Gran to thank for my love of Kate Atkinson, Andrea Levy, Margaret Atwood and many, many others. Sometimes her enthusiasm could also be overzealous. For example when I was about halfway through the aforementioned Margaret Atwood’s complex and lengthy tome, ‘The Blind Assassin’, Gran suddenly said ‘Oh that is the book where **** happens at the end isn’t it?’ Then the awkward silence followed before an ‘oops’.

No matter what was going on in our lives, good, bad or indifferent, we could talk books and did so several times a week. She was always up for recommending something or have something recommended to her. Though I have recently noticed that a copy of a Barbara Cartland novel I bought her as a slight joke over a decade ago is still looking rather pristine.
It was the challenge of wanting to try new books and her love of discussion and bookish debate that led Gran to book groups. Some might say that joining three was slightly excessive, not for Gran. It seems she was a popular member of the groups whether she co-founded them or simply joined them. “Her opinion on a book was always looked forward to, even if sometimes with baited breath” her fellow member Jim told me. She was often seen as something of a book encyclopaedia, often called upon to name an author or book title that had slipped someone else’s mind. Invariably Gran would know exactly what they meant.

In the last few months I know it was hard with Gran not being able to read so much. I tried reading her new favourite series to her, unlike her big brother Derrick I didn’t do the voices and so in the end we had to settle with the audio book or episodes of The Archers.

Books still brought her joy in other ways during this time. Be it talking with friends and family about books or recommending them. We had marvellous discussions with nurses at various hospitals about books including a lengthy one at the Whitworth where we discussed what happened to the books in our heads. Did we just see the words, hear voices or watch a film playing in front of our eyes? There were also all the friends who visited who she had made through books and via book groups and all the laughter and smiles that they brought with them.

Gran’s reading legacy will live on through her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren when they arrive one day. Also through all the friendships that she made through books and reading and the book groups she started and joined. She loved getting any book recommendation, so on behalf of Gran, when you can, go and pick up one of her favourite authors, Graham Greene.

32 Comments

Filed under Granny Savidge Reads

32 responses to “Dorothy Savidge; The Woman Books Built

  1. What a beautiful speech and a lovely way to remember her.

  2. You have had such a gift in your Gran in your lifetime. She would have loved this tribute. Keep reading.

  3. I am very sorry for the loss of your beloved Gran, Simon.

  4. Jen

    What a wonderful woman! Thanks for sharing her with us. She and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. rhonda

    So sorry for the loss of your grab.what a beautiful tribute.

  6. Beautiful speech, Simon.🙂

  7. I’m so sorry for your loss. You’ve mentioned your Gran a few times and she always sounded like a remarkable lady, and a great inspiration on others to read as well. This was beautiful and I’m glad you were able to have such a great relationship with her.

  8. Lovely tribute Simon – so sorry for your loss.

  9. Deborah

    Thanks for sharing this Simon. I will certainly try some G Greene, but first The Blind Assassin! And I’ll think of Granny Savidge when I do!

  10. Graham Greene is one of my favorite authors, too. I think I’ve got a few titles on my TBR stack.

    I’d like to thank you for sharing so much of Granny Savidge with us over the years. I’ve enjoyed reading about her, about your time with her and about the books you two have shared. I know that I am thousands of miles away in California and that I’ve never met you and that I never met Granny Savidge, but through your blog she came to be something of a “character” in my regular reading. I beloved character. I’ll miss her.

  11. JanetD

    Hi Simon I have tried to leave several messages for you but they did not appear but I thought I would try again. I know how much your Gran meant to you, and you to her. I am glad you managed to spend those precious days together . Your talk was a fitting tribute to her. She will besorely missed . Take care.x

  12. What a lovely tribute, Simon. x

  13. really lovely, simon. after i read this i was nosing around my favourite used book store and came across a lovely old graham greene. i’m pretty sure your gran would have wanted me to get it (so i did).

  14. Beautifully written Simon. I am so sorry for your family’s loss.

  15. Melissa

    Lovely, Simon. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry for your loss.

  16. Carol R

    What a lovely tribute Simon. As a grandmother myself, I can only hope that my grandchildren will think as highly of me as you do of your Gran. You were both so lucky to have each other.

  17. EllenB

    Well said, Simon. She is so proud of you.

  18. That was a brilliant tribute, Simon — I suspect there wasn’t a dry eye in the place, probably including your own. What a terrific story, and how nice that she was kind of kick-started at Broadhursts, a great bookshop that I used to visit frequently when I lived nearby. And how wonderful that she passed on so much of that wisdom and knowledge to you. You will of course miss her terribly, but also feel so blessed to have had her in your life.

  19. Sharkell

    Thanks for sharing your lovely memories. Graham Greene is now on my wish list.

  20. A wonderful warm and loving tribute to someone who meant so much to you. I’m sure she was as equally delighted to have a grandson with a love of reading with whom she could share her passion. Thank you for letting us share some of the life of this lovely woman.

  21. Reading this, I remembered ‘Fahrenheit 451’, when Granger talks to Monday about his grandfather and his ways of being. ‘He was individual. He was an important man.’ I think these words, the whole paragraph actually, can be related to the person your grandma was.
    I will add Graham Green to my list, too.

  22. novelinsights

    Lovely. x

  23. Vanessa

    A lovely speech. I’m now reading The Heart of the Matter and when I next pick it up will think of your granny Savidge.

  24. Will Schwalbe

    What a moving and inspiring tribute to your extraordinary Gran. I’m so sad to learn of your loss. My thoughts are with you and your whole family. And what a tribute, too, to the role that books can play in our lives.

  25. I loved your speech, it was beautiful. And, I will definitely be picking up a Graham Greene😉

  26. I picked my greene up earlier ,you made your gran so well known to us bloggers I think we all have a small sense of loss ,all the best stu

  27. What a beautiful tribute, Simon. I know that every time you pick up a book, you will be blessed with very happy memories of a fabulous woman.

  28. So sorry for your loss. That’s a beautiful tribute, though, and I’m glad you have so many fantastic memories of her.

  29. A lovely way to remember your Gran, Simon.

  30. Pingback: The Greene For Gran Gang! | Savidge Reads

  31. Pingback: Riotous Assembly – Tom Sharpe | Savidge Reads

  32. A very late comment, but perhaps Gran’s enjoying a gin or two with Mr Greene? What a joy to have a family member who instills SUCH a love of reading in you!

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