Monthly Archives: July 2014

Savidge Reads Heads To Sweden For A Holiday!

By the time you read this I will either be chewing my nails to pieces waiting to get on a plane, be up several thousands of miles in the sky in that tin can plane or be safely in Sweden enjoying a fortifying drink, of any variety. I am going to be spending a long weekend visiting Gothenburg, Fjallbacka, Valo Island and the Weather Islands as the Swedish Tourist Board are very kindly sending me off to the fictional murder sites (which looks rather ominous when you see it like that, ha) of the novels of Camilla Lackberg, who I have been devouring the series of in preparation. I absolutely cannot wait.

The Weather Islands

Instead of scheduling posts, or taking my lovely new purple laptop with me I have decided to give myself a well earned rest, post festival, and also give the blog a rest for a while. I plan a few days of adventure and exciting yet also some quiet time of thinking and just taking the world in and pondering. I think I need it. (I will be tweeting and instagramming as I go though. Ha!) Reading however I have most certainly packed for as you can see, all aptly Swedish.

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Once I am back there will be no stopping me, I have a week of Swedish themed posts and a holiday to report back on, plus I have plans to gig the blog about a bit which I will mull over I am sure when I am not in awe at my surroundings over the next few days. Which reminds me… While I am away do please, please, please keep your questions and suggestions coming in.

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A Giant Spectacular Finale (and Hitting The Headlines)

And so the festival is officially over and what a finale we had, and I don’t mean the one last week where I ended up getting so drunk I staying in a hotel in my own city. The finale of the IFB2014 was the return of The Giants. If you think I am overtired and hallucinating, or still drunk, I swear to you I am telling the truth!

You may not remember but back way back when I first met the Beard and was doing the whole dating thing and thinking about moving to Liverpool we accidentally ended up crossing the path, or ripples, of the Giants that came and conquered the city before sailing away. Well it was a huge success for the city at the time and so Culture Liverpool, who since that fateful boat trip I only went and worked for and now work for the sister company of, brought them back again. Little (no pun intended) did the project team realise how close we would get, even though we knew they were passing and had our sandwiches at the ready, or that one of us might end up in the headlines of the Liverpool Echo (guess who?)…

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So as you can see above we were all ready and waiting with eager anticipation for the Granny Giant to arrive. Soon enough the crowds started to build and build and sure enough she arrived…

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If I am being 100% honest, I had forgotten how brilliant the giants were the first time they came (then too I was a bit nonchalant about it all) yet once I could see her, see the way the crowd was loving following her the buzz of excitement started to build and build as she came nearer. As it turned ut we had some of the best seats in the city…

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Here I should stipulate that I don’t really understand what the story for the giants was, and I read the flyer, but they had come from beyond the Milky Way and were here to commemorate the anniversary of WWI. It does sound bonkers I understand, but it worked brilliantly. As she stood below us she started to read letters from those who had been in the war or those who had written to them. It was very moving.

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Now as I was saying as it went on the excitement and emotion just sent us all a bit giddy and we couldn’t help but try and get a picture with the giants, and indeed some of us resorted to selfies…

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What I didn’t expect was for my selfie to end up in the Liverpool Echo as one of the images from the first day of the Giants visit, but it did as you can see here. My fifteen minutes of fame right there. However at the time we didn’t know this and what was interesting was as she slowly headed past us and off to find her granddaughter and her dog you really felt sad to see her leave…

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The other thing it made me feel was immensely proud. Not just of the festival I have worked on this city and the people I have worked with, which goes without saying as it and they have been amazing. I also felt extremely proud of this city, Liverpool, and the people who go the extra mile to make it a vibrant place bringing new people in but also putting on a bloody good show for the people who live here. I feel honoured that I am an honorary Liverpudlian, of sorts.

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To get more of the effect of the giants, their story and see how amazing the logistics of them (and all the man power with her crane and all the people who move her limbs swinging up in the air – which you soon stop seeing bizarrely) then do watch the video below. It is quite inspiring. I can’t wait for them to come back. What a brilliant way to end the festival too.

Anyway I thought I would share that with you all as some of you mentioned, when I asked you to ask me anything and make suggestions which I will answer all the questions from when I am back from my trip away, that you would like to see more posts about random things I get up to off blog. I think encountering giants and making the headlines will do won’t it?

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Trespassing With Tremain; The Plan

A week or so ago I told you all about my idea to honour Granny Savidge Reads and pass on her reading legacy (which sounds very grand and she would love) by reading one of her favourite contemporary authors Rose Tremain. So I thought we could go Trespassing With Tremain into the lives and worlds she creates which Gran was such a fan of and kept telling me off for having not tried. Thank you all for your enthusiasm, I have now been through her bibliography and have finally decided on the list, so here it is with the dates… (Please note the dates have changed!)

  • Trespass – Sunday August the 10th
  • The Road Home– Sunday August the 24th
  • The Darkness of Wallis Simpson and Other Stories– Sunday September the 7th
  • Sacred Country– Sunday September the 21st
  •  Restoration– Sunday October 5th
  • The Road Home – Sunday September the 14th
  • The Darkness of Wallis Simpson and Other Stories– Sunday October the 5th
  • Sacred Country– Sunday October the 26th
  • Restoration– Sunday November the 16th

So why these choices? Well, Trespass was the one that Gran thought would be most up my street and closest to what might be my comfort zone (I don’t quite know what she meant and didn’t think to ask, silly me) so this seems an apt way to begin. I have already got myself a copy from the library, it is pretty short too so two weeks should be enough. I love the former Orange Prize so I thought one of her prize winners, The Road Home, would be a good second step. Mid way I thought short stories might make a nice change of scene and I find Wallis Simpson really fascinating so look forward to the title tale. Sacred Country is one of the titles I had never heard of and looking it up the whole question of gender it brings up sounds fascinating. I thought we could end with one of Rose Tremain’s most famous, and largest, novels with Restoration and one which has the sequel of Merivel if we all love it insanely.

In fact it was leaving some of the well-known ones for later if we love her that stopped me choosing Music and Silence and also The Colour, always good to have something else to look forward to, and some of the lesser known ones may well be gems to discover like I am hoping Sacred Country is.

So who is joining in and with which titles and when? Anyone in it for all of them (no pressure) as company would sure be nice!

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In Case You Were Wondering What My Day Job Entails…

I am one of the small project team who make big things like this happen…

It is all over now though. I am feeling a mixture of very proud, emotional, nostalgic and knackered. Thank goodness August has two big holidays lined up for me!

 

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Man Booker 2014 Musings

Unless you were like me, in which case you were far too busy moving furniture, walls and the like, then you all probably saw the longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2014. With its rule changes last year, becoming open to any book written in English anywhere in the world published for the first time between October 2013 and September 2014, the long list was one which many felt would now be an American full house. It doesn’t seem to be the case, yet weirdly it doesn’t seem to be a longlist that is doing very much for me.

Here it is in full in case you too were otherwise engaged and have been since…

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – Joshua Ferris (Viking)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent’s Tail)
The Blazing World – Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre)
J –  Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
The Wake – Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)
The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell (Sceptre)
The Lives of Others – Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)
Us – David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Dog – Joseph O’Neill (Fourth Estate)
Orfeo – Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
How to be Both –  Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
History of the Rain – Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)

Man Booker Five

I have only actually got five of them, I would have had six but I found the Niall Williams gratingly pretentious when I tried to read it a while back, and have read not a one so I can’t judge them on what’s inside yet very little really excites me here. Actually that is not 100% true or fair. I am excited by the Karen Joy Fowler because that is a book I have been wanting to read ever since I saw it on the sadly (and criminally) now defunct Review Show. I have also heard amazing things about the Flanagan in all the right places, from Marieke Hardy to  Kim of Reading Matters. I have also read Mukherjee, Nicholls and Smith before and really, really liked their work. I am also intrigued by the Kingsmith, which would be a marvellous winner as it is a debut and Unbound, who publish it, are a crowd sourced publishers, exciting. Yet I am still not really that excited and really with a prize like the Man Booker I should be.

The Williams-effect might be part of it, I may be judging the books on that. I may also be feeling indifferent to it because a) I am knackered post festival b) Ferris and Mitchell are two authors many people love yet I just simply do not get. It could be that it just all feels terribly white middle classed male (with the exceptions of the women and Mukherjee) and not the exciting, vibrant, diverse list I always hope it is going to be. I also think it is really strange that at present so many (5) of the books aren’t even out, Jacobson not coming out until the 25th of September, it doesn’t seem a list that can yet excite the public does it? And does it mean if the dates don’t change then the publishers are breaking this rule – Each publisher of a title appearing on the longlist will be required to have no fewer than 1,000 copies of that title available in stock within 10 days of the announcement of the longlist. Will they be withdrawn/disqualified? Today it seems about the only exciting thing that might happen from this list.

It makes me wonder if the Man Booker is really the prize for me anymore. Maybe I should just stick to the Women’s Prize (which I find very difficult to call the Bailey’s, and I love that tipple) and Fiction Uncovered as it seems that is where the well written AND diverse voices most seem to be found with very similar prize remits. Maybe I should read a few and reserve judgement? What do you all think?

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Questions & Suggestions

Today is the last day of the International Festival for Business 2014 which is the project that has been taking up all of my time in the last few months with lots of events and all those shenanigans. It has been a blast and tonight we will be celebrating and getting merry in grand style – to the point where I am staying in a hotel in my own city as I think I may end up rather a mess! Anyway, as the festival ends the questions begin on how everything has gone and the suggestions of what might happen next time (it is coming back in 2016, though none of us know as yet if we are) start. This made me wonder if I should do something similar with the blog…

Recently Annabel of Annabel’s House of Books, inspired by Simon of Stuck In A Book doing it first, decided she would be brave and ask her followers/readers/passers-by to ask her anything they wanted. It didn’t have to be about books it could be about absolutely anything. I couldn’t find Simon’s original post but his answers are here and Annabel’s are here and here and they make for really interesting reading. So I thought I would hop on this idea, only giving it a slight twist…

Question mark of books

So, you can ask me anything you like (be it about books, kittens, chemical biology, ha, whatever you like) and, as long as it is within reason, I will take all the questions away have a think over them and answer them in a post in the next few weeks. I would also really, really, really like you to make some suggestions. Firstly, I would like you to suggest new things, or old things I could bring back, which you would like to see on the blog. Secondly, I would love some suggestions of any topics you would like me to waffle on about on the blog or features you might like to see.

I may choose to ignore them, I may use them all, as is my want but what I will say is that anyone who asks and question and/or makes a suggestion will be put into a hat and The Beard will draw two (or three if there are lots) of you out of the hat and a bookish parcel will wing its way out to you for your efforts. How does that sound, get asking and suggesting away…

 

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Thirst – Kerry Hudson

You may remember at the very beginning of 2013 I raved about a debut novel with the rather ‘stop and stare’ title of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. It was by a debut author Kerry Hudson who seemed, by some kind of witchcraft, to totally depict and understand my childhood; lots of moving, not masses of money, lots of trips to the library etc. It was one of those ‘blimey, this book gets me and I get this book’ moments that we are lucky to have every so often. After a small amount of stalking and some meringue caterpillars (long story) weirdly this Kerry Hudson became a mate who loved Alphabites and gelato – not together – as much as I do. A true bonus from a brilliant book. Yet this of course created a dilemma when Thirst came out. I wanted to read it because its predecessor was so brilliant however Kerry was also a mate. So I decided I would do what I would do with any book I want to read, and always will do, and just judge the book on the book. So here goes…

Chatto & Windus, hardback, 2014, fiction, 336 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Security guard Dave first meets Alena, not long arrived in the UK from Siberia, when he catches her trying to steal an expensive pair of shoes from a luxury store (which naturally pays its staff piss poorly) and helps her from being arrested, much to the dismay of his manager. Why Dave does this he is not sure, though the fact she is rather attractive may help, and neither is Alena yet in Dave she senses a safety from the world which she desperately needs and soon manages to find a way into his life and into his flat. No, not in that way you dirty lot but from this initial meeting and in the weeks after a relationship of sorts starts though if it is one that either can speak of or will last neither of them know, especially when their backgrounds, and indeed their baggage, start to come to the fore.

Hudson writes both of these characters intricately, and also does something very clever by revealing their pasts in glimpses here and there and creating layers of both Alena and Dave at their best and their very worst, their most attractive and their most ugly. Initially I struggled with Alena as though I knew she had a dark mystery she was running from in her past, which gives the novel a great momentum from the start, I couldn’t work out if she was an innocent victim caught up in something horrendous, or someone far more calculating and unlikeable.

She went to the mirror again and inspected herself; she didn’t have food around her mouth, anything in her teeth; she had good lips, pretty eyes and beautiful breasts, everybody said so. She checked that her expression wasn’t too pathetically grateful, though she was. She was so grateful and very afraid of being sent away, but the trick of staying was to make him the thankful, fearful one. And as she caught herself smiling in the mirror she reminded herself that this was all just a trick, there was nothing real here, and killed the smile instantly, like a small insect under a hard finger tip.

The same applies to Dave, though almost in reverse. Initially we see him as the lonely good guy who looked after his mother when she was dying of cancer and also followed her dying wish of marrying the wrong women. Poor Dave. Yet as we learn more his story gets darker as grief and regret, along with loneliness inside a relationship, all take over. Who here is really the good and who is the bad? Do we have to be one or the other or do we have both in us which we have to keep in check?

Of course these are the points that Hudson is making with Thirst, or one I thought she was making, is that no character is black or white, nor is anyone wholly good or wholly evil. We are all various (I nearly said fifty, shame on me) shades of grey and we have all done things in our past that are commendable and things that we all feel ashamed of. Hudson looks at these both with Dave’s failed marriage and also Alena’s past (which I don’t want to give too much away of because it’s utterly chilling and needs to be experienced cold) as she becomes caught in the sex trafficking industry and has to do anything she can, no matter how bad or how dark, to get through it. Both characters ask the questions of how far we can be pushed as people both physically and emotionally and what we will do in order to survive life and all it throws at us.

Before I make all this sound to dark and depressing I must mention two things. Firstly there is a love story at the heart of this and one which thankfully isn’t saccharine or sugar coated but real and bumpy and awkward and wonderful. Secondly there is a lot of humour in Hudson’s writing, a sentence can make you laugh before the next one tears you apart emotionally and vice versa. There is also hope. Though by me saying that don’t think this book has a happy ending; you will be left to decide that, which is another brilliant stroke. Like its predecessor Thirst looks at the sense of belonging, be it to places or people, that we as humans all hunger for (no pun intended) and the journey that the quest to find it takes us on, be it another country or just through the highs and lows of getting through your day to day life.

He went and sat on the scorched, scratchy piece of grass outside with his food. The dogs did nothing, just flicked their tails in his direction and flared their dry black nostrils when he opened a bag of crisps. And there they sat together, all of them with nowhere to go.

To bring up Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma again, the things that I loved about it are the things that I also loved about Thirst and I think could be the things that carve Hudson’s career for the long haul and make her stand out. Her characters are real, funny and flawed, they walk the places we walk and whilst they pay attention to the beauty, or beautiful ugliness, of their surroundings and the people who walk in and out of their lives, they also live and breathe, go to the toilet and eat crisps like we all do. Hudson’s celebration of the simple and everyday actions making them all the more vivid. They are also about those people who might not be able to put pen to paper and write about their own life experiences and yet whose stories need to be told in all their beautiful brutality.

Phew, if I had hated it that could have been awkward. I would have just never reviewed it and anytime it was mentioned swiftly say ‘Did someone say free gelatos?’ There is the slight point that I now think Kerry is rather a genius and have some internal envy and rage going on, but let’s move on. If you want to see more rave reviews (they are popping up everywhere) head to Lonesome Reader and Workshyfop. Who else has read Thirst and what did you make of it? What about Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma? Which other books have you read which brilliantly celebrate the small day to day things in life that make us who we are? And which books have you read that shine a light on the people in society whose voices are sometimes lost in the literary middle classes?

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