Monthly Archives: November 2014

Green Carnations & Feeling A Little Proud…

On Friday night I was a bundle of nerves. I had been in London since Wednesday and had been seeing lots of friends and doing loads quite a bit of shopping and just having a break, yet the reason I was down in London was for the Green Carnation Prize Winning Announcement and Party. The bit I was feeling about was giving a speech all about the prize; especially in front of lots of authors, publicists, industry bods and some of my friends. Eek. But I did it…

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And as I did it started to hit me how much the prize had achieved in its five years, especially after the announcement that Anneliese Mackintosh had won. Huge congratulations to her. I had the pleasure of speaking to Anneliese afterwards, who was shaking from genuine shock that she had won (and possibly overdosing on Night Nurse, the poor love) and who said a big thank you. Initially I said ‘ooh don’t thank me, it’s the judges who chose it’ (who did an amazing job) and Anneliese replied ‘but thank you for setting it up’. I have to admit I felt a bit emotional, and I hadn’t even won.

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I then got very quite drunk and as I was talking to people it seemed to finally click how far it had all come. I was in a room with all these people who were saying what a great long and shortlist it has had over the past few years, how pleased they were about the partnership with Foyles and that it was becoming a prize that they could trust would throw them great reads. By the end of the night I was a beaming mess of happiness, which is a nice feeling to have.

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So now Any Other Mouth and Anneliese Mackintosh join the Green Carnation Prize winning family along with Andrew Solomon, Patrick Gale, Andre Carl Van Der Merwe, Catherine Hall and Chrisopher Fowler! So that is all your Christmas stocking lists sorted for this year – oh along with this years corking shortlist. Have you read any of the Green Carnation Prize winners, short listers or long listers and if so what did you think?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, The Green Carnation Prize

UK Blog Awards 2015; A Little Reminder to Vote

So when I found out that I had been nominated for the UK Blog Awards 2015, and had got over the shock, I made an empty threat that if you all didn’t vote for me I wouldn’t blog. Well in the weeks since I have unintentionally made that empty threat look like it was real as I haven’t blogged much. Fret ye not that is about to change as I am on holiday for a long mini break to London (for the Green Carnation Prize Winner Announcement and Party) and have some time planned to get my blogging back in order. In the meantime though it would be really lovely if you would like to vote for Savidge Reads as, bar the last few weeks, I hope I have given you some good book recommendations and a little entertainment now and again…

UK Blog Awards Update

You can vote HERE until Monday, so please do. If that link doesn’t work the direct address to vote it here http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/savidge-reads/ Thank you in advance. How are you all?

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Is The Play The Thing?

Last week ended up being a bit bonkers, with a trip to a big expo for work down in London (and somehow managing to squeeze in an interview with Rose Tremain, which was amazing and surreal and I will share soon) so there was no blogging for me. I am however back off to London again this week for a mini 4 day break so plan on catching up with everything, and myself, then. I am really looking forward to it. This weekend I have been away again this time to my mother’s for for a weekend of family culture.

Forget a Saturday night line up of the delights of Strictly Come Dancing and the X Factor, I had quite an amazing double whammy of entertainment. First up myself The Beard and I went to see An Inspector Calls which starred none other than my little sister Mim, who some of you will know having blogged here a few times, who was playing the role of Sheila…

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Then if that wasn’t enough, once the curtain had fallen and we had congratulated Mim on being brilliant, we headed off to a drinking establishment not a million miles down the road to see The Mandolin Orchestra of South Shropshire and a special guest singer… My mum!

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The band is actually made up of my stepdad, to the right of my mother in the picture, and his mates. My mum joins them for a second set and sings all sorts from The Beautiful South to Tina Turner, from Queen to Ella Fitzgerald. Despite what she had thought my reaction would be, I wasn’t embarrassed but actually doubly proud of her and Mim, the talented pair.

Seeing Mim in An Inspector Calls though reminded me of something booky, but first another picture of my little sister acting (see I am proper proud)…

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I love An Inspector Calls and have seen it a few times (always forgetting the twist) yet I have never read the play. Nope not even at school, we just had Romeo and Juliet endlessly. Yet talking about plays later on, with a lot of cheese, with my mother I was reminded of others, like Alan Ayckbourn (The Norman Conquests in particular), Alan Bennett etc that I love. Yet I realised I never read plays as a book. I am now wondering if, every now and again, I should start. The question of course is where?

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Trespassing With Tremain Updates…

Just a quick post to give you some updates on Trespassing With Tremain which hopefully you have been joining in with and enjoying. Firstly apologies as I have not yet posted my thoughts on Restoration, this is because I haven’t finished it yet and don’t want to rush a book which frankly I am hugely enjoying. Secondly I have been two timing Rose Tremain, with Rose Tremain. Whilst having started Restoration I also started The American Lover which is Rose’s newest release, out a mere week or two ago, and is a collection of wonderful (as in amazing) short stories one of which even features Mrs Danvers AND Daphne Du Maurier AND is about Rebecca. I almost passed out when I read this…

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The reason for my two timing Rose with Rose is because, and here I may explode with excitement, I am meeting her on Wednesday night to record You Wrote The Book and have a natter about The American Lover (and now obviously Rebecca) plus her back catalogue of works. How amazing is that? It feels like Granny Savidge is up there somewhere making magic happen. She would be thrilled, then jealous, then demand to join me – she will be there in spirit, possibly literally.


So I thought whilst I have this exciting opportunity, you should all be able to join in. So if you have any questions you would like to ask Rose let me know and I will do so!

 

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Reading Other Languages

…Is not something that I can do as I was reminded today when I was on a trip to IKEA earlier today. As I was mooching, funnily enough at the bookshelves which I wasn’t there to buy (honest) I noticed all the books on the shelves which are Swedish best sellers or other well known editions translated to Swedish. This made me think about translated books, again…

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Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to read any of these, because I am one of those lazy people who have never learnt another language, I wanted to have a flick through them and even borrow them. I do this when I go abroad. I head straight to the bookshops (well maybe after I have been and seen some of the main tourist sights and treated myself to some of the cuisine) and have a look at the books by authors that are completely new to me and the books that I know in their new translated international guise. I was slightly saddened to realise I don’t own any of my favourite books in translated editions, I feel like I should. Anyway as I said it made me think about translated fiction again.

Firstly it reminded me that here in the UK we barely get the tip of the iceberg of books translated from around the world, which is rather scary if you think about all the amazing books that you might be reading but are missing out on. When I was writing my thoughts on Byrd earlier in the week it was playing on my mind how many books I must be missing from America, Canada, Australia etc and they are all in my own language. What about the books from everywhere else in the world?

This of course reminded me that I don’t read as much translated fiction as I should. I follow wonderful publishers like Peirene, Europa Editions, And Other Stories and many more who either solely publish in translation or do so in abundance. I also follow the wonderful blog of Stu’s, WinstonsDads Blog, which is one of the most wonderful promoters of translated fiction that there is. (This reminds me I really should do a post on all my favourite blogs!) Stu has also just reached 1,000 posts so hoorah to him. Yet still I feel I don’t read or know enough, am I the only person who feels like this?

I also wonder if when I do read them, am I missing something by not reading in their original language? Am I missing out on subtle cultural inferences or social observations that people might miss if a book from the UK is translated elsewhere. Do you know what I mean? It isn’t that I don’t trust the translators, as I am very grateful to the people who translate novels and simply don’t get paid enough or enough credit frankly, it is just something that as I cannot answer definitely I always ponder. Maybe I should finally get around to learning a language, which I’ve always wanted to do, and then I could read some of them in both. But would I want to read the same book multiple times and which language would I start with? I like the idea of learning Italian and/or Spanish, maybe this is the kick I have needed.

What are your thoughts on translated fiction? Do you ever worry that the book is missing something from the original language? Have you ever read a book in the original and the translated and what was the comparison? Where do you hear about translated books and who are your favourite translated authors? Finally, have you ever bought your favourite book in another language just because you needed to own another copy?

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Byrd – Kim Church

One of the things that I said I really wanted to do with Savidge Reads was to try and uncover some books that I hadn’t heard about and therefore maybe you hadn’t and introduce you all, like some kind of book and reader dating site. I think that Byrd by Kim Church is one such book. It is a book I had the pleasure of reading sharing a room with the person who recommended it to me first, the lovely Michael Kindness, and on a bookish retreat in North Carolina which the author was also on too. Yes, Booktopia Asheville, part of my American trip which I still haven’t told you all about – I will honest. Anyway, it is a book that is not released here in the UK but I would urge any agents, editors and publishers to hunt down and publish pronto as it is a gem of a novel.

Dzanc Books, paperback, 2014, fiction, 239 pages, kindly thrust into my hands by Michael Kindness

Addie Lockwood thought, as a young girl, she would become a famous writer and marry Roland Rhodes (the boy at school who mainly ignores her) who himself would become the next Bob Dylan. Life didn’t turn out that way. Yes, she and Roland had a relationship of sorts both as teenagers and again in a mad whirl of nostalgic romance in their thirties. Yet these romances didn’t end up as a love story in a fairy tale, instead they ended up with Addie pregnant in her early thirties with a baby she is just not ready for, not now, maybe not ever and so she gives her child, who she calls Byrd as it is a name no one else will ever give him, up for adoption.

Byrd opens with a letter that cleverly sums up all this in a letter, which we later learn social services have advised she writes to her son. What follows on from this are the four main parts of Addie’s life, and indeed Byrd’s, as she would define them; Unborn, Born, Missing, Grown. We follow Addie as she first meets Roland and that flush of teenage awe and obsession over flow her, and then as life moves on reality sets in more and more, the question we are always trying to find the answer to is will Addie, Roland and Byrd ever be united.

Church does many wonderful and admirable things with this novel. Firstly there is the way that it is all structured. As I mentioned the book is made up of four parts, within which there are short chapters which themselves are made of short bursts of paragraphs. This gives the novel a real pace and you whizz through thinking ‘oh go on, just another chapter’ as you race to find out what comes next. Additionally what might have made this confusing, but doesn’t which is a sign of how good Church’s writing is, is that as we go on we see Addie’s life through the eyes of others not just hers. Sometimes we will flip into the head of her brother, mother, father, lover, friend etc and so her character becomes more and more vivid.

Interspersed throughout all this are the letters from Addie to Byrd. In the wrong hands these could have been over dramatised and clichéd pieces of prose that made you want to roll your eyes, stick your fingers down your throat or throw the book across the room (and so could a book with a character called Byrd) yet Church writes these with a brutal and honest clarity which Addie has of her situation that again they add to her character, and not always in good ways, and give a true insight into the way she feels at particular points. It’s cleverly and subtly done, poignant without ever verging on saccharine.

Dear Byrd,
I would like to tell you your father and I loved each other. Maybe we did; maybe love is the right word, though it’s not one we ever used. What I can tell you is, he trusted me. He let me see the purest part of him, the music part.
Trust is a sweet thing, and fragile. I was not always as careful with your father’s as I should have been.

Addie is one of the main reasons you will keep reading this novel, Church creates a brilliantly complex character. She is endlessly flawed. She sleeps with her tutor, she can be horrible to her siblings, she sleeps with Roland without protection and when he has a girlfriend, hides her pregnancy from everyone including Roland, tries to have an abortion and then gives her child up for adoption. In the wrong hands you would read her as heartless bitch or she would be the villain of the whole piece. Instead because we see her as she tries to love her family, with a distance because her father is a bit of an alcoholic and so family life is turbulent when she is young, how she tries to keep her life on the straight and narrow despite temptation and rebellion, how she is with her other lovers in the future etc. Oh and she loves books, winner right there. All in all she is human, she is like us, we have all made mistakes, done some bad things but we try and be better, we try and be the people we know we should be or can be.

Addie believes in books. They are more interesting than real life and easier to understand. Sometimes you can guess the ending. Things usually work out, and if they don’t, you can always tell yourself it was only a book.

I also really admired the way that Church looks at adoption with Byrd. All too often we are given fiction about adoption that looks at the hard and difficult times of a child given up for adoption, rather than how actually their life might be better than if they hadn’t been. Or they will be tales of young mothers who have to give their child away or have them taken away. I have never read a book before where a woman in her early thirties gets pregnant and knows the time isn’t right, and may never be right, so makes what she thinks is the only and right choice. How her choice affects her and those around her is what follows, all told without judgement either way.

If I am making this sound all doom and gloom and a bit melancholy, fret not. Church combats this in a few ways. Firstly there are the short sharp bursts in which the novel is written which means when things get very emotional, and they do, it is a quick pin prick or two. That makes it sound throw away, it is actually very effective because the emotion is intense. Yet she also throws in some wonderful set pieces, some of which come when Addie works in a bookshop and then gets her own and with some of the customers she meets and the second hand books she is given, did I mention this book is very, erm, booky? There are also some wonderful scenes between Addie and her brother Sam in her youth, plus all the awkward moments of adolescence, and then with William later on, which I loved.

William believes that no act, if it’s purposeful, is too small. He protests junk mail by filling postage-paid return envelopes from one company with advertisements from another. Addie follows his example and sends Time magazine the fake check for $58,000 dollars that came from the credit card company.

Too often you read about coming of age tales which focus on your teens as if after that everything is tickety-boo, it  blooming isn’t! When we are young we think that life is all we could want it to be. We think we could meet the prince or princess of our dreams, we think we could one day be superhero’s or if not then surely a life as a vet, pop star, wizard or famous writer awaits us. Life however has other intentions and the dreams we have get turned and twisted a little, chipped slightly now and again by situations we didn’t expect and circumstances we often didn’t ask for. Byrd is a story which conjures that wonderfully, encapsulating the difficult times and yet with a wonderful sense of humour, even when times are tough, and with a sense of hope. There need to be more tales about coming to terms with your ages as you go through your life, Byrd is an example of that. I cannot recommend it enough.

Like I said at the start, publishers here there and everywhere should be fighting to get their mitts on this and publishing it all over the shop.If you have read Byrd then do let me know what you thought of it. If you haven’t then you should be trying to get your hands on a copy. If you have read any gems like this that aren’t published everywhere yet and you think they should be I would love to hear about those too!

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Filed under Books of 2014, Dzanc Books, Kim Church, Review

Exciting News… The UK Blog Awards 2015

I bring some rather exciting news! The UK Blog Awards 2015 longlisted blogs were announced yesterday and thrillingly Savidge Reads is up for the public vote to be shortlisted. I had an email a few weeks ago to tell me that my blog had been nominated (whoever did it, as I genuinely do not know, a big BIG thank you from me) but until I saw the list I refused to believe it. It happens it is true and I am really excited.

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So as I mentioned you can vote for me if you would like, no pressure, I just wont blog ever again if I don’t get short-listed.

Ok, that was an attention seeking empty threat. Ha! Suffice to say if you would like to go HERE and vote for me I would be utterly delighted as while I have always done this for the love the idea of an award on my non-existent mantelpiece would be really lovely. Oh, I can dream can’t I?

PS I havent had chance to go through the whole list but I did spot that Kim of Reading Matters is up for the same categories and I love her and her blog so do feel free to vote for her too! It doesn’t take long honest!

PPS If you are having problems with the link here it is in full http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/savidge-reads/

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