Category Archives: Louise Savidge

Thanks Mum, For Making Me Read

If I am honest I do think that Mothering Sunday, which is upon us here in the UK, is actually a big mass of cash spinning marketing. If you like your Mum, tell her when you see her or speak to her, if you don’t like her then don’t tell her, or see her. Ha! Anyway, that aside I thought it might actually be a nice idea to do a post about my mother considering without her influence I wouldn’t be the reader I am today and I am not sure I have ever thanked her for that in person, so I thought I would do it publically. She’ll be embarrassed but that is what sons are for or is that what parents are for? Either way…

My mother (that’s her there —>) had me at the age of 16 years old back in 1982, in fact almost 30 years ago to the week how apt (apparently she is ‘fine, yes fine, why do you ask’ about being 46 and having a soon to be 30 year old son). Not that it was the dark ages, but at that time not only was it a rather shocking occurrence it was also one that could curtail your studies and career, especially if you were going to be a single mum, as my Mum was even though she had the support of my grandparents. This wasn’t to be the case with my mum, she carried on her studies and took me with her to Newcastle where she gained a degree in Classics. I always say that having been to university from the ages of three to six is why I didn’t feel the need to go myself, excuses, excuses.

It is at university that my first memories of Mum reading to me are the strongest. I can vividly remember, after me throwing matchbox toy cars at her head to wake her up at 6am, the joy of getting into bed with her in the morning and being read children’s classics like the Ladybird Fairytales, Roald Dahl, Jill Murphy and the seminal works of ‘The Adventures of He-Man’ or ‘The Adventures of She-Ra’. It was also at this point books really took on a life of their own when she would read me the stories my granddad wrote and illustrated for me, which even featured me in them (and a certain Novel Insights who I had befriended aged 4), about the tales of a witch called Esmeralda and all her friends. You can see them below and read about them further here.

Studying Classics meant I also got the entire myths and legends from the Greeks and indeed the Romans regularly, I don’t know if it was because of her enthusiasm for the subject or if it helped her revise, in fact most nights. I seem to remember this is when ‘The Saga of Erik the Viking’ by Terry Jones appeared on the scene and was read often along with the nonetheless epic ‘Flat Stanley’. However it was an illustrated edition of the story of Persephone which I vividly remember from the time and would read over and over. I lost the love for Classics when I became a teenager and my Mum was teaching it at my school, odd that, but it’s nice to see it has recently been awakened by Madeline Miller’s ‘The Song of Achilles’ where the joy of reading about the gods, goddesses and monsters (I had a moment of utter joy when a centaur first graced the pages of this book) has been reignited. More on that tomorrow…

The library was a  place we always went regularly, as were charity shops. I remember once buying a new version of the story of Perseus from Oxfam for 50p, Mum opening it impressed and then seeing the joy drain from her face as she swiftly returned it, it seemed it was a rather over racy (Perseus does porn kind of thing) version of the story and not really appropriate for a young boy of eleven. Sherlock Holmes was though, and as my great uncle memorised them on walking holidays to stop me being bored, we would pop to Waterstones (a real treat) on the way home after she had picked me up to get a new collection, this was also when we fell upon Robin Jarvis and ‘The Whitby Witches’.

A year or so later Mum gave me my first proper grown up book in the form of ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind, I wonder if my Nancy Drew obsession that summer when we went to Africa had made her worried I would end up with no taste – I still like a crime. Her attitude was if I was going to start reading grown up literature it had to be the good stuff. This was followed by attempts to lead me to Margaret Atwood but I wasn’t biting. I was studying books, and whilst my Mum might have become a good English teacher, my English teacher (one of her colleagues, oops) was slowly taking all the joy out of reading and after I left school early I avoided books like the plague. Mum had laid the foundations though.

In fact looking back whenever I ended up living back at home, which happened a few times after some particularly bad relationship decisions I made and their tumultuous endings, Mum would let me have a good cry and suggest ‘maybe pick up a book’. This could have been to show me books are always there for you, or it could have been to provide some escape, or she maybe just wanted me to stop crying and leave her alone, ha. Whatever the reason though at times of turmoil bookshelves and books would be in my head, even if I wasn’t rushing out to buy them, and they still are. When things have turned to the proverbial, pick up a good book, or a bad one.

Nowadays of course when we see each other books are one of the main things we talk about – who cares how the other one of us is, what we have been reading is far more important. Our tastes can be bang on (Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, Samantha Harvey) or completely polar (Susan Hill, owning a Kindle) but we both love books and really that’s down to her, with some help from Gran too of course. It’s nice seeing she has done the same with my thirteen year old sister (though Twilight, really?) and eleven year old brother (Harry Potter ‘which he is reading quicker than me and won’t wait’) and she continues to do so as an English teacher, in a school where kids aren’t generally fans of books but they will be, or else.

So thank you Mum for giving me the gift of books, the encouragement to read and forcing me into the library when sometimes I didn’t want to go. Look what it lead to. Happy Mothers Day.

You can read my Mums favourite books here and see her get a readers grilling here.

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Savidge Reads Grills… Louise Savidge (aka My Mum)

Well I have told you lots about her on and off over the last few years and so I thought it was about time (in fact I have been meaning to do this for ages) for my mother to get a grilling after all it was in part her love of books that must have caught somewhere in my DNA or upbringing. In fact she loves books so much she teaches them in schools as an English teacher, though she also teaches classics and drama. With almost (as you don’t start to read straight away) 44 years of reading experience here is what my Mum’s thoughts are on books, authors and everything in between…

What book/books are you reading right now and what made you want to read that/those books?

Right now I’m reading ‘Sea of Poppies’ by Amitav Ghosh.  I read ‘The Glass Palace’ some years ago and loved it. If I find a novelist I like I tend to spread the reading out, like treats, instead of guzzling them up in one go.

What books started your reading life, and which books kept your passion for reading alive?

My first favourite was ‘Little Black Sambo’ which caused some controversy at the time a few years after. I never thought it was racist, I am certainly not, but then as a kid you wouldn’t would you? I just remember being spellbound by the bright illustrations which were printed on glossy paper (a novelty in the Sixties) and found the tiger genuinely scary.  As a child I read anything I could get my hands on; Famous Five, Chalet School, Narnia books but firm favourites which I kept going back to were ‘Anne of Green Gables’, ‘Little Women’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’.

You have rather book loving children, how have you made reading such an addiction for them? Can you take any credit or is it just genetic?

Some of it could well be genetic but I have always loved reading aloud. Mum (Granny Savidge Reads) always read to us as children and I used to read to my sister a lot even before I had my own children. I think there’s something very special about snuggling up with a book and sharing it with someone you love.  There’s probably a ‘preachy’ element to it too: I am, after all, a teacher.

What are your reading habits, where do you most like to read? Are there any specific times which are your most responsive reading periods?

After my first husband died seventeen years ago I couldn’t read at all, this was worrying and odd because I needed the escapism. To be honest, I can, and do, read anywhere. My greatest bouts of reading occur when I’m on holiday because that’s when I have most time. I do try to read when I go to bed but more often than not am woken by the book striking me brutally on the nose.

How has your reading taste changed over the years?

I have always enjoyed an eclectic mix and will never rule anything out.

Have you read any books that have changed your life or books that have changed your view on life and the world?

There are several books that I feel everyone ‘should’ read. ‘Schindlers Ark’ and ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ would be two because they communicate some very important messages about being a generous and broad-minded human being without being in any way ‘preachy’. Personally for me reading ‘I Claudius’ by Robert Graves was the final incentive towards becoming a Classicist.

Has there ever been a classic (or two) that you have simply failed to love and why?

I didn’t enjoy ‘Mill on the Floss’ or ‘Wuthering Heights’ initially because I think I was too young when I read them. I grew to love ‘Wuthering Heights’ through teaching it, the jury is still out on ‘Mill on the Floss’ but I did read ‘Middlemarch’ some years ago and thought it was stunning.

Who is your fictional heroine?

When I was young I wanted to be Jo in ‘Little Women’ or Anne from Green Gables. I think they had a certain quirkiness and courage which, as a child, I lacked. I do, however, as an adult, have a fictional hero. His name is Hektor and he fights for Troy in Homer’s Iliad. He shows great humanity and typifies the conflict which can occur between our public and private personas.

Which authors alive today do you think will be most remembered in a hundred years time?

Matthew Kneale’ s  ‘English Passenger’s’ should stand the test of time, as should Arundhati  Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’  – both are beautifully written.

Do you have a faithful favourite author you can always turn to?

Not as such but I have been ‘living with’ the characters from Homer and Virgil all my adult life. They are, by the way, real.

What is your fondest bookish memory?

I’m still living it. I love it when my husband reads Harry Potter to the children and does all the voices. They are incredibly lucky; sadly, very few fathers read to their children.

Who do you turn to for bookish advice, how do you hear about new books?

Family, friends………………Simon, of course!

What book do you most want to read at the moment that you haven’t?

I’d love to have time to read more Antony Trollop. The few I have read I’ve loved for his brilliant social observations and complete characters. I expect I might get round to him properly when I retire. 

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