Tag Archives: Granny Savidge Reads

Saying Goodbye to Gran…

I may just have issues with letting go but I have found it very odd to think that as my reading life, and this blog too, goes on I won’t really mention Gran so much anymore. She was such a huge part of my life and my reading it doesn’t feel like it’s over. It had seemed strange to me to possibly end it all on merely the books that she has left behind that I will now go on to read; it didn’t seem like an apt ending, not quite yet.

So I thought I would share the final physical farewell we had for Gran ourselves a few weekends ago when we did her ashes, a weekend I have to say I was dreading as it loomed ever nearer. I think I am still quite raw about her death and her knot being here. I still often think of something I must ring her to tell her, even though I was with her as much as I could be after we discovered she was terminally ill, with her when she died and even though we have had the funeral. Yet we do have to move on, we have to find that dreaded cliché of a thing called ‘closure’.

It was with this in mind that we Savidge’s, just Gran’s children and me, met up for the weekend to do the final clearing of the house and of course the ashes. Well do you know what, I think Gran would have been really proud because even though it was very sad in many ways it often ended in hysterics, partly because when you are highly emotionally charged everything ends up in hysterics. For example before we had even left the house we had been in hysterics at the fact that when we went to get the remainder of my Granddad’s ashes, as Gran wanted them with hers, from the garage I discovered not one set but two, making twice the amount of Gran and leaving us all wondering if (as one had a mere post it note with his name on, the other was very professional) actually we might have someone else with us.

After much pondering we finally made a move and packed our rucksacks and off we went to an unnamed location which involved a mammoth (well for me who used to do 11 miles a day walking holiday and now walks twenty minutes to the station and back each day) hike up a hill to a spot that Gran had said was where she wanted and somewhere she could see from her house when she was poorly. The view as you can see was quite serene and quite, quite stunning.

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We did the deed and then in true Gran style we cracked open a couple of bottles of cava, raised a toast to Gran, had a bit of a cry and then (which we thought she would have liked as a bit of a techno-gadget Gran) with much laughter tried to capture a moment of all her offspring on camera, introducing one of my aunties to the concept of the ‘selfie’…

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Well, once we started we couldn’t stop and tears were falling down our faces from laughter. She would have liked that, it was oddly bonkers which seemed rather apt. We then decided it was time to head and see the house which we were all brought up in and keep the nostalgia and laughter going, a happy walk down memory lane which nicely leads to another apt selfie – I said once we started we couldn’t stop.

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Yes that really is my uncle, aunties and (on the right) my mother. No one seems to believe me, but it is true I swear. Anyway… The walk took us through the woods that we all used to often go on big family walks (I can still hear Gran saying the immortal words ‘get your boots on’) in and then at last to where we used to live.

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It was so odd going back and peering at the neighbourhood houses we played in before of course going to the house we live in itself.

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Note – we didn’t have the really tacky balcony someone has attached, I used to say I wanted to buy this house back when I was much younger (after I had cried for about a week when it was sold) strange how going back I loved it, missed it yet couldn’t imagine being in it again. No, not because I could barely make it up the hill – cheeky.

After this a well-earned pint, or three, seemed due and so we decided we would (again as Gran would have thoroughly approved of it) have a bit of a pub crawl and dinner in our old town and put the world to rights and spend time with each other without all the madness that we had last year, it was just really nice being with each other and while we missed Gran we had all the lovely memories to share. One thing that did happen, which we afterwards we found hysterical not initially, was that the pub we had dinner at got raided by the police. The sniffer dogs came in and we were all looking at our bags, which may have had traces of ashes in, with mounting panic. Would we be arrested? We thought gran would have found this a hoot. In fact all in all she would have loved the day had it not been the occasion that it obviously was.

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Even though she is no longer with us physically, she was making new funny and bonkers memories and because we are all her offspring, or her offspring’s offspring, we will continue to do so. That and all the reading ahead. By the way, I found the picture above the next day and couldn’t not share it.

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So it has been a farewell to Gran though it still doesn’t feel final, but I don’t think it ever will because she is living in me, both in the genes and in the memories and I can’t be thankful enough for that, even if I miss her like mad. So maybe we never really do say goodbye, only goodbye to the sad or difficult memories. Those we love, and the lovely memories we have of the best moments, stay with us for good.

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The Inheritance of Books…

So today is going to be a bit of a strange day as we scatter Gran’s (and half of my Granddads, which seems strange too) ashes and say a final farewell to her. It’s sure to be a day of mixed emotions and knowing us Savidge’s there will probably be hysteria from all extremes, laughter and tears.

As she was such a big part of the blog, as regular readers will know, and of my life on and off the blog I thought I would mark the day in some way. What could be more apt than sharing the books that I have inherited from her.

032It has to be said that when I was asked to go through her books and take what I liked there were three thoughts. First, I just wanted to regime them all because the idea of them going out the family bothered me. Secondly, I thought how she loved lending books and buying second hand books and wouldn’t it be nice to continue that tradition with her books. Thirdly I thought about how bloody many she had, even after my mother and aunts had been through them, and so I decided to pick books in a certain way. Initially I decided to take the books of hers I had read and had on my shelves but were her editions.

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There seemed something rather special and pay about this until again I realised that we’d read so many in common. So I changed tactics and took ones I had read and lent and never got back from other people, or books I had but her edition is nicer. I love the idea of our personal libraries merging.

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Next I turned to any books by my favourite authors. Now you might think there would have been hundreds of these but I have a bad habit, if I love an authors book I invariably go on a hunt/spree (second hand shops then readitswapit then regular trips to a bookshop) to find all the others of theirs. I’ve curbed it somewhat but it still happens and Anne Tyler and Nevil Shute, as you can see were two top choices. The Shute’s are particularly special as Gran used to have these editions by her bed in our old house Sunbury when I was really little till I was about 12 so many memories there with those.

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After that it may look a bit like a free for all but there was still method to my madness, what books had I not read that a) Gran had told me I must read b) would have liked me to read. These I split three ways; classic, modern…

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And of course non fiction, something that I’m not the best reader of, Gran was especially stuff around WWI and WWII, but want to improve with.

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I do have to admit I did take a selection of books just because they looked pretty. Any special series Penguin do are generally a treat to behold, Great Ideas are no exception. I probably won’t read them but I don’t think Gran ever did either, no disrespect Gran. Ha!

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What has been lovely is since getting them home I have been sorting them (into hardbacks, paperbacks and then in alphabetical order) and as doing so I have discovered more of Grans reading habits. She often wrote her name in the front and the date she got it and then the date she read it. Occasionally other relatives (my mother or aunties Caroline and Alice) names appear in the inlay, I’ve not told them. Oops. What’s been doubly lovely are the books that are inscribed by her friends and indeed my Granddad (as you’ll see below on her 43rd birthday when I was 3) which conjure lovely images of relationships and friendships don’t you think?/p>

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I was sad I couldn’t take the remaining ones with me, there is only so much WWI and WWII literature anyone can stomach though. Ha. Jokes aside the idea some shared reads we had and now in a combined library is a lovely one. Even more lovely is that with all the books I’ve not read and have ahead, I can think that Gran was flicking those pages and reading those words before me, so we are still reading together in a way.

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The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2014

One of my favourite prizes of the bookish year is what we now know as the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. I have been a supporter of it for many a year now, trying to guess the longlist and then trying to read them. I normally stay up until the midnight announcement but as I appear to have aged by about 20 plus years in the last few weeks I couldn’t. I did wake up at about 5am, when Oscar decided to be sick behind the wardrobe, and then have a sneak peak and it’s a really interesting list…

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Before I go on to share the list can I just say there is so much that is brilliant about the above picture it is almost too much. Imagine being on a panel of judges with Mary Beard and Caitlin Moran, you’d just be in heaven. Anyway, the list of twenty books in full is as follows…

Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood
The Dogs of Littlefield – Suzanne Berne
The Shadow of the Crescent Moon – Fatima Bhutto
The Bear – Claire Cameron
Eleven Days – Lea Carpenter
The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter
The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton
Reasons She Goes to the Woods – Deborah Kay Davies
The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
The Flamethrowers – Rachel Kushner
The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri
The Undertaking – Audrey Magee
A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
Almost English – Charlotte Mendelson
Still Life with Bread Crumbs – Anna Quindlen
The Burgess Boys – Elizabeth Strout
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
All The Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

Amazingly though I don’t have all of them I do happen to have thirteen (I am hoping this is not an omen) of them in the house 4.5 of which I have read.

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I didn’t try and guess the longlist this year (what a party pooper) because I didn’t feel after last year being my slowest and quietest year for reading what with Gran (who was a huge fan of the prize, I think it lead her to Rose Tremain, and would be happy I have posed the books on what were her sofa’s on which she did much reading and I will carry on the tradition of) and all that jazz I didn’t feel that I could give a good enough insight. Plus there is always the worry you look super smug, then the mild embarrassment when I am sooooo wrong and the invariable almost moan of ‘why wasn’t x and y book on the list?’ Speaking of which Naomi Wood, Fiona McFarlane? Moving swiftly on…

I would have stabbed a guess at All the Birds, Singing, A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, Burial Rites and Almost English being on the list as they were all highlights of my reading year last year, so naturally I am thrilled for those to be on the list. I may also have hazarded a guess at Americanah and MaddAddam being on the list as they are by two of my favourite authors though shockingly I didn’t read these upon release, strange. I also would have guessed The Luminaries, The Goldfinch and The Flamethrowers as they have been three of the most talked about books and also interestingly three books which seem to really divide people, interesting.

Berne, Bhutto, Cameron and Carter I am excited about because I have them on my shelves, The Bear was actually one of the books I mentioned in The Readers ‘Books To Be Excited About January to June’ show. Yet, as always with me, it is the books I know very little or nothing about that are the ones that I instantly go off and look up.  Deborah Kay Davies is an author I have already read and was equally impressed and disturbed with True Things About Me so I will have to get my mitts on her knew one, Elizabeth Strout I know through Olive Kitteridge which I still haven’t read but Gran raved about, Lea Carpenter and Audrey Magee are completely knew to me which is most exciting.

So it is a really interesting list, some big names with big books, some debuts, some lesser known authors all in the mix. Now I just have to choose which one to start with… I was umming and ahhing about doing a shadow jury of beardy blogging blokes but I think to try them out as and when the whim takes me might be a better plan of action. So while I decide which one gets read next (I am leaning towards The Bear) which of these books have you read and what did you make of them? Which books are you keen to read? And what do you make of the list overall?

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New Reading Arenas…

Apologies for more silence on the blog. I know I am beginning to sound like a stuck record but in the last week I’ve not even managed to read a chapter of a book let alone getting around to writing about any books. I have managed to book a break away at the end of this month,which I cannot wait for, to Harrogate so thank you for your reading recommendations for Yorkshire and keep them coming. I have also spent most of the weekend so far sorting out new reading arenas…

As I am sure you will all agree where you do your reading is REALLY important. Well, I now have two new sumptuous (firm but comfy and cosy, ideal) sofas that I have inherited from Gran which are snugly sitting in the lounge ready to have many an hour of reading spent upon them.

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What’s so nice about these is firstly that they have been in the family for a few decades and so have many, many family memories attached to them. Secondly, some of these are naturally reading ones. Only early last year were Gran and I sat on them reading books in that delightful companionable silence only real readers can understand. With only the occasional words of book comparisons or wondering aloud if we should open another box of Thorntons chocolates?

Now those of you who will know the lengths I went to find a reading armchair a while back, fret not. It has not been relegated. In fact it’s now moved into a reading nook in the bedroom and been given a slight modern twist…

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Fun isn’t it. And the cushion may mean that a certain two pussy cats (or in fact just Oscar) might not hog it all to themselves anymore. So I now have lots of places to curl up with a good book, I just need more time to do it!

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Book Notebooks, Keeping Up With Tradition

Isn’t it weird how sometimes things seem to crop up at just the right time, or a memory pops into your head unbidden that then means a lot at a later point? I had a serious case of this over the weekend, which in its own way has rather a bookish twist.

I was just off to the post office to finally send Marieke Hardy a Chris Ware inspired pen pal parcel (if you are reading this – unlikely – Marieke I am sorry it has taken so long, I have written loads of excuses in my parcel) to Australia. As I waited in the never ending queue, and mourned the days of the post office being in the now closed local bookshop, I spotted some notebooks which instantly sent me off into the past. Bright red Silvine notebooks.

I can vividly remember Gran having these notebooks in which she kept all sorts of notes. Be they shopping lists, random things to remember or of course notes on what she was reading, in to these books they would go – those or some weird notebooks she inherited or possibly stole when she left her job. Initially I thought nothing of it, though it seemed apt I spotted them as I had really been missing her that morning, weird how random days can just get you the little buggers. But I bought one, popping a note about the memory of them in it, and included it in my parcel bound for Oz.

Anyway, as I said I didn’t think much of it after that. Until after having taken my old iPhone off to be sold, I went to catch up with my varying impending reviews and realised all my ‘bookish notes’ had failed to transfer from phone to phone. I was distraught, weeping almost happened, vexation hit. Awful.

Well after an hour blethering about it, moaning about it on twitter and then remembering I backed those notes up to Gmail – goodness only knows how, I can’t blinking remember. I came up with the idea that really I need to have hard copies of these notes, somewhere reliable and so I made a special trip up the road and came home with these…

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Yes, four of the notebooks that Gran used to use. Four may seem excessive but at 59p a go you can’t go wrong can you, so how could I not? I have a wanton craving for stationery at all times and this sated it in the lead up to pay day. Most importantly though I liked the idea that a tradition of bookish sorts has been passed down the family line and now when I write my bookish notes I can think of Gran as I do so, not that she wouldn’t flit through my mind anyway, as it’s almost like I can write the notes to her as she’s not on the end of the phone.

Do you have fate filled moments like this? Have you gained any bookish hand me down traditions? Where do you keep your book notes? And one of the biggest mysteries of all (ha, how to hype a question) why is it people who love books also really love stationery?

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Travels With My Aunt – Graham Greene

Once again, this time with ‘Travels With My Aunt’ my final Greene for Gran read, Graham Greene has done that thing of writing a book which I loved, got a bit frustrated and bored with and then sat back and thought about and have decided that whilst it wasn’t my favourite read of all time it is a bloody clever book indeed. Oh Gran… why oh why can’t you be on the end of the phone anymore for me to have a good old natter with you about this book? So frustrating, thankfully I have lots of you to discuss it with hopefully.

Vintage Classics, 1969 ( 1999 edition), paperback, 262 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Henry Pulling is a retired man who is very comfortable with his life, he doesn’t really want for anything and the highlight of excitement in his life are his dahlias which he tends to in a way some might say could be bordering on obsession. No gardening pun intended on the ‘bordering’ there. That is until the funeral of his mother and the arrival of his long lost septuagenarian (a word I will be promptly adding to my vocabulary) Aunt Augusta. From their first meeting at the funeral of his mother, where Aunt Augusta announces that his mother might not have been his mother at all, and the coffee in her apartment after, where he meets her man servant/lover Wentworth who swaps Henry’s mothers ashes for some marijuana, you know things are not going to be all flowers and regularly delivered cooked favourite meals before.

“I was weeding the dahlias, the Polar Beauties and the Golden Leaders and the Requiems, when my telephone began to ring. Being unused to the sound which shattered all the peace in my little garden, I assumed it was a wrong number. I had very few friends, although before my retirement I boasted a great many acquaintances.”

Aunt Augusta is what many people would politely describe as a ‘character’, those who might want to be more base would say she was a slightly crazy woman in her seventies who isn’t against the odd illegal action along with an abundance of sex from many a lover, which as we learn has always been the way. She is brass, quite coarse, a bit vulgar and rather naughty (for which I naturally loved her) and also a woman of a certain sense of danger, darkness and mystery (which I naturally wanted to discover more of) in fact of all Greene’s characters I have come across Aunt Augusta is probably my favourite and cleverly Greene never allows her to become a farce no matter how funny or crude she is being. I did often laugh out loud at paragraphs like this.

‘I very much doubt it,’ she said. ‘My dear Henry,’ she added, ‘at my age one has ceased to expect a relationship to last. Think how complicated life would be if I had kept in touch with all the men I have known intimately. Some died, some I left, a few have left me. If they were all with me now we would have to take over a whole wing of the Royal Albion. I was very fond of Wordsworth while he lasted, but my emotions are not as strong as they once were. I can support his absence, though I may regret him for a while tonight. His knackers were superb.’   

It was strange reading this later, 1969, Greene novel as for the first fifty or so pages of the book I felt like this was an author simply writing for the pleasure of it (it was his twentieth novel after all) and it seemed much more carefree. A simple tale of a happy, but boring, man who meets a wild relative and finds himself gallivanting all over the world on her whims/dodgy dealings. Then throw in some crazy characters, like a CIA Agent who counts the amount of minutes he spends urinating every day, and lots of rather rude titillation and hey presto an entertaining romp. That would have done me fine. Yet like ‘Our Man From Havana’ Greene also has a lot more going on with the book which slowly comes to focus as the laughter started to lessen.

To hand it to Greene he fits a lot in with this book. He looks at prostitution, the Nazi regime and how WWII changed the world, the plight of third world countries and even manages to swing in some commentary on the apartheid in South Africa along with how the pill had, rightly or wrongly, changed women’s sexual awakening and responsibility. Oh and (just for a change, possibly a sign of too much of an author not always being a good thing as it really got on my wick in this book) of course the subject of religion and Greene’s favourite topic of conversation Catholicism.

With the admiration of all these ‘hot topics’ that Greene interweaves within ‘Travels With My Aunt’ also comes a slight criticism for me. I felt that Greene suddenly worried he was almost having too much fun and that actually really we should be focussed on these subjects in hand and think on. Whilst it did add meat to the book, for me it also really bogged me down. I found the final part of the book, which to be fair is only 80 pages of the novels total, a real slog until Greene suddenly stepped it up a gear leading to the ending, which I guessed part of and then had a real ‘yuck’ feeling around the final two sentences.

Greene does this too me a lot as an author, leaves me feeling like I have read something rather brilliant even if I didn’t always enjoy the whole thing, more the sum of his parts. His prose is always lush and masterful and yet his plots sometimes make me ponder. ‘Travels With My Aunt’ could have just been a really entertaining and quirky read, and in many ways it remains that, there is just a little bit of a forced feeling of an author wanting to be deemed worthy that dampens it on occasion and makes the book feel much longer than it is. Or am I being too harsh?

Gran and I would have argued the toss about this for a few hours I am sure, with me possibly having to admit defeat at some point, but then the best books inspire debate don’t they –  so thanks Gran for making me give this a whirl! Greene will certainly be an author I will be returning to… though maybe not in quite such a concentrated dose. What have been your thoughts on Greene, and if any of you have read ‘Travels With My Aunt’ did you find the deeper undertones a little too try hard, or did they make the book a more fulfilling reading experience for you?

And don’t forget to let me know if you have read any Greene’s for Gran, what you thought of them and if you reviewed them where you did so.

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Filed under Graham Greene, Greene For Gran, Review, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

The Greene For Gran Gang!

So back at the end of July I decided that in honour of my lovely Granny Savidge Reads, who sadly passed away last month after a courageous battle with a tumour, that as she was such a bookish influence on me I should do something to commemorate that and her here on the blog, where she came to know some of you and vice versa. Her favourite author, well one of them, was Graham Greene and after the eulogy I gave at her funeral ended with me telling everyone to ‘go and grab a Greene for Gran’ I would do the same here and so Greene for Gran was born.

Well I have to admit, I was utterly blown away by the response and how many of you said you would spread the word and give Greene a go. Brilliant. I decided to go Greene crazy and read four very different novels of his. Well, I didn’t quite manage to complete the #GreeneForGran challenge that I set myself, but three out of four isn’t so bad – especially considering I have been working on an inaugural month long music festival. Plus, as with my experiences of his books before, Greene is one of those authors that I really, really like and sometimes find a little bit baffling. I utterly LOVED ‘The Ministry of Fear’ and yet really didn’t love ‘The Quiet American’; you will have to wait a teeny bit longer to see how I got on with ‘Travels With My Aunt’.

I haven’t managed ‘The Heart of the Matter’ but actually I think that is a good thing. Because I don’t want to only read Greene for Gran just for one month, I want books and an author (along with Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Andrea Levy and many more) that I can read from time to time and will make me think of Gran (I had a slightly emotional moment starting Atkinson’s ‘Life for Life’ the other day as I wanted to phone Gran and tell her how great it was and how she should read it) in the future, and I think a lot of books will.

Anyway, before I get too mushy, here are some links to those of you who have been reading some Graham Greene books and who may, or may not, get you dashing off to do the same – if you haven’t had incentive enough already – I am calling them Gran’s Gang, ha!

The Ministry of Fear

Some guy named Simon of Savidge Reads
Heaven Ali
Nose In A Book

The Quiet American

Harriet Devine
That pesky Savidge Reads again

England Made Me

Annabel’s House of Books

Stamboul Train

Harriet Devine
Heaven Ali

The Third Man/No Man’s Land

Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings

Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party

Annabel’s House of Books

Now as I mentioned I still have my thoughts on ‘Travels With My Aunt’ to come and I am pretty sure that I have missed lots and lots of reviews, my brain is addled after the last week, so if you have blogged about Greene or when you do please let me know and I will add you to the gang. If you don’t have a blog let me know what Greene books you have read and what you thought of them down there too, is lovely to see Gran’s love of a good book spreading, I just wish she could have a good natter with us about them!

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The Ministry of Fear – Graham Greene

For some reason I had got it into my head that ‘The  Ministry of Fear’, my first read for Greene for Gran, was going to be something of a rather light hearted farce along the lines of ‘Our Man in Havana’ only with mystery, murder and cake I might like it a bit more. Yes, shock horror I have read Greene before and not always enjoyed him, more so in his farcical writing it has to be said which always  made Gran look very perplexed when we discussed his works. Sorry Gran, good news though, I really liked this one because it did so much more than I was expecting it to.

Vintage Books, 1943 ( 2001 edition), paperback, 221 pages, borrowed from the library

Arthur Rowe is a man who finds himself in a war that, apart from when the sirens go off and people head down to the shelters, he finds he has very little involvement or even real feeling for. He spends his days wandering and thinking about his past (which once you discover it explains why he isn’t fighting in the war) and spending his monthly allowance on this and that as is his want. It is on one of these trips that he stumbles upon a charity fete, which he can’t help but enter as it reminds him of his childhood. So far so innocent, though as he visits the stalls something seems slightly amiss. Arthur’s perceptions aren’t wrong as it is the simple act of guessing the weight of a cake throws Arthur into a world of spies, mystery and murder, though as we discover Arthur himself is no stranger to the latter.

“There was something threatening, it seemed to him, in the very perfection of the day.”

Greene’s line above perfectly sums up the brilliant start of ‘The Ministry of Fear’ as you read on things get stranger and stranger and darker and darker. Charities suddenly have a dark undercurrent and you question if you can trust anyone no matter how sweet they might seem on the face of it. It goes from twee English war novel, to slight Agatha Christie territory (a séance indeed) only darker and then into a full on spy thriller as the book goes on and you as the reader get further and further drawn into a web of espionage and secrets in the war torn present and also the dark recesses of Arthur’s past.

“People want to kill me because I know too much. I’m hiding underground, and up above the Germans are methodically smashing London to bits all around me. You remember St Clements – the bells of St Clements. They’ve smashed that – St James’s, Piccadilly, the Burlington Arcade, Garland’s Hotel, where we stayed for the pantomime, Maples and John Lewis. It sounds like a thriller, doesn’t it, but the thrillers are like life – more like life than you are, this lawn, your sandwiches, that pine. You used to laugh at books Miss Savage read – about spies, and murderers, and violence, and wild motor-car chases, but dear that’s real life: it’s what we’ve made the world since you died. I’m your little Arthur who wouldn’t hurt a beetle and I’m a murderer too.”

Greene also does something very daring as after throwing you into this world in the first part of the book he suddenly throws you somewhere completely different and unexpected in the second which you won’t see coming. This leaves you briefly disorientated, which you soon gather is the point, and then a whole new set of sinister thrills and spills start. I was reading along thinking ‘I wonder if Gillian Flynn read this book before she wrote ‘Gone Girl’?’ not because of the narrators but just because of the genuinely surprising turns that Greene throws in the readers direction.

As well as being quite a page turner, though I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say it became so compelling I couldn’t put it down, Greene shows what a master he is not only of atmosphere (war torn and spy strewn London) but of writing a book which takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions as much as it does thrills. Some of the book I found profoundly moving, both the descriptions of the destruction the war inflicted and also in an element I can’t explain here for fear of spoilers – but I will in the comments if people fancy a natter about it. Greene also made me laugh out loud on several occasions which, with all the tension and twists, proved much needed and added a great contrast of light amongst the dark.

“The summer lay all around them, and evening was coming on. He was saying ‘Mother, I murdered her…’ and his mother said, ‘Don’t be silly, dear. Have one of these nice sandwiches.’”

I have now read five of Graham Greene’s works, with more to come, and I think out of what I have read so far ‘The Ministry of Fear’ might be my favourite because it mixes all of his styles in one novel. It has the humour of ‘Our Man in Havana’, the brooding gloom of ‘Brighton Rock’, and the ability to completely move/ruin you as ‘The End of the Affair’ did me, it blew me away back in my pre-blogging days. It is also one of those books, which I love, where you can see where it took riffs from books just before it or of its time (Agatha Christie) and also where you could spot where novelists now (Gillian Flynn, Alex Lemaitre) might have got their inspiration from. I am really glad that I have read this, my only regret it that I can’t have a good old natter with Gran about it as I think she would have been delighted to see me so impressed by one of Greene’s lesser known works. Good thing I have all of you to chat about it with then, isn’t it?

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Greene For Gran Update…

So my plan for two posts went completely out the window yesterday, I am time poor at the mo, and you are only getting the one today. The response to  my idea to start ‘Greene For Gran’, or if you are down with the tweets then #GreeneForGran, has just been incredible and I genuinely didn’t expect so many readers (some who I know some who don’t) along with bookshops and booksellers to take to it the way that people have, very heart warming stuff.

One of the things I was thinking is how on earth to keep up with all the reviews and the like if people decide to give it a whirl as I would really love to collect all of these for the last day in August and so people can go and read more reviews and hopefully read even more Graham Greene, as would be Grans want. So could I ask you all very nicely if you would email me your reviews to savidgereads@gmail.com or link your post to the first Greene For Gran post here, then I will be notified and can keep tabs on it all. Also let me know if you have spread the word on the whole project, because then I will love you all the more ;)

Now I did state that there would be no pressure for you all to readalong, and there still isn’t, though I am going to throw the option out there. I have decided I am going to read four Greene’s in total, one for every remaining week of the month, including this one, and pop posts on them up on set days. This is so that IF YOU WANT TO, no pressure honest, you can join in with the discussion of that title on that day should you decide to read it. So here are the four books and the dates.

   

  • The Ministry of Fear (Saturday 10th of August)
  • The Quiet American (Friday 16th of August)
  • Travels With My Aunt (Friday 23rd of August)
  • The Heart of the Matter (Friday 30th of August)

Then have some kind of Greene and Gran love in at the end with all the posts and a giveaway from the lovely ladies at Vintage Books who think that all of this is a rather lovely idea. Hooray! Sound like  an idea, a no pressure on of course, to you all?

Whilst we are on the subject, how are you all getting on with your Greenes?

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Life Is Too Short

Well hello to all of you and hello to August, how on earth did we suddenly get to the EIGHTH month of the year already? As you will no doubt be aware I have had a bit of a break from the blog over the last few months now I am back, back, back. I probably sound like I am stuck on a loop at the moment, but I don’t care, as I just want to say thank you again and again and again for all the support you have given me through everything with Gran and also the way you have all embraced #GreeneForGran, I have found it all rather overwhelming and very touching, so thank you, again and again… and again! Ok, I will stop now. So let’s talk about the new ‘life is too short’ turn Savidge Reads is about to take.

While Gran was ill and in the lead up to her sadly passing away (and I won’t go on about that forever, honest) my reading time was really limited, and so I didn’t read much, and also my patience with books was much lower. Any book that landed in front of me needed to bowl me over fast and then have me with it the whole way through and not let go. You would possibly therefore assume that it was mainly the crime novels that were the books that worked far above any other. What I found interesting, because I would have thought the same thing, was that some ‘literary fiction’ had me completely spell bound when I wasn’t expecting it and also that some crime books just didn’t interest me at all and the thrills and spills the authors tried to put on show left me colder than one of the cadavers in the book. Seriously!

So I have made a pact with myself, I will only read the books that hook me and win me over straight away. Life is too short for the books that you feel ‘meh’ about; I would rather enjoy loving a book, and equally enjoy really despising one, than just feel a bit nonchalant about the experience. So from now on books that aren’t fully grabbing me, and this isn’t to be confused with books that are challenging me as I love that, simply won’t get finished. This will hopefully mean that I find myself trying a lot more books I normally wouldn’t as if I don’t like them I will stop and move on. How liberating!

I have also decided to stop saving books for a bloody rainy day which I am the King of. Reading, and of course blogging by default, should be all about enjoyment and reading that book you are simply desperate to. It shouldn’t be about making sure you have read the latest ‘buzz’ book before everyone else does or be reading a prize longlist if you don’t genuinely fancy reading any of them unless you want to try a book you hadn’t heard of before but piques your interest. I have a new term for this, I call it ‘book blagging’ not book blogging. Having become a spectator of Twitter recently rather than a participant I have been watching, and laughing, at how much this goes on and I have no time for it. Say no to ‘book blaggers’! Maybe I should start a campaign?

To clarify, if I read the latest Margaret Atwood book, which as it has just arrived is a prime example, it is because I am a huge fan of her and all her works not because I want to read it before everyone else or am hoping to gain loads of hits off the back of it. It will just be because I bloody well want to read it and read it now! Or I won’t! Can you tell I have come back a bit blunter?

Reviews will also be changing, not long ago Gran said how proud she had become of how the blog had changed, the reviews she felt were becoming stronger and, I quote, ‘less like those awful Amazon reviewers’. She might have questioned my taste sometimes but she felt I had really found my feet in the last year or so (it has only taken me almost six years of blogging to get there, ha) and also that my ‘often wicked’ sense of humour was beginning to emerge more. ‘You’re a very unique person Simon, you should have a very unique blog’ and so that is what I will be doing. Even now she’s still influencing me and the way I read and even write.

So that is the latest with me and the blog. I will be back much more regularly and tomorrow I will be telling you about my thriller of the year! It makes ‘Gone Girl’ seem a little tame, but what could it be? What have you all been up to whilst I have been away? What have you been reading and loving or loathing, no ‘meh’ books please! What are your thoughts on life just being too short?

Note: I would like to apologise for the lack of pictures in this post.

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Greene For Gran…

Again I can’t thank you all enough for your lovely comments here, on Twitter, Facebook and in my inbox about Gran and the bit of her eulogy I featured on the blog recently. One of the things that has been really lovely to see/hear is the fact that many of you have been out and gone and bought/borrowed (using Gran as an excuse, which she would love) a Graham Greene book in her honour. After having a natter about it with Stu of Winstons Dads Blog and Simon of Stuck in a Book on Twitter I have decided to start ‘Greene for Gran’ or #GreeneForGran throughout the whole of August as a fitting memory to Dorothy Savidge, I guess explaining exactly what that means would help wouldn’t it?

GG

Well as Gran loved Graham Greene so much, and as she frequently reminded me – bless her – that I was prone to reading too many modern books, I thought I would go and try a few more of Graham Greene’s novels on and off throughout August, maybe one a week. This will culminate in some kind of Greene-a-thon on the last few days of it and, as a nod to Gran, I would love it if you joined in. Let’s face it you have quite a selection of novels, short story collections and non-fiction to choose from, so many in fact I am just going to link to his bibliography and save my fingers!) You can read as many or as few as you like, there are really no rules apart from giving Greene a go, or another go… for Gran!

I have had a chat with the lovely ladies at Vintage books and they have kindly agreed to give a few copies away here and there too. I just love the idea that Gran would love the idea of you all reading him because of her, she would get a real kick out of it especially if we make sure that we natter about it in the comments over a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake as Gran and I often used to…

Speaking of cake, nice sedge-way there Savidge, I think the Greene I will give a whirl to first will be ‘The Ministry of Fear’ which has my favourite title and sounds like a hoot. “For Arthur Rowe the charity fete was a trip back to childhood, to innocence, a welcome chance to escape the terror of the Blitz, to forget twenty years of his past and a murder. Then he guesses the weight of the cake, and from that moment on he’s a hunted man, the target of shadowy killers, on the run and struggling to remember and to find the truth.” Genius! Yes, that will do me nicely.

So who is up for trying something new, revisiting an old favourite or giving Greene another whirl? Which title will you go for? Let me know in the comments, I will share everyone’s reviews at the end of August so hopefully people can discover even more. Do spread the word here and there if you can and #GreeneForGran on a certain media site. Would be lovely to have lots of you joining in! The more the merrier, as I am sure Gran would agree.

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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.

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Granny Savidge Reads 1941- 2013

Sadly over the weekend my lovely Granny Savidge Reads (or Dorothy Savidge as she was more commonly known, ha) passed away, she had all her children and myself with her.

Me and Gran

Out of respect for Gran, and whilst I get my head around it all, I am going to leave this post up for some time as a dedication to one of the biggest bookish influences in my life and a bloody brilliant Gran. I am really going to miss her.

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Savidge Reads on Sabbatical…

You may have noticed things gave gone quiet again on the blog (just when I was catching up with comments too) of late… As some of you will also know the lovely Granny Savidge Reads has been ill for the past year and in the last week she has become very, very, very poorly. The whole family have been with her since Sunday and will be indefinitely while we sit with her. With this in mind I have decided to have a break during this time and the forthcoming days.

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