Tag Archives: Joan Bakewell

Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist 2016

It has been book list central recently with many prizes announcing their long and short lists in the last few weeks. I have mentioned the Bailey’s Prize as I am half of the Bearded Bailey’s Book Club and would now like to tell you about another prize which I am involved with and will be telling you more about over the next few months… the Wellcome Book Prize.

What exactly is the Wellcome Book Prize? Funny you should ask that, it is “an annual award, open to new works of fiction or nonfiction. To be eligible for entry, a book should have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness. This can cover many genres of writing – including crime, romance, popular science, sci fi and history. At some point, medicine touches all our lives. Books that find stories in those brushes with medicine are ones that add new meaning to what it means to be human. The subjects these books grapple with might include birth and beginnings, illness and loss, pain, memory, and identity. In keeping with its vision and goals, the Wellcome Book Prize aims to excite public interest and encourage debate around these topics.”

Now when the PR team behind the prize, the lovely folk at FMcM, asked me to work on this years prize from behind the scenes last year I initially responded ‘but I know nothing about medicine, I barely passed science at GCSE’ I was promised there would be books that would make even the science phobic, like myself, be won over by medicinal books and from the looks of the shortlist announced today they are right. Here it is…

For homepage

The shortlist…

  • The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
  • Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss
  • It’s All in Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan
  • Playthings by Alex Pheby
  • The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

What are they about? Well instead of giving you the full blurbs, or me badly surmising, here is what was in the press release “The two memoirs on the list, ‘The Outrun’ and ‘The Last Act of Love’, are both stories of devastation and recovery, one following addiction and the other a debilitating accident. ‘Neurotribes’ and ‘It’s All in Your Head’, the other two non-fiction contenders, are studies of autism and psychosomatic illness respectively, reflecting society’s interest in the human mind. The remaining two books on the list are works of fiction. ‘Playthings’ is an immersive imagination of a schizophrenic mind, while ‘Signs for Lost Children’ recounts the pioneering work of an early female medic.”

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The lovely judges; Tessa Hadley, Sathnam Sanghera, Joan Bakewell (Chair), Damian Barr, Frances Balkwill

I have only reviewed Cathy Rentzenbrink’s wonderful, wonderful The Last Act of Love on the blog so far but get ready for thoughts on the other five amongst Bailey’s long listed reviews over the next few weeks and maybe a bit more here and there as I will be working with the lovely Wellcome folk over the next month and a bit till the (£30,000 not to be sniffed at) winner is announced including hosting a bloggers brunch at Wellcome HQ with some special guests on April the 2nd. Very exciting.

So what are your thoughts on the list and indeed the idea of prize itself? Have you read any of the shortlisted books and if so what did you make of them?

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Boxing Day Books (The Savidge Reads Advent Winners)

Hello one and all, I do hope you have a lovely Christmas Day? Thank you for your festive wishes. Mine was very nice; I had goose for the first time and found it rather delicious. I have also been playing card games (mainly spite and malice, which my thirteen year old sister has been teaching me), scrabble, drinking rather a lot and worn my party hat all day long. Oh and I had presents, no books but I got a really funky set of psychedelic proper chef knives for my new pad (I am moving at the end of Jan, oh the books are going to have to be sorted), lots of Jelly Belly – too many is never enough and my favourite present so far has been three pairs of Mr Men lounge pants (Messy, Tickle and Bump) so there was one present with a literary twist. I have been reading but not as much as I would have expected, that is normally left for today, Boxing Day, my favourite Christmas Day.

There is something about Boxing Day that I have always found rather joyous, and not just the left-over’s from Christmas dinner which normally end up in a sandwich (though my Mum is currently off making pastry for a pie this year) and the endless supply of crisps and chocolates that we all buy for Xmas day and then don’t eat because we are too full. I love the fact it’s a delightfully lazy day, well at Savidge Christmas’s it is, we generally spend most of the day lounging around reading before a big TV fest in evening (Miranda Hart going trekking with Bear Grylls will be my Christmas TV highlight) so I am looking forward to that, I have already recorded an episode of The Readers so I feel I can now slob – that was my hard work of the day, now it’s time for my good deed of the day. It’s time for present giving…

Boxing Day can be another day of presents as the family you didn’t see might pop round, we won’t be seeing any other family members so today I have plucked all the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar winners from a random number generator and here are the winners…

Day 1; The Complete Nancy Mitford – Reading With Tea
Day 2; Burned by Thomas Enger – Harriet and Ellen B
Day 3; Smutt by Alan Bennett & Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan – Steel Reader and Gaskella
Day 4; Godless Boys by Naomi Wood & Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – Louise and Dog Ear
Day 5; The Great British Bake Off Book – Dovegreyreader and Janet D and Novel Insights
Day 6; Jennifer Egan books – TBA
Day 7; The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall – Rhonda Reads and Simon Saunders and Belinda
Day 8; Shes Leaving Home by Joan Bakewell  – Gaskella and Mystica
Day 9; Sophie Hannah’s series – Emma
Day 10; In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood & China Mieville books – Louise and Ragamuffinreader
Day 11; Sue Johnston autobiography – Sue and Simon T and Ann P
Day 12; Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire – Janet D and Dominic
Day 13; Selected Agatha Raisin books – Kirsten and Victoria
Day 14; The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall – Janet D and Ann P
Day 15; When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – Femke and Ruthiella and Alex and Joanne In Canada
Day 16; all David Nicholls novels – Sue
Day 17; Patricia Duncker novels – Gaskella
Day 18; A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French – Ann P and Gabrielle Kimm
Day 19; all the Yrsa Siguardardottir novels – Kimbofo
Day 20; Frozen Planet & White Heat by MJ McGrath – Emma and Mystica
Day 21; A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse & The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Nose in a Book and Novel Katie
Day 22; The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan – Jenni and Ann P and Femke
Day 23; Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series  – David
Day 24; Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series – Harriet

Merry Christmas to both those of you who won (and some of you won a few times) and those who didn’t. If you did email me savidgereads@gmail.com with the book/s you have won in the subject and your address and I will make sure these are sent out in the first week of January. Right, I am off to go and pick at some stuffing before curling up with my book. Hope you are all having a wonderful time, what did you get for Xmas?

Oh and a MASSIVE thank you to the publishers who got involved: Penguin, Faber and Faber, Profile Books, Hodder, Picador, Atlantic, Serpents Tail, Ebury, Corsair, Constable and Robinson, Portobello, Little Brown, Virago, John Murray, Headline, Bloomsbury, Europa Editions, Mantle, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster & Transworld

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Joan Bakewell – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 8

I’ve started doing the looking back over the year thing, oh dear, be warned. Anyway… One of the best things of 2011 was starting Bookmarked (which is on a hiatus till next year), and also doing some of the solo ‘in conversation’ events with authors at Waterstones Deansgate. The last one I did (and I will be reporting on a few more) was with the wonderful Joan Bakewell. I was very, very nervous, she is a national treasure after all.

Dame Joan Bakewell is known for being incredibly clever, in fact one of the things that shocked me when we met, she was a little breathless after being stuck in a the madness of Manchester’s Christmas lights being turned on or some such, was that she greeted me with ‘Hello Simon, so lovely to meet you,  so you are a blogger and journalist…’ it seemed I wasn’t the only one that evening who had been doing their research. We sat and had a glass of wine and my nerves vanished as we just had a chat together before going out to see her audience (which included Granny Savidge Reads who befriended Joan over reading habits afterwards) and talk as Joan had said with a laugh ‘about anything you like, I am too old to care you know.’

Well we pretty much did. We discussed her latest novel ‘She’s Leaving Home’ (another review that was deleted in the great computer wiping virus) which I have to say I enjoyed very much. We talked about the main themes of it and how it deals with changes in women’s roles in society (almost touching on feminism) in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the music scene in Liverpool at that time which was thriving and the relationships between mothers and daughters. That was just what was covered in talking about the latest book. We then discussed ‘All The Nice Girls’ and writing a debut in her 70’s and what’s to come. There was politics, her thoughts on Katie Price (a mix of confusion and admiration at how she has used her body to make so much money and how she clearly has brains) and her role as ’voice of older people’ for the Government. I was fascinated I don’t know about anyone else.

Anyway, that all surmounted to the fact that today I am giving away two copies of her latest novel ‘She’s Leaving Home’. All you have to do is tell me your favourite book this year about mother and daughter relationships. You have until 11am December the 12th. Good luck.

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All The Nice Girls – Joan Bakewell

Joan Bakewell’s debut novel has lingered on my TBR for quite some time. I have always liked Joan Bakewell when I have heard her on the radio or seen her on the telly, in the UK she is well known as a journalist and broadcaster, and I had a strange notion that I would therefore like whatever she wrote. For some strange reason though I didn’t read Joan’s debut novel ‘All The Nice Girls’ though and as it was languishing I passed it onto Granny Savidge Reads as I thought she would like it and if I fancied reading it at any point I could pinch it back. Well as I am ‘in conversation’ with her next Thursday evening I decided the time was definitely right to read it, but would I like it?

Virago, paperback, 2009, fiction, 352 pages, from the library

‘All The Nice Girls’ is set in part during 1942 when WWII is not going well for the British. As part of the war effort an all girl’s grammar school in Stockport becomes one of the many that decide to sign up for the Merchant Navy’s Ship Adoption Scheme. The idea, as headmistress Cynthia Maitland sees it (who was bereaved in the previous war)is to make ‘her girls’ aware of what is going on in the world out there and of course to do there bit. The reality is a little bit different as this is, of course, is going to mix a group of young girls, all excitement and hormones, with a group of sailors.

Now with the premise of a group of young girls in the war, and Joan focuses on sixth formers Polly (also called Margaret) and Jen, you kind of know what is on the horizon – both the good and the bad. This is where Joan Bakewell throws in another thread into it all with a story set in 2003 where we find Millie, whose daughter is suffering from kidney failure to which Millie is debating helping with or not, has been left her mothers belongings. I won’t say more as the reader is left wondering how the two are entwined and I don’t want to spoil anything.

I have to admit I struggled with this novel to start with. I didn’t feel I could keep up as Bakewell introduces several school girls, teachers and then an endless cast of officers etc in 1942 before then switching to 2003 when your still just grasping the past, however the ‘voice’ she writes with carried me on.

I think it is Bakewell’s storytelling (and this is a proper war story) rather than just the era that left me in mind of the authors of both the 1930s and the 1960s. I am aware that this might sound rather odd but that’s the flavour that the book and indeed Bakewell left me with. It wasn’t the narratives of the characters, which added to the experience as all characters and everything they go through are all vividly drawn, it was Bakewells writing voice and sounded very different from the one she broadcasts with. Both are charming.

My only slight issue with All the Nice Girls is that whilst I liked hearing a very different side to the war effort of WWII, which this undoubtedly is, I found the book a little predictable. I could sort of see where each relationship was headed and what might be coming around. That said there was something rather reassuring spending time with a book like that.

If you are a fan of books set during WWII and want a different take on it, and one based on fact as Bakewell herself went to a school in Stockport that sponsored a boat during that period, and has the atmosphere or are a fan of Bakewells already you will love this book, as would you if you want to get lost in a book you know where you are with. I enjoyed myself as I read and found some of it very poignant indeed.

If you are in Manchester on Thursday and fancy something a bit different, or want to come and talk about this or any of Joan Bakewell’s other books, the I will be ‘in conversation’ with her at 7pm at Waterstones Deansgate, do pop by. Sorry for the mini plug but I would love to see some of you there, have you any questions for Joan if you can’t make it? Have you read ‘All The Nice Girls’ or any of her other books and if so what did you think?

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October’s Incomings…

So yet another month has whizzed by and its time for me to let you know what has plopped through the letterbox over the last month. I am mad with all things Green Carnation shortlist, my Mum and everything else at the mo so forgive the slightly short and instant introduction.

  • Lethal Investments by K.O. Dahl  – I met the author at Manchester Literature Festival and he very kindly gave me a copy of his book after I interviewed him all about Nordic crime and the appeal of it. This is his latest novel in the series but he said it’s the one I should start with, you can’t argue with an authors orders can you?
  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher – I have this in hardback but I think it’s getting a second major push, with an audio version read by none other than David Tenant, I started reading it but I was getting a bit over emotional, I will try again.
  • Divorcing Jack by Bateman – A book to read before I interview him for The Readers.
  • Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – and the festive reads start coming in. I actually need to read ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ don’t I?
  • Ashes To Dust/My Soul To Take/The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – another author that I had the pleasure of meeting, and therefore reading, because of Manchester Literary Festival. She was hilarious and the first in the series ‘Last Rituals’ is brilliant, review coming soon.
  • The Doll Princess by Tom Benn – unsolicited copy of a debut novel about post apocalyptic Manchester which isn’t out until the spring but being set where I live the publishers knew I couldn’t resist this.
  • Someone Else’s Garden by Dipika Rai – another novel from an author I met at Manchester Literature Festival.
  • The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam – another novel from an author I met at Manchester Literature Festival.
  • She’s Leaving Home by Joan Bakewell – I am interviewing Joan next week at Waterstones Deansgate and so am having a bit of a Bakewell-a-thon. I have read her first ‘All The Nice Girls’ (review coming soon) and an now dipping into her essays before I read this over the weekend.
  • The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie – unsolicited copy, love the title and the story of two young boys in a welsh mining town sounds interesting.
  • 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs – I feel a bit bad I haven’t read this yet, but I will be as he is at Bookmarked with Ben Aaronovitch on Monday. I am dubious about reviewing it after I have read it as I know him, and you know I know him. Mind you if you know that and I am honest does it matter?
  • The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – The official return of Sherlock Holmes and approved by the Conan Doyle estate. I am very excited about this and about taking The Bookboy to meet him tomorrow.
  • The Horror of Love by Lisa Hilton – a book about the relationship between “two people – Nancy Mitford and the Free French commander Gaston Palewski – who conducted a less than ideal love affair in post-war France” I am a Mitford addict of course I need to read this.
  • Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire – the final (I think that’s true) novel in Maguire’s wonderful Oz stories which started with one of my favourite novels ‘Wicked’. Perfect world to be lost in during these autumn nights.

Have you read any of these of anything else by these authors? Which would you like to see me read next? What have you had arrive or been out and bought, borrowed or begged for bookwise of late?

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Joan Bakewell & Bookmarked

I’m having a rather quiet week and just settling down and reading when I can rather than blogging. I thought I would pop in though and let you know just whats by the bedside. I have a fair few ‘research reads’ ahead of me but I am trying to do it in a whimsical (and I don’t mean funny) style as much as possible.

The main selection of reads are the memoirs/autobiographies/essays and novels of Joan Bakewell’s. Why? Well, I have always liked her when I have seen her on the television, her work on which has won many prizes, and in the UK she is deemed by many as a ‘national treasure’. I am getting very excited, and of course very nervous, as I will be in conversation with her on November the 10th at Waterstones Deansgate in Manchester where we will be discussing her novels, her CBE, her tv experiences and much much more…

There is also the fourth Bookmarked on the horizon in just under two weeks, when we will have our ‘supernatural and sci-fi’ night with Ben Aaronovitch and Paul Magrs. I will be reading both of Ben’s novels and Paul’s latest in the lead up, which as they are filled with spooky goings on will be just the things for Halloween, hooray!

You can find out more about Bookmarked here. Sorry about that mini plug, but it is all book related. Have you read any of Joan Bakewell’s novels or her autobiographies/memoirs? What about Ben and Pauls books? Hope to see some of you at either of these events. Any spooky reading suggestions at all?

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