Tag Archives: Pat Barker

The Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist 2019

It is here! The longest of sixteen books which I mentioned last month (when I mentioned blowing off the cobwebs on this blog, cough – more on that below) have been whittled down to six fantastic titles which are…

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Milkman by Anna Burns
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Circe by Madeline Miller

I have made a video talking about the shortlist below (I might have had a little prewarning, on the promise of my lips being firmly sealed until now) and my thoughts on the title which I will embed below. However if you want more thoughts of mine on the longlist – and the thoughts of my mother – you can find a video of that here.

Now, as I mentioned in that last post a few weeks ago, I would like to use the Women’s Prize – which has been a favourite prize of mine for as long as this blog has been going – and I have a plan. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my more detailed thoughts on the shortlisted books AND backdating some posts on the longlisted titles that didn’t make the shortlist. Including one, or maybe two, that I decided not to finish. Eek. More of that in the weeks to come.

So, what do you all make of the shortlist? Which have you read and what did you think? Does this list match the selection of books you would have shortlisted?

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The Women’s Prize Longlist 2019

What better excuse to blow the cobwebs off this blog than with the 2019 longlist announcement, of what is probably my very favourite prizes, the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Those of you who have been visitors of the blog for a long time (and sorry it has been the most defunct on and off book blog in the blogosphere, possibly) will know how much I love the prize and have done for many a year. I have played at guessing the longlist for yeeeeeeeears, you can see me doing this recently in a video on my channel here if you have missed it, I have also read the longlist for a few years now. I will be doing it again with a special guest this year, more on that shortly but first here is the selection of books that have just been announced…

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The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Fenton
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Milkman by Anna Burns
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li
Bottle Goods by Sophie Van Llewyn
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden
Circe by Madeline Miller
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Normal Peopleby Sally Rooney

I had only guessed six of the longlist, which isn’t my best ever BUT that is never a bad thing, one of the things I always love about a longlist is having books I own bumped up the TBR or finding new to me books, in this case the Li, Luiselli and McFadden. I have also read six of the books; Braithwaite, Burns, Emezi, Miller, Moss (which I thought might be too short to be on the list but I am thrilled is) and Rooney – all of which I will be reviewing on the blog soon. Promise.

Now then, I am going to be reading the longlist as I have for the last few years and I did mention a special guest… This year I am going to be reading the shortlist (and hopefully the longlist as she might have got a little head start) with my Mum, who I will be making videos and all sorts with. We are very excited.

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I am also very excited to read the rest of the list. I talk about them in a little more detail on my channel here. What are your thoughts on the list and will you be reading any or all of them? Which have you read already and what did you make of them? Let me know ALL your thoughts!

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Durham Book Festival; It’s Been A Bookish Blast

So. That. Is. It. Durham Book Festival has come to an end for me. It has been an absolute bookish blast with over two days of non-stop bookish delight. I have been introduced to authors old and new (to me or debuts) and enjoyed every minute. From the Gordon Burn Prize (which I have now decided I want to judge one day), to the finale event discussing Wearside Jack it has been brilliant. Pat Barker thoroughly entertained me and made me want to read everything that she has ever written, I got to join in with a fascinating debate on hard evidence, I saw Lauren Laverne talking fashion, got to take part in Read Y’Self Fitter giggling away with our tutor Andy Miller, be thoroughly freaked out about the state of modern Russia and heard Patrick Gale and Liza Klaussmann talking about sexuality and sexual secrets. What more could you want and where else could you get all of this other than a literary festival?

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It has also been a real hoot (as you can see from my naughty gleeful look captured above brilliantly by Picador’s Emma Bravo) and the lovely team at New Writing North and Durham Book Festival have been wonderful hosts and putting up with diva demands, well they probably would have if I had made any. I didn’t honest. I got to meet lots of lovely people who I have not met before but I have spoken to for ages on Twitter, like the brilliant Ben Myers and Andy Miller, as well as some lovely faces that I have met before including some of the lovely young talented reviewers that myself and Lauren Laverne have given masterclasses to and who I had some ace chats with at the events…

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And they will be the lovely folk who will be blogging and reviewing for the rest of Durham Book Festival on the Cuckoo Review website and on the festival’s blog BECAUSE THE FESTIVAL IS NOT OVER and you can still go and see some corking events (Philip Pullman, Carys Davies, Stuart Evers, Mary Portas, Bill Bryson and more) over the next week, which they will all be reviewing on the site along with some of the books discussed and more. All good stuff!

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Durham Book Festival; Patrick Gale & Liza Klaussmann

The audiences of the Durham Book Festival are a saucy lot if two of the events I have been to are anything to go buy. It seems that the subject of *whispers* sex, sexual secrets and sexuality gets the forces out in their droves. I know it is early on a Sunday, do forgive me but ‘shenanigans’ (which seems much more of a Sunday word for it all) came up in Pat Barker’s session within  few moments of her being on stage. The same happened when Patrick Gale and Liza Klaussmann were in conversation with Caroline Beck late yesterday afternoon, as sexuality and sexual secrecy (and shame) seem to be at the hearts of both their books – which of course makes us all want to read them instantly.

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Lots of you will have heard me rave on and on about the brilliance of Patrick Gale’s work and in particular his latest, A Place Called Winter which is one of my favourite books of the year. You can read my review here for a more in depth look at it, but a brief summarisation is that it tells of a man who leaves Edwardian Britain under a cloud of shame and in some form of penance, and in some ways survival, heads to outback Canada where of course he still can’t hide from his true human nature. I just realised that makes it sound like a murder mystery, rather than a love story and tale of friendship. Can you see why I am not in book publicity? Anyway, it’s brimming with secrets, sexuality and bear grease – well maybe not the latter but it sounds fun, see totally not appropriate as a book marketer am I?

Alongside Patrick was Liza Klaussmann whose latest novel, Villa America, I have not read yet (there is a theme at the events I have been to so far on unread yet books, but as Patrick told me yesterday re Pat Barker ‘if it is a brilliant book, it will keep’ which is now my new life motto) sounds like an absolute corker. It tells the tale of Sara and Gerald Murphy who it’s said were inspirations for Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and who seemed to have the perfect lives, which Liza said ‘seemed to perfect, so I knew something was going on there’ and so she looks at what could have been going on behind the scenes of a perfect seeming marriage and reveals some sensational secrets. Come on, admit it, you want to read both of these. I told you so.

What is great about a live event is seeing how much some books, no matter how different the setting or indeed the authors are, can link together in so many ways. Obviously there is the subject of sexuality (I don’t think I have written the word sex so much in a post ever, what have you done to me Durham Book Festival?)and sex, plus secrets, lies and facades. There was more.

Both books are written about real people; Patrick’s is very much based on his great great Grandfather and what might have been his story and reasons for heading to Canada, Liza’s about the Murphy’s and the Fitzgerald’s and the whole whirlwind that went around them in that time. When asked about the responsibility and what these people thought Patrick said he felt now that most of the people who knew his great great Grandfather were dead he felt he could be freer, but he knew they might have disapproved, Liza too felt the Murphy’s might be unimpressed (as they were with Tender is the Night) but as they were dead it was alright. There was much laughing throughout and many a book was sold and signed afterwards.

Lovely stuff, a couple more books to add to your TBR’s if you haven’t already. If you have read either or both books I would love your thoughts on them. I had a corking first day at Durham Book Festival and now have Andy Miller, Louise Welsh, Lauren Laverne and Mark Blacklock ahead of me today, its almost too much bookish delight!

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Durham Book Festival; Pat Barker

There is probably going to be a collective intake of breath, some shock and horror and disapproval when I tell you that I have not yet read a novel by Pat Barker. Granny Savidge was a fan, many people whose opinions I hold highly have told me… It is the war thing, too many books about WWI or WWII have left me cold. That said, since visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, my mind has turned of late to returning to it and trying again – especially as I will be working on the Tower of London Poppies coming to Liverpool. So when I saw Pat Barker was on at the festival it was a no brainer. The fact she said ‘I like to give my readers stories, humour… and lots of vigorous sex’ within a few minutes of getting on stage made me think Barker might just be the author to get me back into fiction around the world wars.  

This was further proved over the following hour that Pat Barker was on stage with Professor Sharon Monteith discussing her latest novel Noonday and the novels leading up to it. During the conversation she talked about sex, a bit more, and how characters sex lives can tell you all about them. She also discussed on of my favourite things in fiction, secrets. In fact it seemed a lot of her latest trilogy is about the secrets we have from ourselves and others as well as the lies we do the same with.

Another thing which held her in all the higher esteem was that she likes to write about us northerners. It was really interesting when she talked about her northern roots and said was not artistic fusion just language she grew up with and the way women spoke when she was growing up. As someone who grew up with a lot of northern women around him… Tick, tick tick.

She also discussed her thoughts on historical fiction and fiction itself. She said she is definitely not a historian, while she it at university she was never very good.  (We all laughed a lot through the session, she was very warm and very funny.) she was emphatic that historical fiction is not history. It can be a false take, if fits the character it’s the right take. You just can’t move history about or change the facts to suit your fiction but often you don’t need to!

In terms of fiction in general she talked about its power. She said she is reluctant to write from single perspective as what’s brilliant about fiction is that it can give sympathetic portraits of groups of people who differ on opinion, politics and morals. In doing so it also means readers are invited to empathise with differing point of views. In fact she is now proud of fiction for making people more empathetic. So she loves readers and reading too. Tick. Tick.
So all in all I was sold. Would I read Pat Barker? Yes. Was I fool for not buying a book? Yes! And so book was bought. I almost bought all the copies I could to compensate but held back for now.  

So who else has read Pat Barker and what did you think? Thoughts welcome as always!

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Durham Book Festival Begins & I Will Be Doing Something A Little Bit Different This Weekend!

This week is the start of the two weeks of book joy that is Durham Book Festival. And I am really excited. I love a book festival at the best of times (and even at the worst) yet Durham holds a very special place in my heart as it was the place I would often beg to go (after the airport and the Hancock Museum) at the weekend when I was a little from the age of about three until I was about ten. I have yet to go back. This will all change from Friday as I have been kindly asked to be the festival’s inaugural Blogger-in-Residence… and the line-up is corking!

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From today until the 17th of October, the great and the good of publishing will be heading to Durham for a whole host of wonderful events. There are exciting conversations from debuts to events with the likes of Philip Pullman (whose Northern Lights has been distributed to 3,000 readers in the county as on big read) from talks about the world of fiction to politics in Russia or the British countryside. Seriously there are some marvellous events which you can see the whole gamut of here.

Over the first weekend of the festival I will be heading to events with Xinran, Pat Barker, Patrick Gale (who probably thinks I am stalking him), Liza Klaussman, Andy Miller (who I am hoping to have a pint and a pie with), Lauren Lavern (who I might actually be stalking, not really but I think she’s ace), Richard Benson, Louise Welsh, Mark Blacklock and more… Phew. That’s quite a lot to fit in. Oh and of course the announcement of the Gordon Burn Prize on Friday night, which I am really, really, really excited about – I have read two of the long list and am going to try and squeeze the rest in this week on lunch breaks, evenings and on the train where I can.

To do something different, and as blogger in residence it seems fitting, I am going to spend the whole weekend live blogging and tweeting as I attend the events. I have also been meeting with, talking to and doing a master class with some amazing young talented reviewers and bloggers who will be doing the same over the weekend and in the weeks that follow. They will probably put me to shame, so it is best I go first. Ha.

I am also really hoping that I get a bit of time to have a mooch, fall into some bookshops (and possibly some book tents) and see one of the icons of my childhood… The Durham Cathedral Knocker!

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Do let me know if you will be there as it would be lovely to say hello and if you can’t be there let me know what you would like to hear about the festival and from the events!

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Manchester Literature Festival 2012

I really do love a literary festival. I can’t say I have been to hundreds, in fact it’s more like five or six, but when I saw loads of people I know going off to Edinburgh over the last few weeks I have been, frankly, green with envy. There is something so special about the vibe of these events, the coming together of reader and author and the general love of books that makes me go giddy at the thought. Last year I had the pleasure of going to Manchester Literature Festival, which is the nearest to me (Liverpool doesn’t have one, why?), and seeing many of the events and meeting the authors and event hosts afterwards for The Readers Podcast. This year, in October, I am planning to do the same again, and a little more as you will see, and what an incredible line up there is this year.

I already have sorted tickets for the opening event next week, a trailblazer, which is with none other than Zadie Smith who I am really keep to see talk, especially after having dipped into ‘NW’ already, which I am planning on reading properly this weekend between Green Carnation submissions. This is an event to kick start it all officially and I will be reporting back on for you all.

After the festival starts ‘a proper’ in October I have a mammoth wish list of events to see with authors including; Michael Chabon, Carol Ann Duffy, Penelope Lively, Salley Vickers, Clare Balding, Pat Barker, Jackie Kay, Mark Haddon, Jeanette Winterson, AM Holmes, Jonathan Harvey and ‘Unbound Live’. Phew! You can see these events and many more on the festivals calendar page. I think I am going to miss some sadly as I will be in Iceland, maybe someone reading this might report back for me?

To top it all off though there are two other events on the calendar that I am particularly excited about and that is because… I am hosting them! The first will be on Monday the 8th of October at 18.30 when I will be hosting an event with Patrick Gale and Catherine Hall, who happens to be a fellow Green Carnation judge and also wrote ‘The Proof of Love’ which won the prize last year and was a book I adored. I am going to be re-reading a few Patrick Gale novels over the next couple of weeks including his latest ‘A Perfect Man’ and ‘Rough Music’ which I read, shock and horror, over a decade ago.

The second event I am just as excited about and is at lunchtime on the following day. In the oh so apt Manchester Town Hall, which was used in Sherlock Holmes as the House of Parliament, I will be hosting a Victoriana event with the lovely Jane Harris and Essie Fox, both of whose work I have thoroughly enjoyed as I am sure you are aware. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Jane and Essie before so I know this is going to be a hoot.

Well that is me all excited then isn’t it? I do hope, as I am giving some advance warning, I will see some of you at these events I am hosting or at any of the others I am desperate to see (you’d better say hello). In the meantime though I wondered what your thoughts on literary festivals were. Which have you been to? What was good and bad about them? What makes the perfect bookish event? What makes the perfect host? Oh and would any of you also consider smaller more intimate ‘Reading Retreat’ weekends? Cannot think why I am asking the latter…

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