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Blogger in residence: Pat Barker

10 October 2015

by DBF Blogger in residence, Simon Savidge

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!


Simon Savidge is a writer who contributes to several literary and lifestyle magazines and hosts Savidge Reads, a blog about all things literary.

You can contact him on savidgereads@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter here @SavidgeReads