Barbara Green

This interview was transcribed by Sue Roe in January 2018.

[The audio file will be posted shortly.]

[At Barbara’s request a few passages were edited.]

Barbara was born in Pitsmoor [in] 1944.

She is being interviewed by Mary Grover on 27 July 2017, assisted by Sue Roe.

Mary Grover: My name is Mary Grover and I’m interviewing Barbara Green. It’s the 27th of July 2017. Thanks very much Barbara.

Barbara Green: You’re welcome.

MG: Could you tell me first of all when and where you were born?

BG: I was born in 1944 … on Spital Street in Pitsmoor,  Sheffield.

MG: Right.  And were your parents readers?

BG: They were  … I mean, I think everybody was a reader to some extent in those days. But the reading that they did would be quite stereotypical really, Dad would read men’s books and Mother would read romances.

MG: And where would they get those books from?

BG: From the local library which for me was Burngreave.  It was something that we did, you’d go and get three or four books out and … I mean I can’t remember the first time I visited the library but it was part of life. My mum used to clean when I was an older child and she would go to work and come back and she’d have a cup of tea and sit at the table and she’d have a chapter of her book as she called it. She did that for the rest of her life. Every morning after breakfast – read a chapter of a book.

MG: And can you remember the authors of any of those?

BG: Daphne du Maurier, Ruby M Ayres, people like that.

MG: Burchell, Mary, Mary Burchell?

BG: I can’t remember that person no. But  … she, in later years, liked Catherine Cookson [laughs] … she was a big … she was a big fan. I think, I know they probably got a bit samey but they seemed to speak to Mum about life as she had experienced it.

MG: She didn’t use the Red Circle Library?

BG: She did but not with any regularity. It was the local library – as I said, she’d get three or four books out. And they would … I don’t know how often she visited the library. We went every week.

MG: Saturday afternoon?

BG: No. Mum and I would do things in the week – we were like a sort of duo. Dad was either at work or he was in the pub [laughs]. So it was usually me and Mum.

MG: Yes.

BG: So it would be in the week … sort of either after school or in the school holidays and that was one of our regular visits with the Botanical Gardens and the Museum, and stuff like that.

MG: Did you travel around by bus or tram?

BG: Yes. In fact one of our treats was to get on the Number Nine, the Circular bus at that time, and that was considered to be a treat and we’d drop off at the local hotspots as it were. Or walk through the cemetery looking at gravestones and reading out the inscriptions.

MG: Is that the Cemetery Road cemetery?

BG: No it was on Burngreave, Burngreave Cemetery. So Mum was a great walker and I sort of trailed along in her wake. I think the only negative experience from that was she also loved window shopping and I hate shopping. [laughs]  She was looking at all these things that she wanted and couldn’t afford. [laughs]

MG: She was interested in history then to take you to these places?

BG: She was, yes.

MG: And what was your Dad’s job?

BG: He was … first of all in the rolling mills. In fact, Father started work as a young boy. He lathered chins in a barber’s shop … so he would be about eleven. He talked about his fingers bleeding at the end of the day. But his main job was in the rolling mills until he got too old and then he became a crane driver. And I mean, we talk about this quite a lot; people at that time, working class people, seemed to be quite content with their lot and he was quite content going to work, coming home, having his dinner, going to the pub for a couple of pints, coming back. In fact, Mum and I used to go on holiday together because my Dad said, he’d had been in the First World War, and he said he’d seen enough … of abroad. So he’d never go away again so it was just me and Mum.

MG: Did he get books out of the library as well?

BG: Yes. He loved Frank Yerby. [laughs] I don’t know whether you can remember him?

MG: Yes.

BG: And he was highly delighted with those  …. as we’ve talked about … cowboys, stuff like that, which, as Mum used to point out to him, they’re really just romances on horseback .[laughs]

MG: So what time of day did he read?

BG: He would read in the evening if he wasn’t going out for a pint or he’d read at the weekend. What you probably need to take into consideration is that my parents were in their forties when I was born so a lot of my remembrances of them reading is when they were retired. Yes so Mum … as I say, she’s always in my head. Dad didn’t play a big part in my life. It was … I think, I don’t know whether it was just us, I suspect it wasn’t; but mothers ruled, OK. They were the biggest influence.

MG: And, before the interview started, you told me there was a big gap between you and your older sister.

BG: No, I haven’t sisters, brothers. I was the only girl in a family of boys.

MG: So you had a lot of time with your mum on your own.

BG: I did or entirely on my own [MG: Yes] which is how I came to be a reader I think.

MG: So can you remember the first book that you remember being excited by?

BG: Really excited by? They were Enid Blyton, Secret Seven … all of that sort of stuff. Interestingly all about a different class, and I loved those and longed to go to a private school where we could have a midnight party … or whatever … because life was very different for me. I mean, as we’ve spoken about previously, pinpointing a specific time when you read something I find quite difficult.  I loved all the girls’ classics … you know … Heidi, Little Women and all of that. But the book that impressed me most was The Wide Wide World by Susan Warner and that was a book Mum had read and passed on to me. A book that she’d cherished from her childhood and she gave to me. And I don’t know what happened to it, the copy, the original copy, and a few years ago it popped into my mind. I don’t know if we’d been talking about it at Book Group and I bought it as an e-book and I read it again and I still loved it. It’s really quite a didactic book … it’s about adversity and being good and how kindness wins out in the end.

MG: Was it a sort of semi-adult book?

BG: Yes. But I think I was treated more or less as an adult because, as I say … I’d come into a family where, really I was a mistake as my Mum used to call it. [laughs] And I used to think that was awful when I was young but I came to appreciate it. Because there was she, a forty one year old woman, who felt that the kids were getting off her hands and she was going to go back to work and then she’s pregnant again. I remember being on my own from an early age and I think that shaped me. It made me into a solitary person and I found escape in books … and so I think that was part of it.


MG: What about television? Would that have come into your life when you were a teenager?

BG: We didn’t have television until I was about seventeen and that was the same time I met my husband so I really wasn’t interested in the telly, I was more interested in him. But I do remember going next door to our neighbours whose family was grown up and I watched Dixon of Dock Green, stuff like that.

MG: So it didn’t have any effect on your reading?

BG: No, not at all … Film was my great love I think, because I used to go to the cinema on my own.

MG: On your own?

BG: Yes. Do you know? I talk about this to Jim. The things we did … because news wasn’t immediate as it is now. You only knew what happened in your local area. We used to stand outside the cinema for an A film and say ‘Will you take me in, mester?’ [MG laughs]. You know, I mean, it’s just incredible, isn’t it? [both laugh].

MG: Can you remember any films that got you reading something you wouldn’t otherwise have??

BG: On the Beach but again I was more of an adult by then. How old would I be? I might have been about fourteen and my brother and sister-in-law took me to the local, which was the Coliseum, to see this film and I was, at the end of the film I couldn’t stop crying because, of course, the premise is, that it is the end of the world, and I literally absorbed that as a reality. I remember our Steve saying ‘I’m not taking you anymore’. [both laugh] So, yeah, so, for me, reading and film – they were separate things. I used to go and watch musicals, Doris Day films, all that sort of thing. Go to Saturday morning pictures where we all went … whooping when the cavalry came over the top … all of that sort of stuff. But reading was something that was separate for me, something I did on my own. Entirely on my own.

MG: So I know you passed the eleven plus, didn’t you?  Do you think your reading had anything to do with that sort of competence that you’ve got?

BG: No, I think readers are readers.[MG: Right, yeah.] I think probably if I’d gone to grammar school it might have shaped my reading in a different way but I came to it in a circuitous route because as you know I went to university as a forty eight year old. And that changed things – well it didn’t change the reading so much as it changed the way that I read.

MG: Yeah. Yeah.  Cos you actually studied English at university [BG: I did, yes] so you were criticising and analysing …

BG: Yes. Quite. Actually it was a  great confidence  boost because  you know I’m one of those people that  appear quite confident but I’m not always as confident as I appear, and when I went to university I was sat in a room full of these kids feeling quite intimidated. And then one day one of the kids told me how they felt intimidated because I‘d got all this life experience to bring that they didn’t have. .And I can remember saying, ‘Yeah but you can take exams.’ And … I think in a way … it’s a different experience if you go to university as an adult. I think you have that thing where you think that someone’s going to tap you on the shoulder and,‘ Forgive me, we’ve made a mistake, off you go’. No disrespect to Jim but those three years going to university, and I’d come from quite a responsible job of managing an office, were three of the happiest years of my life because what I was doing was reading, mixing with kids. I Iearned to drink pints. [laughs]

MG: They didn’t teach you that at Burngreave.

BG: No they didn’t teach you that at Burngreave. What I remember from Burngreave was glass, cutlery, crockery, pans which was the correct way for a woman to wash the dishes, glass, cutlery, crockery, pans  [MG and  BG repeat this together]. So I was taught how to clean a pantry. [MG: At school?] Yes. How to wash dishes properly, how to make sandwiches, and Eve’s pudding, and stuff like that.

MG: And I know you weren’t able to take up your grammar school place and you went to Burngreave Secondary school. Can you remember anything about how your secondary school affected your reading?

BG: I think in the beginning I was quite intimidated by it because there’s a sense of not belonging … not belonging at grammar school and not belonging at secondary modern school. So I think I was a bit of a loner. I can remember a lovely teacher, Miss Evans. She taught Geography; she was Welsh. And I was never interested in geography, and she had this bright idea of making me the map monitor. Unfortunately it failed. I still wasn’t interested in geography [laughs] and I’m continuously asking Jim: Where’s this? Where’s that? What’s the other? You know, it’s just something that passed me by. History was something that I was interested in. But you see when you think about school then, and my grandchildren now, their experience at school, it’s so vastly different. Because there were the three Rs when we went to school. The Bible. We read from the Bible quite regularly which really helped me when I went to university because so much of our literature finds its roots there, so I was able to give input that the younger ones weren’t. But the reading, it was much more regimented, more prescribed, and you weren’t discussing books per se; you were more or less reading by rote. Or at least that’s my experience. They were more interested in whether you could read and write and whether you wrote properly, between the lines. And that you were equipped for your role in life.

MG: So what do you think your role in life was meant to be?

BG: From school? To get married and have kids and be a good wife.

MG: So the clerical and managerial work you went on to do was not what they were equipping you to do?

BG: No. You were streamed from D to A. And in the A classes, you could work in an office or perhaps in a shop. And then lower down, they went to warehouses, works, etc, so depending on where they pegged you; it’s as I said to you earlier, you had got a slot in life.

MG: So what was your first job?

BG: It was at Gilbow Tools as an office junior, and I spent about six months franking post and filing. [laughs] It was dire but you know, I’d got a job, and in those days, you could walk out of one job into another if you didn’t like it.

MG: So that’s early Sixties?

BG: Well, I’d leave school in … I was born in 1944 so I’d leave school in ’59.

MG: ’59 yes. Was there any reading associated with that time when your first started adult life?

BG: I think my reading had progressed to the Catherine Cooksons that my Mum loved. I think I followed my Mum in reading. And there was a lot of Mills and Boons about but I quickly got bored with those because they’re quite formulaic aren’t they? Somebody meets somebody they hate on sight but then you know they’re going to finish up in bed together but of course that’s only implied. [laughs] It was definitely one leg on the floor in those days. [laughs] So I think that I just had a love of books. I mean as a seventeen year old I have to admit my first love was shoes [laughs]. [MG: Theresa May!]. I loved shoes. I used to spend my money going to Dolcis and buying court shoes.  I thought that was delightful. But I’ve always been, I think it’s fair to say, that I’ve always been a big reader.  At what stage in life I read what eludes me. There’s certain books that stick in my mind. As I say, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, that stuck in my mind. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I suppose things that were based in adversity and, sort of, which I suppose keeps you in place in a way doesn’t it, because no matter how hard you’re suffering eventually you’re  going to get to that utopian place where you’re happy. So I must have followed my Dad, a bit racy …  I liked Mandingo, Kyle Onstott. [laughs]

MG: Can you tell me more about them?

BG: Well, they were sort of based in the slave trade, and Mandingo is a tribe so it’s about a warrior man but there’s lots of sex in it. It’s, sort of, what can I say, a spicing up of something that was probably not very good. It made it palatable.

MG: Oh. I see. Who are they by?

BG: Kyle Onstott. See, it’s funny that I can remember that name. Yet I met someone yesterday I probably can’t remember what they call them. There’s just certain authors that stick out in your mind, don’t they?

MG: Hmm, yes, absolutely. So did he read Hank Janson, your Dad?

BG: He did, yes. A popular cowboy of the time. He read the Daily Mirror. I can’t remember what they called the Daily Mirror before they called it the Daily Mirror but anyway he read the Daily Mirror and the News of the World. That was much loved in our household for you know …

MG: And he read Frank Yerby as you say. I read it at school and I seem to remember it was very snobbish.

BG: Hmm yes.  But for some reason we didn’t resent that. It’s fascinating really when you think about it because, as kids, we were reading about, books, about the middle and the upper classes and we looked up to them, we were thought they were brilliant, and we wanted to, in our wildest dreams, be like them. As adults we were doing the same thing. We were reading about a life not connected to ours at all and being entertained by it. I think in a way that’s the same with the films. You know like today they say people are influenced by what they watch. We used to go to the cinema and watch films based in America with these sumptuous houses and things but we were aware that that was there, this was here. It wasn’t our reality. It just entertained us. So we weren’t looking deeply to read into anything. Well, I think that’s right. I think that was right for me. I didn’t feel that I was missing out in anyway. It was a fantasy.

MG: Yes.

BG:  And now we seem to feel that everything that we see is something that we, not want, but need.

MG: Yes. Possibly entitled.

BG: Hmm.

MG: So you used Burngreave Library. And how far away were you from that?

BG: About a ten minute walk. I lived on Spital Street, Burngreave Library was a couple of roads away.

MG: And can you remember what you felt when you walked into that library?

BG: Oh. Hush. Not like where we have our book club in the library now where it’s full of noise and computers and things. It was ‘Ssh!’ as you walked through the door. And if you were young and you’d got a piping voice they used to peer at you from over the desk.

MG: And did the librarians ever suggest books to you to read?

BG: Not that I remember. In fact the most attractive part about the librarians for me was the stamp. [both laugh] I used to think   ‘Oh, I’d like to do that.’ That determined way they did it.

MG: Power.

BG: Quite.

MG: How did you and your mother find your way through these books? Choose them?

BG: Well, I mean, I suppose my Mum had got favourite writers and she‘d look for new editions of their books coming out but if you remember, the libraries were … at that time, they’d be a bit like Waterstones is now … romances, historical novels etc. So you would browse those sections for whatever you were interested in. Like, at the time, she’s out of fashion now, but I used to like Jean Plaidy. And so you’d be … which I suppose it’s what we do now, isn’t it, you’d find somebody that you really like or somebody suggests something to you. But life is very different now, as we were talking about with the radio. I listen to It’s A Good Read or The Book Club, and you’re hearing books mentioned or the serials that I listen to. Whereas radio, when I was a kid, it was more variety stuff or the Forces show, I can’t remember what they called it [SR: Two-Way Family Favourites]. Two-Way Family Favourites, yes. They were the sort of things that my parents were interested in. Life was a drudge to some extent so they wanted to be taken out of it, yes. There wasn’t an intellectual view of life in my family. It was whatever gave you pleasure when you’d got time to take that pleasure.

MG: But books were part of that?

Barbara Green: But books were part of it. Very much so, yes.

MG: But The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist was totally different from all that, so how did you suddenly come across that?

BG: I think Jim suggested it to me. So I would be probably … cos politics didn’t loom large in the family apart from my Dad voted Tory because he thought they gave him his bread and butter, and my Mother voted Labour cos she thought life should be fair. So there was that, but we didn’t have big discussions about politics. But I suppose I went with my Mum because she was the most important person to me and I did think that life should be fair. But when I met Jim, he’s eight years older than me,  he talked about different things so … you put two people together and they influence each other, don’t they? I changed some of my reading habits through Jim. He hasn’t until recently been formed by my reading habits but it’s never too late to change he’s proving. And at 81 he’s reading Elena Ferrante [laughs] so there’s always time.

MG: And you’re interested in politics, both of you, so it influenced your reading?

BG: I don’t know if it’s influenced my reading greatly. There’s certain things, like 1984, Brave New World which I didn’t read at school but became interested in. They heightened the sense of what could happen and what I didn’t want to happen and where I stood in the scheme of things but I wouldn’t say that I particularly thought, ‘Oh, that’s political, I’ll read it’.

MG: Right. Yes.

BG:  I think fiction is very powerful because … and I don’t think it’s just for me. If I watch something on television that’s a fictionalised event, I will get drawn in and it will affect the way that I think. If I watch something that is based on real truth like The Three Girls that was on recently … it was so awful I couldn’t watch it. I had that feeling of wanting to push it away so I think my opinions have been formed by fiction and then pushing me out into real life, not real life coming into the books that I read.

MG: Yes. Interesting. Thank you very much Barbara. There’s one other thing I wanted to ask you about the Brontes because one of our interviews called them ‘Oh they’re Yorkshire Girls’. When you read them did you feel ‘Oh, these are local’ or did you … ?

BG: No.  Again, not really relevant to life as I knew it. So, connecting but in a fictional way. Only as I got older and learned about their life did it make me think about things in a different way. But as a reader coming to it … reading took me out of myself. So I was much more interested in … I think the only exception would be Catherine Cookson because she was writing about the working classes, and there was a connection with that. But, even now, you see all of these, [indicates books on shelves] most of them really don’t touch my life, they just take me out of myself. That’s what I want from reading. I want good prose and something that takes me out of myself. I know what life’s like. And my view of this is, that real life is: you can complain or you can do something or you can do both. And I think that’s more or less me.

MG: That’s brilliant. Thank you very much Barbara.

SR: Just one thing. When you had your family, your children, did that affect your reading?  Your ability to have time to read?

BG: Well, yes. There was an interruption but we still went to the library but I wouldn’t obviously be able to read with the frequency that I did. Again it’s so different. I automatically stopped work because I earned less than Jim. We were in rented accommodation. I had two children in quick succession, nought to twenty months. [MG: Wow].  I was expected to keep the house clean, I was expected to have a meal ready for my husband. I was expected to look after the children. [MG: Yes].Men didn’t push prams or …


MG: When did you get back to having some time to read?

BG: Well, that’s interesting. It was really … I shouldn’t have been affected in this way. But I went back to school when Alison my daughter was five, and I was bored, so I started reading again. And I had very clean cupboards. [laughs] And then I decided that … it was when the women’s magazines were full of if you stayed at home you were a cabbage type thing. So I decided that I would learn a new skill, I would learn to type and I would go out to work part-time.  And Jim objected to this quite strenuously. He didn’t want me to work at all, but I persevered and I went working on what was called the Staff Bureau in Sheffield at that the time, temping at various places. And I soon got myself a full time at Chain Annealing.  And Jim changed his mind at that point cos he saw that we were, … I was earning money, and we could move out of the council house into our own home, and so that affected … I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know how I worked, kept the house and read but I did. And now, if I do two things in one day, I’ve been really busy [laughs].

MG: And the children picked that up?

BG: My children could read before they went to school. I did the flash card thing, and we had … this is [at] bed time: ‘Oh no!‘ [children] . ‘You could have half an hour reading as a treat,’ [Barbara] so they’d trot off to bed. As a treat.  And both, I’m pleased to say, are big readers now, and my daughter is deputy head at Forge Valley, and my son is managing director of  an engineering firm. Forge Valley used to be Myers Grove. Well, part of Myers Grove; it’s two schools together.


BG: She [Barbara’s daughter] doesn’t read what she calls worthy books. She reads Michael Connolly and that sort of stuff.


MG: So she’s not a Kindle fan then?

BG: No. She’s got an iPad; I think she’s got Kindle on her iPad.

MG: [edited] Do you like Kindle?


BG: I do. I must have got 400 books on my Kindle. Obviously you’re not downloading …  again, I have this acquisitive thing where somebody might have said something, and what I do is, I look to see whether it’s cheaper to buy it on the Kindle or not.

MG: Do you swap reading matter with your children?

BG: We pass stuff on. Biographies. What did we recently buy Alan? Oh, we bought him Orwell didn’t we? the range of books. Because he’d read something about authors you should read before you die. And we gave him some of ours and then we bought him an omnibus, didn’t we? And what was the other one? Neither of us can remember. It wasn’t Dickens, was it?


BG: But, again, you see, I think their reading habits may change as their work life changes. Alison is either teaching, doing paperwork or organising people so when she reads, she wants something that is escapism.

MG: Is there anything they’ve put into your hands that you enjoyed that you wouldn’t have read otherwise if your daughter or son hadn’t put it in your hands

BG: I think we make the suggestions for reading, don’t we?  I think that’s true.


BG: Our Alison, when she comes, we’ll get the family news out of the way, the first thing is: ‘What are you watching at the moment?’ She gives recommendations for detective series.

SR: I’ve just remembered something. Did anybody ever make you feel reading was a guilty pleasure? That you shouldn’t be doing it.

BG: No, I can’t say that was the case cos I think Mum was quite happy as long as I was quiet. [general laughter] I’m painting a very dark picture of my Mum. She was a delightful person but she was quite happy for me to do my own thing and in those days, it was reading. Cos obviously if you were listening to radio you were impinging on somebody else’s space, weren’t you so? Unless you were listening as a family – you probably weren’t listening.

MG: And connected with Sue’s question, did anyone ever make you feel that what you were reading wasn’t good enough and you shouldn’t be reading it?

BG: No, I think my Mum was quite happy for me to read.


SR: That it was lowbrow and trashy?

BG: Oh no, no. I think the concept of lowbrow probably didn’t even occur.

MG: No. What about when you went to university? Did anything come in then?

BG: Well, I think I was better read than most of the people in my group. [MG : I’m sure you were.] I tell you what – my grandson introduced me to a graphic novel called Maus, and I thought that was great, loved it. Yes, so he influenced me with that. Now what was the one … was it an Afghanistan woman …? [MG:Iranian] Iranian. Yes. What was that called?

SR: Persepolis?

BG: Yes, Persepolis, I read that as a graphic novel but I wouldn’t say that that would be my favourite form of reading but both very interesting.

MG: It never stops, the form you read.

BG: No, it just changes. I think the thing that takes me away from reading most is my iPad. Because I do Twitter at the moment for Sheffield Samaritans and I’m on the dreaded Facebook and there’s information coming up all the time. Now I suppose I’m largely responsible for that … I could turn off notifications. Jim’ll say to me, he reads the Guardian, as he still does, and he’ll say ‘Just listen to this, Babs’ and I say ‘Yes, I know about it’  because it will have dinged up on my iPad. I won’t have possibly read the full article in the way that he has but I might say to him ‘I’m doing this Jim. Can you tell me later?’ And then he might remember or he might not.

MG: I share this actually.  I think my use of Facebook has lessened the amount I read. Do you think it’s changed the way you read in that you’re getting bits here, bits there , that  when you return to the  book with continuous text, is there any …?

BG: I think it interferes with your attention span. And sometimes I will deliberately go to a thriller, Val McDiarmid, somebody like that, and read that, to get me back to reading. I can’t remember the exact title of what I’m reading at the moment. Something like … the Man from Wilmslow. It’s about Alan Turing. It’s a fictionalised version of his story, and I’m finding that really interesting. So, again you see, the fiction mixed with reality is what pulls my interest. I know about him obviously. Would I have read a biography on him? I might not. Perhaps that’s peculiar to me, I don’t know but fiction is my real love. My grandson, one of them bought me The Brexit Club which is that. [shows book on shelf] And he bought his granddad a bottle of whiskey. Now, he really got those two things wrong. [laughs] What can I say – you see, he’s one of my favourite writers [fetches book]. [MG: Could you pronounce his name for me ?] [for the recording].Colm Tóíbín, and that particular one, Brooklyn, I went to see at the cinema and it was a really good film as well. But I like writers that are lyrical, I guess. Have you read The Ocean at the End of the Lane? I can’t remember …

SR: It’s not Sebastian Barry is it?

BG: No.  It’s a funny name but that is  … Gaiman, Neil Gaiman …

MG: Gaiman, Neil Gaiman – he’s an animation, graphic novelist, isn’t he?

BG: Yes. Fantasy, but really draws you in. I like things that make me forget because I’m very much somebody who lives in my head and I’ve got thoughts going on all the time not necessarily involved  with what I’m doing [laughs] and so, that sort of reading creates a stillness that takes you away from life.

MG: Yes. But it’s not exactly escapist, is it, a lot of what you read? It may be fiction but it seems to still have a connection?

BG: Yes, but is that because I look for a connection after? Because, as we said, there’s reading and then there’s reading. Sometimes you’re just reading the words on the page and sometimes you’re making a connection and thinking what is this person really getting at?

MG: Yes. So the last question I’m going to ask you: is there one book that you feel is most important to you for whatever reason: whether cos it’s delightful or because it introduced to a new thing.

BG: Right. This is a difficult question for me. I hate these sort of questions  …  like, you know, your top ten..

MG: Don’t worry.

BG: It changes.

MG: I know.

BG: It really does. I’d have to say Birdsong. I was really affected by reading Birdsong. It gave me an insight into the First World War that I hadn’t previously had.

MG: Yes. That’s got its lyrical …

SR: Do you think your tastes in fiction have changed since you were a youngster?

BG: Yes. I think when I was a youngster, I was wanting to be taken out of my life but it was more of a … I can’t quite think of the right word because obviously I was a child so it’s a childlike view of the world.  As an adult you look for things to either shore up your own opinion, don’t you, if you’re reading non-fiction. It’s a bit like friends, you make friends with people who more or less think in the same way which is not always a good thing, is it? You’re not being challenged, and I think I have this obsession about so many writers who don’t get a chance, and so I like reading new writers. So if I see ‘first book’, I’ll probably go for that.

MG: So your sense of fair play comes in.

BG: Yes. On Twitter and Facebook, a lot of the people that I interact with are writers. Elizabeth Speller is probably one of the more famous ones. I can’t remember what the first book’s called now but she won the Richard and Judy Book Club thing .And the people I listen to are talking in a literary sense most of the time or about books and, as I said to you about A Good Read, that Hangover Square came to me cos I was listening to Kathy Burke talk about it. And I find her a really interesting woman so I thought I’d give it a  … I tried to get it out of the library. Because I didn’t mention I still use the library. So my first port of call’s the library, and then it’s Amazon or Abebooks.

SR: Which library?

BG: I go to Manor which is still a Sheffield Library. And of course it’s a Hub isn’t it, so that’s always very busy. And I have to say, the staff are very welcoming, they’re very helpful. And they have a stand for new fiction. Often I haven’t got time, I’m dashing in for something I’ve ordered on ine. So I’ll have a quick look round and see what I’ve got. And I saw that. I’ve never read him. [shows book]

MG: I’ve never heard of him. This is Jonathan Safran Foer, Here I am.

BG: That was on the new book stand so I thought I’d have a look at it.

MG: Great.

Barbara Green: I suppose I’m more of a ‘What’s going on now? ‘Where are we going?’ person than looking back over my shoulder.


Barbara Green: [edited] We both like Ian Rankin. I’ve never read Tolkien.


BG: I’ve just ordered Game of Thrones cos I watched that on telly. I resisted it for ages, everybody was talking about it and I thought, hmm, it’s historical, sci-fi porn. There’s a lot of that in but – Eeh! … I can feel myself going back to the cinema when I was [a kid] ‘Kill him!’ [laughs] So I thought I must try reading it.


 MG: It sounds as though you get your reading from all over. Tips from there and everywhere.

BG: Yes. Well, Jim re-reads. I will rarely re-read a book, because I do feel that time‘s running out . [SR: Life’s too short].Yes, I’ll only re-read if Sue decides we’re going to read one of these things that she loves. [laughs]

MG: You’re a retro influence, are you, Sue?

SR: Not after Wilkie Collins.

MG: You failed with Wilkie Collins.  Well, thanks ever so much, and Jim as well, and Sue.

BG: You’re welcome.