Triple Choice Tuesday: Whispering Gums

Triple-Choice-TuesdayWelcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers and other bookish bods to share the names of three books that mean a lot to them. The idea is that it might raise the profile of certain books and introduce you to new titles and new bloggers.

Today’s guest is Sue, from Whispering Gums, who lives in Canberra, the capital city of Australia. Sue trained as a librarian but has spent almost all of her career working in film and sound libraries and archives.

She joined an online book group in January 1997, so has been discussing books online for a long time, but only started blogging last year. And what a blog it is. I love Sue’s penchant for Australian literature, with diversions into trees (hence the name), music and other cultural experiences. I’ve only been visiting for a short while, but Whispering Gums has promptly become one of my favourite book blogs.

Here’s Sue’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:

Persuasion A favourite book: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Pick an Austen, any Austen. As a long-time Austen fan, I find it hard to name a favourite. In fact, like many Austen fans, I usually say my favourite is the last one I’ve (re)read, BUT if I had to name one it would probably be Persuasion.

Anne Elliot is not as sparkly and witty as Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet, and the novel is not as “perfect” as Emma, but I have always admired Anne for her thoroughly good values. Despite being surrounded by selfishness and vanity, she holds her ground steadily, living her life quietly but usefully, until she finally wins through. She may look to some like a pushover, but her options in that place and time were limited, and she does show strength when the opportunity arises. It is she who says: “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.”

Anyone who thinks Jane Austen writes silly romances with nothing deeper to ponder than how to get a man has not really read her!

 

ThePlague A book that changed my world: The Plague by Albert Camus

I’m not sure that any book has changed my world, but there are many that contain ideas that I often return to. The Plague, which I first read in my idealistic youth, is one such book.

I’m not one of those people who can spout quotes from books at will, but there are a few that have stuck, and one of these comes from The Plague. The character Tarrou says: “Everything is more or less sick of the plague. All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.”

Some people read this as saying we should become “victims” instead, but for me the focus of the message is that we should not harm others, that it is a tough world and that our best path through it is not to make it tougher. It’s a simple message really, but sometimes simple is best, particularly when it is framed by an engaging story.

 

Drylands A book that deserves a wider audience: Drylands by Thea Astley

I cannot do this exercise without including an Australian book – but which one, as there far too many Australian writers who do not get enough exposure internationally? Perhaps the most worthy is Thea Astley: she has been way under-appreciated despite her significant achievements which include being, until Tim Winton’s win last year, the only writer to have won the Miles Franklin Prize four times. By any reckoning that should make her at least as well known as Winton, but she’s not.

She was prolific, so I’ll choose her last, Drylands, which is subtitled “a book for the world’s last reader” and which has an interesting structure as it looks more like a set of short stories than a novel.

Astley is earthy and honest, and her writing is not always easy. She cared deeply about humanity and the failures of our social conscience, and this book explores many of the topics she railed against throughout her life, including the poor treatment of women and indigenous people.

It’s not a cheery book – its title can be read literally and metaphorically. But, don’t you think that this description of the main character – “… she had never been harried by the glamour of any possessions but books” – would make a very fine epitaph?

Thanks, Sue, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!

I’ve had Astley’s book in my TBR for about two years: I found a very cheap copy in a charity shop and snapped it up while I had the chance, so now I’m itching to read it. Ditto for The Plague. And now I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s time to try some Austen, too…

What do you think of Sue’s choices? Have you read any of these books?

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “Triple Choice Tuesday: Whispering Gums

  1. Ah, I was waiting to see which one you would choose for no 3, Sue – Thea Astley is an excellent choice. Drylands is a terrific book, and is one of my favourites too.
    Lisa

    Like

  2. I love them all. When asked about a favourite Austen, I’m inclined to choose Persuasion too. I found it more involving, mature and quietly strong. It’s a fantastic and somewhat heartbreaking read.
    I only borrowed Drylands yesterday when I saw it on the shelf! It sounds great. I saw her name in the ABR list.

    Like

  3. Thanks Lisa … it was really hard making ALL the selections. I love lists, as long as it’s not me who has to compile it! But, Thea Astley did seem the best choice for the third group, though I did toy with Jolley for a while.

    Like

  4. Great Mae – there are a few Persuasion fans out there. Most people choose P&P or perhaps Emma, but I agree with you re its quiet maturity … and it is probably her most heart-breaking read I think. You never really worry for Elizabeth Bennet, do you, the way you do for Anne.

    Like

  5. …and thanks Kim for the opportunity to take part in your Triple Choice Tuesday, It was fun – though a little nervewracking – thinking about my choices and then writing them up.
    But, are you telling me you’ve still not read an Austen? I’m not sure you can call yourself a reader until you have!! LOL. Try Northanger Abbey! It’s the shortest, often overlooked, but is rather funny and has a lot to offer someone who likes reading.

    Like

  6. I read P&P as a teenager and found it “silly”. But I was a serious teenager. Maybe it’s time to revisit Austen; one of my friends loves her books and has now been trying for years to get me to read one. I’ve got The Plague on my bookshelf and really need to get through the books I’ve been recently lent by well-meaning friends and read it. I love the sound of it, so was pleased to read your views on it.
    I’m very ignorant of Australian fiction, so am wondering if Astley’s the best author to start with or should I find something more “accessible”?

    Like

  7. I know, I know, I know. I think we have had this discussion before, Sue. I am just a philistine 😉
    I’ve seen loads of film adaptions etc, so feel I know the stories but when I tried to read P&P a year or so ago I just could not get into it and abandoned it. Mind you, I was reading it on an e-reader, and the formatting was just terrible, so maybe I’ll just blame that for my lack of perserverance.

    Like

  8. Oh no, she is not silly! Witty, ironic, yes; Silly, never! Try her again with your knowing adult eyes.
    Yes, Astley could be throwing you into the deep end a little. Kate Grenville may be a good place to start – The secret river and The idea of perfection are two I’d recommend.

    Like

  9. Thanks Kevin … more’s the pity. I’ll be reviewing one of hers in the next day or so. That will give you a flavour. I also wrote a ‘favourites” post on her. If you are interested, here it is: http://whisperinggums.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/favourite-writers-3-thea-astley/ (and then there’s the Midllemiss site Kim has given you below) .
    As you said in one of your posts – there are some interesting correlations between Canadian and Australian literature. It’s fun to explore more when we can isn’t it?

    Like

  10. Like yourself Sue, my favourite Austen varies from day to day, I think the suspense of Persuasion and the subsequent relief at the ending is wonderful. Captain Wentworth’s letter is just gorgeous.
    Glad to see you include The Plague as it is a favourite. Its restraint and insight is remarkable.
    As an Australian, I’m sorry to say I still haven’t read TheaAstley yet despite plenty of good intentions. I must dig her books out of the TBR pile!

    Like

  11. Sue,
    I have actually read Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and loved it. So, I will look into The Idea of Perfection. I’ve also got Patrick White’s The Tree of Man on my shelf, recommended by Kim as not an easy read but a great read.

    Like

  12. Many thanks to Sue – and, of course, to K for hosting.
    Delighted to see ‘Persuasion’ get such thoughtful recognition. Yes, Anne Elliot’s courage is of the kind that is too often overlooked. Her great integrity is rewarded in the end, which is a tad fairytale but immensely gratifying. Frederick Wentworth’s a true hero, also; yet both protagonists are well-rounded characters. The horror of genteel female poverty is also depicted, in resourceful Mrs Smith (another brave woman); but the dastardly Mr Elliot will have to return her stolen property (we hope).
    It’s a book which can restore one’s faith in human nature, while wryly acknowledging the preponderance of the truly ghastly ;-). Big fan of Camus, here! Your analysis is spot on. Camus was a great humanitarian: pro-humanity and anti-totalitarian. Wonder how his thinking/work would have developed had he not died relatively young (in his prime, as it now seems). Recommend ‘La Chute’/?’The Fall’ also.
    To my shame, have never heard of Thea Astley (which rather proves your point about Australian authors): always a boon to hear of interesting authors, so she’s now on my TBR list.

    Like

  13. Glad you like my first two choices Sarah … I like what you say about Persuasion. Do rectify the Thea Astley thing though. She’s worth it! (Of course, I would say that!)

    Like

  14. Thanks Minnie … i love your point about the poverty in Persuasion too. It’s quite a complex book isn’t it? Too many people tend to think all Jane Austens are the same but there’s such variety there within the basic romance plot isn’t there? And, I’m so glad you agree re The plague (La peste). I have read The fall (La chute, as you say) but so long ago that I don’t remember it well. I will try to find time to read it again. (I read pretty well all of Camus at university for a self-chosen assignment – I chose a topic that involved reading novels – ha!!).
    As for Astley, well I hope you find her and like her when you do!!

    Like

  15. Oh good, re The secret river! I’ll be interested to see what you think of The idea of perfection. I really love it but that may be because I related to the two main characters – a daggy museum lady (aka daggy librarian/archivist that I am) and a serious somewhat bumbly engineer (somewhat reminiscent of my husband).
    Kim is right, The tree of man is great. He’s a dense writer but worth the effort. My personal favourite of his is Voss – it is the book that turned me on to White.

    Like

  16. Since I’m also a fan of Aussie lit, but I’d never heard of Astley before, I hit the “order” button at Amazon, picking up a used copy of “Slow Natives” (1976) that seems good.
    I’ve only read one Austen (P&P), and liked it a lot, should grab another one this summer.
    I’ve read one Camus, didn’t like it much, but he deserves a second chance…

    Like

  17. As an Australian, I haven’t read her either, but Gums has mentioned her several times and my interest is piqued.

    Like

  18. Great! Another excellent blog added to my feed!
    I have to admit I’m among the ranks who has never really read Austen; ie, I did read her as a teenager and did find it silly. I wonder if there’s an age before which Austen should not be read?
    I don’t think I’ve read any Australian lit apart from Peter Carey, but the point that there are similarities between Canadian and Australian lit has me thinking I should be looking for more. Sounds like I should start with Grenville…

    Like

  19. I remember Drylands with a particular fondness as it was one of the first books we discussed with my online bookgroup ANZLitlovers. I am ashamed to admit I have never read Austen and maybe time to give her a try along with the Camus.

    Like

  20. I read WGum’s review of an Astley novel this morning. I’ve read two of her novels already and promptly went looking for a copy of the book WG reviewed. Used copies were pricey and as for new…well… not available. Perhaps that adds to the issue of why she isn’t read as nuch as she should be.

    Like

  21. Bubba: I haven’t read Slow natives yet, though Guy has I believe. It may be one of her more “dense” ones – is that right Guy?
    Isabella: Thanks for your comments. It’s hard to say re Austen. I first read her in my teens and loved her. I think it really just depends on your reading tastes at different times but I must admit that I’ve heard this “silly” comment many times so you clearly have a point. My f2f group is divided on her!
    Guy: I think availability is a big issue for her – and for a lot of Aus. lit overseas. It’s a big enough issue for her here. Multiple effects … has, though, just been republished here as a Penguin Modern Classic, which is great as my first reading of it was of a borrowed copy.

    Like

  22. A question then, why do people find her “silly”? How do they explain it? Do they dismiss her because they believe she’s a romance author? She cracks down so hard on silliness in her books that it’s strange to see her accused of being silly herself.

    Like

  23. OK, I’ve taken A Kindness Cup off the shelf and put it on my desk to remind me to read it once I’ve finished the soon-to-be-overdue library books.

    Like

  24. Great … that was my first … I hope you are bowled over as much as I was by it. I have it here to read again – just need to find the time and, really, I should read one of hers that I haven’t read such as An item from the late news.

    Like

  25. Totally agree. I think it’s mostly the romance, and not looking behind the basic plot to see her commentary. I have also heard people say that they’re not interested in the troubles of well-to-do women! They too miss the point that most of her women are not well-to-do – and that her books tend to be about the very real challenges women face in making their way in a man’s world. Emma is a little different in being well to do BUT there’s more to that novel too isn’t there? But, maybe others will answer this differently as I’m just going by things I’ve heard.

    Like

  26. Jane Austen’s Persuasion is sitting on my shelf, and now it is calling my name after reading this. Oh I love Austen and I have only read Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility. Thank you for making me smile and giving me a push to go read your favorite (at least the current one)! ;)!

    Like

  27. LOL Farnoosh … I’m glad you added that little parenthetical phrase at the end. I look forward to hearing your opinion of Persuasion when you get to it. Marianne Dashwood is a great character too – one of my favourite JA quotes comes from her. It goes: “Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims”. So often have I pronounced on something only to discover through experience that I was wrong!

    Like

I'd love to know what you think, so please leave a comment below

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.