Triple Choice Tuesday: Maxine Clarke

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 Maxine Clarke from Petrona, a blog that focuses mainly on crime fiction, with “occasional forays into books in other areas, publishing, science, the web and more”.

I’ve been following Maxine’s blog for four or five years now. In fact,
several years ago we met up and had a meal and glass or two of wine together. These days we tend to keep in contact via our blogs and email.

Maxine is an editor at Nature, so we share an interest in journalism and publishing, but we also have a mutual appreciation of crime fiction. Indeed, I largely hold Maxine responsible for my discovery of Scandinavian crime, specifically Arnaldur Indriðason, and whenever I’m in need of some inspiration, in terms of new titles and new authors to try, Petrona is the first blog to which I turn.

Here’s Maxine’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:


Pride-and-prejudice A favourite book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Like many people, Jane Austen is a favourite author of mine. I was lucky enough not to be assigned any of her novels to read while I was at school, as at that time I would not have appreciated the subtle, domestic plots – I was more of a Dickens and Arnold Bennett fan in those days.

I first read Austen when I was in my late teens/early twenties and instantly loved her. I enjoyed Emma, in particular, so much that I immediately bought a book of literary criticism of that novel and ploughed through that.

Since then, I have re-read Austen’s novels several times, perhaps once every 10 years or so. I have also seen numerous film adaptations, some of which I have enjoyed very much.

Which is my favourite Jane Austen novel? Well, it changes – I think at the moment it is Pride and Prejudice, but when I next re-read one of her books it will probably be that title! I have to admit that I really like her romantic heroes, though I have never actually met anyone like one of them.

ChildinTime A book that changed my world: The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

I had discovered Ian McEwan a few years before this book was published, via his short stories, which at the time stood out for being on topics that aren’t (or weren’t, then) usually addressed in “literature” but were superbly written, hence standing head and shoulders above everything else of that ilk.

McEwan’s first novel, The Cement Garden, was on similar themes to his short stories. When The Child in Time was published in 1987, I was living in Camden (north London) and remember going into the bookshop by the tube station and buying the hardback – something I practically never did (and still practically never do!)

The book turned out to be a mature work, with a shocking beginning in which a father loses his young child while out shopping. The book is not only about how this incident affects the man’s subsequent life, but is also about science. McEwan (as has been amply shown in his subsequent creative output) is not only fascinated by science but also seeks to engage with it in a way that, in my experience, is very rare. He does not do what many attempt to do, and explain a concept, nor does he take a pretentious and condescending approach as I’ve seen other authors do who weave science into their novels. Here, McEwan is interested in time from many perspectives (including, but not only, scientific ones) and these perspectives form part of this excellent novel.

This novel marked a turning-point for the author: I have read all his subsequent books (some of which I have enjoyed more than others, but they are all beautifully written and observed), and if I had to say who is my favourite living novelist, Ian McEwan would be my choice.

When I read The Child in Time, I had no children, so had to imagine what the central character was feeling on the basis of no experience. I made a resolution to myself that I would re-read the book one day after I had had children (if I ever did). I will certainly keep that resolution.

MissSmilla A book that deserves a wider audience: Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg

These days I read mostly crime fiction for reasons I won’t dwell on here. Back in the early 1990s, I read much more widely – including many highbrow novels, classic and modern, which have long since faded from memory. One novel, however, sticks in my mind from that time, and I still have it, waiting to be re-read one day. The book is Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg.

This novel is widely held to be the “parent” of the current popularity of translated crime fiction. One can certainly thank Christopher MacLehose for publishing the first English-language translation, beautifully done from the Danish by Felicity David (Tiina Nunnally).

I loved the novel as soon as I started reading it, because of the heady mix of a compelling mystery that grabs you from the first page; and a mesmerising central character, Miss Smilla, who as a Greenlander is a fish out of water in metropolitan Copenhagen. She’s a fantastic and fascinating character, stubbornly encountering trouble and conflict in all aspects of her life – her relationship with her father is memorable.

The book is simply marvellous and original – for about the first three-quarters. Unfortunately, it totally falls to pieces at the end with a pseudo-science, hokum-ridden, ‘thriller’ finale. Nevertheless, the first (main) part is just so good that I’d recommend the novel to anyone — especially if you have become interested in translated crime-fiction as a result of the current vogue for Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell (both authors also discovered for an English-reading audience by the same publisher, Christopher MacLehose).

I have not seen the film based on Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (which apparently wasn’t very good, called Smilla’s Sense of Snow, completely missing the haunting charm of the UK book title), nor have I enjoyed the author’s subsequent books. His second novel I read but thought quite weak, and I gave up on the one after that. Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, first published in the UK in 1993, is an original, compelling and absorbing novel.

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

As I’ve recently admitted, I’ve not read any Austen. I’m not sure I can put it off any longer! I have, however, read a few McEwan novels, but not The Child in Time, and I’ve had Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow in my TBR for about 10 years. I’ve always put off reading it because I saw the film, which starts off well and then turns into some kind of preposterous, over-the-top thriller, and I figured the book might be more of the same…

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

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16 thoughts on “Triple Choice Tuesday: Maxine Clarke

  1. I believe the Canadian title of the book is simply Smilla’s Sense of Snow, same as the movie. I can’t verify though as I lent my copy to my Mother. I had no idea that it was made into a movie, and am disappointed to hear his subsequent works weren’t as good as I just got one in the mail last week. I really loved Smilla’s Sense of Snow, though I agree, the ending really didn’t match up to the rest of the book.

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  2. I’ve read The Child in Time, and agree entirely with Maxine – a very powerful book that has stood the test of time. (I didn’t read it myself till last year.)

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  3. I second the recommendation for Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow. I may have liked it extra because I read it while I was in Greenland, but I think I would have liked it anywhere. And yes, the film was rather forgettable.

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  4. Yes, the US/Canadian title is “Smilla’s sense of Snow” but I do prefer the UK title. Seems as if I was wise not to see the film!
    Thanks for posting my choices, Kim. I hope to be reading Solar (Ian McEwan’s latest) soon. I hope you enjoy Austen, when you get around to trying one.

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  5. Thanks for taking part, Maxine. I know it can be tough making these choices… not sure I could do it myself. But I love seeing what you chose.

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  6. I read my first Austen (Pride and Prejudice – surprise, surprise) this year, and enjoyed it. Loved the language, the dialogue and while I wasn’t the biggest fan of the story, I loved the book. That does sound contradictory, doesn’t it? Just that the book had a certain charm to it, which made me feel almost happy while reading it.
    I’ve read a fair bit of McEwan (my favourite being The Cement Garden), and have Child In Time on my TBR. Hoping to get ’round to it sooner rather than later.

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  7. Yes, the American title was too. We had quite a discussion about it on the internet bookgroup I was in at the time. The Australian title was the same as the UK title, and I argued at the time that it had more charm and subtlety about it.

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  8. Fascinating choices Maxine. I would of course agree with anyone who chose Austen as a favourite – and, anothercookiecrumbles, that says something about the writing if you liked the book even if you didn’t love the story. Good for you I say!
    McEwan is one of my favourite contemporary writers though I haven’t read that one. You have caught my fancy. I have one of his early ones here – and I think it might be that one.
    I agree with you about Smilla – it was great until the end. In fact, I think it is one of those ones where I almost liked the film better because it seemed to not dwell so much on the end the way the book does.

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  9. Great choices and thanks for reminding me that I must re-read the McEwan – it was the first of his that I read. I agree re Miss Smila, I loved it until it slid into formula thriller mode in the last sections, but I would like to re-read it years on.

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  10. Thank you, all, for your comments on my choices. I was a bit intimidated by Kim’s request to contribute, as my reading these days is not very highbrow. It is very kind of everyone to comment so positively, and I hope that anyone who has not read some of these books, enjoys them when they do.

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  11. I’m a big fan of Ms Austen too though like Maxine my favourite book of hers changes regularly. I haven’t read that particular McEwan book but I shall. And yes I do agree that Ms Smilla is a great 3/4 of a book – shame about the ending.

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  12. I’ve not read Child in Time — it’s one of the McEwan titles I have still to look forward to. I also really like the way he treats science — it’s nice not to be talked down to..

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  13. Apologies to K and Maxine for being lamentably late to the party. The other splendid commenters have done the job for me; just wanted to check in and say how thrilled I was to see Peter Hoegh’s novel getting its due. Began reading it when it was first published. My Danish wasn’t up to it so waited for the translation, and wasn’t disappointed. Yes, as Gaskella notes, it does tend to degenerate a bit into state of slightly muddled thrillerdom towards the end. But it’s still a terrific and terrifically unusual novel. Who else has put Greenland on the map ;-)?

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