Welcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers, writers and readers 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, new authors and new bloggers.
Today’s guest is Australian writer Melanie Joosten, who lives and works in Melbourne.
Melanie holds an Honours degree in Creative Arts and a Master of Arts (Editing) from the University of Melbourne. Her first novel, Berlin Syndrome, was published in Australia last July (I read and reviewed it earlier this year).
You can follow her on Twitter @melaniejoosten.
Without further ado, here is Melanie’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:
A favourite book: The Accidental by Ali Smith
The Accidental is every thing a novel should strive to be — and a reminder of how often the opportunity is missed. Ali Smith has a way of interrogating the form and possibility of fiction and of writing. The thing I love most about her work is that her words dance and fight and loll about on the page. Smith has a great awareness of how words play together and she is constantly questioning the limits of language. She makes the most of the form of the novel — writing and novels are not just the medium she uses to tell a story, they are an integral part of it. All journey rather than destination. And she demands that the reader be involved, not just a passive recipient.
In The Accidental Smith takes an oft told story — the arrival of a stranger — and turns it into something bizarre and completely beguiling. We witness the events through the disturbingly intimate thoughts of four family members and Smith excels in her creation of four distinctive voices (particularly of the 12-year-old Astrid). So many authors appear fearful of being too clever or having too much fun — Smith embraces the possibilities.
A book that changed my world: Diary of a Good Neighbour by Doris Lessing writing as Jane Somers
I’ve spent a lot of time writing and editing (I used to work as a subeditor) and after awhile I started to feel like my experience of life was mediated by words on the page. Oddly, it was words on the page that led me to make a change. Diary of a Good Neighbour tells the story of Jane Somers, an editor of a women’s fashion magazine who meets the elderly Maudie Fowler in a pharmacy and accompanies her home. Here she finds Mrs Fowler lives in a state of squalor and ignored by a society blind to the existence of the aged.
I had already been toying with the idea of a career change when I read this book — while I knew I would always write, I wanted to do something that I found a little more meaningful and that contributed to a wider part of society, not just those who had the time and ability to read fiction. Soon after I read Diary of a Good Neighbour I started studying social work — I’ve recently finished my degree and am about to start working in community care of older people.
Doris Lessing actually published this book under the pseudonym Jane Somers, because she wanted to show how difficult it could be for new writers to get published. While her UK publisher turned down the book, her US one did not — though perhaps because they guessed her true identity. Luckily for me, almost 30 years later it didn’t prove too difficult for new writers to get published — and now I get to balance my two new careers.
A book that deserves a wider audience: The London Train by Tessa Hadley
I imagine Tessa Hadley has a wide audience in the UK, but I don’t feel she is as appreciated in Australia as she should be. I have enjoyed all of her books, particularly Accidents in the Home, and her most recent blew me away (I can’t wait to get my hands on her new collection of stories, Married Love).
The London Train is split between two stories, which at first seem unconnected but combine to show how multifaceted one person can unintentionally be. Paul is a middle-aged man living in Wales with two young daughters from his second marriage. When his first daughter drops out of school and out of contact, he seeks her out in London and slips back into her life — finding a sense of freedom he couldn’t seem to access in the confines of his marriage. The second half of the book is the story of Cora, a woman who has recently separated from her husband. And to say more would be to give it away.
Hadley writes with great beauty and subtlety. Her characters and situation are so real that the liberal, middle-class reader might even feel a little bit affronted to see themselves reflected so clearly — I certainly did!
Thanks, Melanie, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
I read and reviewed The Accidental when it first came out and was slightly puzzled by it — in fact, I couldn’t quite work out whether I loved or loathed it. And six years on, I’m none the wiser. But I’m now anxious to read the Doris Lessing novel, which has since been published under the title The Diaries of Jane Somers, because it sounds brilliant. And I’ve made a mental note to extract The London Train from my TBR.
What do you think of Melanie’s choices? Have you read any of these books?