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 Hayley from Desperate Reader.
Hayley began blogging in 2009 during a period of relative unemployment which gave her plenty of time to read and distract herself from the every day. “Working full-time hasn’t removed the need for distraction,” she says. “When not reading books, looking for books, or writing about books I’m generally either selling wine and whisky, or cooking. All these things are almost obsessions.”
Without further ado, here are Hayley’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:
Choosing one favourite is no easy task, even choosing a favourite by Alice Thomas Ellis was a challenge, but I’ve gone with Fairy Tale. Ellis is currently out of print and presumably out of fashion, which is a shame because she’s a brilliant storyteller if you like things with a pitch-black sense of humour, fantastic edge, and backed by an uncompromising intelligence.
In Fairy Tale a young couple have run away to the country to live a sort of good life, but what they find is something ancient and not altogether friendly. It’s an unsettling book in that it constantly challenged my complacency over, well, all sorts of things really. I think Ellis (not her real name — she was Anna Haycraft) is so good because she does make you question the whole time. She demands intelligence from her reader, not by being difficult to read (unless you object to her subject matter or attitudes) but by being provocative. I love her, and never more than here where she’s wicked in a way that would give Angela Carter a run for her money.
I guess like most enthusiastic readers I can easily measure my life in books. There are so many of them that mark times and places, or have reconciled me to change, sometimes even encouraged me to change — but this one is quite personal. Most of Molly Keane’s books are still in print with Virago — which is how I discovered them almost 20 years ago. This was the writer who made me look for apples and green spines and who set the pattern of my reading ever after, which would have been enough to qualify her for world changing, but there’s more.
My grandfather married into an Anglo Irish family, so I knew when I picked up my first Keane that she was writing about a world he would have known well. It was while I was reading Conversation Piece that I had to put him up for a night. When he saw the book he was delighted — he used to dance with Molly and had known her reasonably well. It was a bridge between us, and made a world of difference to my view of him — he became a person rather than a grandfather (to be held in awe and who felt strongly that children should be seen but not heard).
Conversation Piece isn’t as dark as Keane’s later books but she excelled in writing about difficult family relationships and unflinching portrayals of her tribe from the beginning, all of which I find immensely satisfying (though not always comfortable).
Naturally all my choices deserve the widest possible audience because they’re all brilliant, but I would really like to see Freidrich Christian Delius’ Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman much more widely appreciated. It’s a book that would have been all but impossible to imagine a decade ago and as such represents something really important. It’s also beautiful: a young German woman walks through Rome during the war, heavily pregnant and preoccupied by thoughts of her husband somewhere on a frontline. She wants him with her, wants to be somewhere that feels like home, and wants to quell the increasingly unpatriotic thoughts she’s having about the war. Most importantly, she isn’t the enemy, and nothing matters more to her than her growing family. It’s a short book and there’s no excuse not to read it.
Thanks, Hayley, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
Some really interesting choices here. Not heard of Alice Thomas Ellis but I love black comedy and intelligent storytelling, so it sounds like I need to hunt out a copy pronto. Ditto for Molly Keane, whom I love. (And I love that Hayley’s grandfather knew her!) I also second Hayley’s choice of Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman — I read it when it first came out and was privileged to host an evening with the author back in 2010. It’s a truly wonderful, thought-provoking and eloquent novella.
What do you think of Hayley’s choices? Have you read any of these books?