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 debut novelist Lezanne Clannachan.
Lezanne was born in Denmark and moved to England when she
was 14. After university, she lived in Singapore for several years before moving to London to work in marketing and event management. She is married with three children and lives in a haunted house in West Sussex.
Her novel Jellybird (which I reviewed yesterday) is published in hardcover by Orion and is out now.
If ever there was a book to remind me of the unexpected pleasure of reading outside of the genres I normally favour, it is Dark Matter. If I had known it was a ghost story — a truly terrifying one at that — I would never have picked it up. It’s not my kind of thing. But as the chosen read of my book group, I had no choice. It now ranks as one of my all time favourites.
The story follows Jack Miller on an expedition to the fringes of the Arctic in the 1930s. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He finds himself alone, struggling to retain his sanity in the perpetual night of Northern winter in a derelict trapper’s cabin where an act of extreme violence has taken place.
Paver’s rich exactness of detail, the psychology of extreme loneliness and our primeval fear of darkness create a textured, visceral atmosphere of dread. This is a ghost to be experienced with all the senses: from the round, slick head like that of a seal’s, to the disintegrating leather of its saturated clothing and the stench of the sea-bed. Paver’s language startles and goosebumps with its originality. And it’s a damn good story.
Despite being unable to read it at night or alone in the house, I slowed my usual skimming pace, holding on to the final pages word by word; perversely reluctant to leave that haunted scrap of wasteland and return to civilisation.
I stumbled on this book in my late teens, having never heard of Angela Carter but harbouring some vague notion that I loved writing and one day might attempt it myself.
Fevvers, a winged aerialist, is the star act of a circus troupe in 1899. The book opens with her being interviewed by Walser, who is determined to expose her as a fake. Instead, he falls in love and follows her to Russia and Japan as a clown. I, too, fell in love with Fevvers.
Where a lesser writer might have been tempted to imbue a winged woman with a dully angelic grace, Carter revels in her coarse and magnificent fleshiness. She devours her food, peppers her conversation with bawdy quips and unexpected literary reference, farts, sweats and traps the reader in a net of raw sexuality.
Nights at the Circus delivered me into a fantastical world of theatre and magic with a wink and ‘why not?’ shrug. It gave me permission to play with words, to string them together like beads on a necklace and discover endless variety and possibility. It is firmly embedded in the sloughing off of an old century and wide-eyed expectation of the new. I suspect I missed much of its political layering the first time I read it, so in awe as I was — and still am — of Carter’s gymnastic application of language and imagination.
A Spell of Winter follows the lives of Cathy and Rob before, during and after World War I. Their mother abandons the family home when they are children and their father dies, leaving them to grow up in a decaying mansion cut off from the rest of the world. Their sense of isolation and dependency on each other mutates into incest. It is testament to the strength of Dunmore’s writing that she delivers truths about love and loss through the vehicle of such ingrained taboo. I didn’t merely believe in their relationship, I wholeheartedly rooted for it. For me, that is the power of writing, right there.
Of the powerful symbolism in the book, I was most struck by the moving boundary between what is natural and what is man-made. When Cathy finds herself alone in the mansion, everyone else long gone, nature starts to reclaim it, room by room. And it is hidden away in forests and snow dens that the novel’s most shocking scenes take place. Cathy leads her governess, the monstrous Miss Gallagher, deep into the woods and frightens her to death with talk of ghosts. Concealed inside a rough hideout of snow and branches she and her brother first cross the line into a physical relationship. Removed from the artificial construct of society, everything returns to the basics of sex and death.
Thanks, Lezanne, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
The only one I have read is A Spell of Winter (long before I kept this blog), but I don’t remember much about the story. I do, however, remember liking it very much and thinking it was quite dark and unsettling.
What do you think of Lezanne’s choices? Have you read any of these books?