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 Naomi Frisby, who blogs at The Writes of Woman.
Naomi grew up in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She was the first of her family to go to university, so she made the most of it and went to three! She has a BA in English Studies, a PGCE and an MA in Creative Writing.
She has lived in a variety of places across the UK but is now settled in Sheffield, where she teaches English and works as a literacy coordinator in a secondary school.
She began blogging at The Writes of Woman in January in the hope that it would make her read more books by female writers.
Without further ado, here are Naomi’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:
Prior to reading Great House I hadn’t really got on with Krauss’ work. I thought Man Walks Into a Room was implausible and clunky and The History of Love was a bit cheesy for my taste, but Great House was Krauss’ move towards becoming one of our great contemporary writers.
Essentially, Great House is the story of a desk with many drawers — a metaphor for memory. The desk is given to a woman, who spends a night with a Chilean poet who is later arrested by Pinochet’s secret police. Many years later, in London, a husband caring for his dying wife discovers a secret she has hidden from him within the desk. During this, an antiques dealer is searching for the desk, the only item missing from the recreation he has made of his father’s study, after it was plundered by the Nazis.
This is a cleverly interwoven story of many kinds of loss. It’s not an easy read, both because of its content and also because the links between the people and their stories aren’t always made clear, but I think it’s all the richer for that.
I’m not sure this book changed my world so much as it made me realise my world was valid. I was 17, studying history, music and English literature at A Level. I was the first of my family to stay on in education and an anomaly as well, because I was fascinated by the arts. My exposure to English literature had been only canonical works at this point and then Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh was published and the likes of the NME and Select were writing about it. Irvine Welsh led me to James Kelman, the master of working class writing.
The Busconductor Hines is one of those books about which people say ‘nothing happens’. That statement’s nonsense, really. Hines lives his life — he goes to work, he lives in a bedsit with his wife and small child, he realises that’s probably his lot in life. It was the first time I’d ever read anything set in the world as I recognised it, written in a voice that wasn’t standard English and was littered with profanities. It changed my world because it showed that you didn’t have to be middle class and write about middle class preoccupations in an estuary English accent.
It seems insane to be suggesting a book that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for this category but recent conversations on Twitter have revealed there are many people who haven’t heard of or read Hall and, to my mind, she’s one of our best contemporary writers.
The Electric Michaelangelo is set in the seaside towns of Morecambe Bay and Coney Island in the early part of the 20th Century. Cy Parks lives in a guesthouse in Morecambe with his mother, Reeda. It has become known that Reeda is willing to take people with TB, those who have been sent to the sea for its restorative powers. Cy helps her out until he agrees to become an apprentice to local tattoo artist, Eliot Riley. When Riley dies, Cy moves to Coney Island and sets up his own tattoo business calling himself ‘The Electric Michaelangelo’. There, amongst the freak show performers, Cy finds himself drawn to Grace, a circus performer who commissions him to cover her body in eyes.
Hall’s writing is vivid, precise and often brutal. I love that she’s not afraid to explore the darker elements of life and what draws others to them.
Thank you, Naomi, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
I’ve not read any of these, but they have all been on my radar at one point or another. In fact, The Electric Michaelangelo has been in my TBR for about five years, and the Kelman has been on my wishlist forever — I loved his Booker prize-winning How Late It Was, How Late.
What do you think of Naomi’s choices? Have you read any of these books?