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 Kirsten Krauth.
Kirsten writes literary criticism for The Age and The Australian, edits the NSW Writers’ Centre magazine Newswrite, and is a regular contributor to ABC Arts Online. She blogs at Wild Colonial Girl and hangs out on Twitter @wldcolonialgirl.
Her first novel, just_a_girl, was published to critical and popular acclaim last year (I reviewed it on Sunday). She is just about to embark on her second novel.
Without further ado, here are Kirsten’s choices:
When I first read Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I was excited by its narrative audacity. Murakami’s writing is playful, often surreal, yet curiously grounded. It moves from whimsy to extreme violence, flying in all directions. It taught me that a writer could play with boundaries, cross over, that mixing gritty realism and magical realism could work.
As a reader I like to be challenged. Murakami takes me on a wild ride where I am never sure where I’m going to end up. I loved this book so much I had two characters in my novel reading it on the train, and its influence on my own writing is there too, in terms of the directions my characters take at times. I went on to read as many of Murakami’s books as I could lay my hands on, but Wind-Up Bird remains the favourite.
This book changed my ideas about characterisation in a novel, but also about motherhood. Shriver lured me into a perspective that I later realised was seductive, but not necessarily to be relied upon. In this book, I’m never sure who to trust, whose side to be on. Is it fair to blame a child for his terrible behavior? Is it really possible for a child to be born evil? Does a mother ever have a right to hate her child? At what point is she absolved of responsibility? And where does the father come into it? Her novel ultimately doesn’t answer any of those questions but it starts off many conversations.
The book is brilliantly written. It taught me a lot about drawing readers into a character’s inner world — and how almost anything can be justified in fiction, if that inner world rings true with the reader. The book stayed with me for months after I read it, and made me question my own role as a mother, and my expectations of a life with children too.
There are so many! But seeing as we’re celebrating Australian and NZ writing this month, I’m a big admirer of the work of Emily Maguire. She has written a number of confronting and memorable novels (I especially like her debut, Taming the Beast) but her latest, Fishing for Tigers, is set in Vietnam. It explores the Oz expat community living there, but focuses on an older woman who has an affair with a younger Australian-Vietnamese man visiting with his dad.
All kinds of complex dynamics unfold as the book explores identity (where do we truly belong?), sexuality (how do our desires change as we get older?) and travelling (how do we immerse ourselves in a new culture, and what does it reveal about us?). Maguire’s writing is bold, compassionate and beautifully structured, and with each book I see her develop as a writer, always an exciting thing.
Thank you, Kirsten, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
Some great books here! I’m a Murakami virgin but have amassed quite a few of his titles in my TBR, so perhaps it’s time for me to pluck The Wind Up Bird Chronicle from my shelf? I, too, loved We Need to Talk About Kevin — I found it such a profound read I couldn’t review it, but it’s a book that has stayed with me ever since. And thanks for bringing Emily Maguire to our attention: Fishing for Tigers sounds fabulous.
What do you think of Kirsten’s choices? Have you read any of these books?