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 Claire McAlpine, who blogs at Word by Word.
Claire is a New Zealander who lives in Aix en Provence, France with her two children.
Before moving to France almost a decade ago, she worked in marketing in Auckland and London. She now teaches English to French adults, run an aromatherapy practice and loves to read and write. In the past she has worked in a shearing gang, on a tall ship, served British Ministers lunch, organised travel exhibitions in London, Berlin and Dubai, been a bridesmaid at an African wedding in Lagos and travelled to more than 30 countries.
Claire started to write book reviews at Word by Word when the busyness of life threatened to overwhelm her writing. “The blog is my way of never giving up doing what I am passionate about and I expect it to continue to evolve in the future,” she says. “I love to learn about other cultures and their way of life, so I tend to read fiction told from another cultural perspective and/or translated fiction. I also love nature writing, creative non-fiction, memoir and prose poetry.”
Without further ado, here are Claire’s choices:
Birds Without Wings is one of my all time favourite books because it manages to be almost everything I love about reading in one big fat engaging book. It is beautifully written, which for me means that the author knows how to stimulate the reader’s imagination to see what they see around them and can facilitate the reader understanding a character with depth. It also means we travel somewhere unlike anywhere I have ever lived, it means we meet people who have lived different lives, experienced a different culture and may have similar or different expectations. And sometimes it means I learn a little about a period of history I wasn’t so well informed of previously. Above all, it tells a great and captivating story I will never forget.
Birds Without Wings does it all, it takes us to a small village in southwest Anatolia in the dying days of the Ottoman empire. They all speak Turkish, but write using Greek letters; Christians marry Muslims, their lives are intertwined and richer for it. We are introduced to childhood friends of different religions, and what gradually unfolds is a heart-breaking story of people forced apart by external forces due to boundaries that exist in the mind, a separation of people who had peacefully coexisted, further enhancing their differences, turning them away from each other, in the name of progress.
This book awakened my consciousness to literature and language as worlds and devices, things that hide mysteries that if we stay with them long enough will unravel and reveal their secrets.
I read Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock when I was 17 and totally fell in love with prose poetry. It is a book of rhyming couplets that narrates the story of a man who dares to take a lock of hair from a beautiful maiden. I couldn’t understand why some of my schoolmates found it a chore to read. That year we also read Death of a Salesman and I remember for the final exams saying that I was definitely going to choose poetry, thus armed with a ton of rhyming couplets, I’ve rarely enjoyed an exam question as much ever. Pure pleasure.
It changed my world because it was at that point that I realised how important reading and literature and written expression was to me. Although I knew I wouldn’t be able to study it at university (there was a lot of pressure to study something practical that would lead to a job), I vowed to myself then that when I reached 40 I would return to literature. Last year reading Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin reminded me again of this wonderful experience.
I knew I had to read Hummingbird when I sat in the audience at a reading here in Aix, listening to James George read a few passages from his novel. He was reading alongside three well-known New Zealand writers, however it was his words alone that rose up, crossed the room and whispered a promise of the kind of reading journey I am always seeking yet rarely find.
The story unfolds where sand, sea and sky come together, with the random meeting of three strangers of Maori descent, at a rundown campsite on the isolated and far reaching Ninety Mile Beach: Jordan, a tattooed young man recently released from prison living in an abandoned boat; Kataraina, a former prostitute, on her way home after living in Sydney; and Kingi, a Battle of Britain war veteran, acting on a promise made in Crete more than 50 years ago. We learn about their individual histories, how they think and see them respond to the ensuing drama. The book is rich in imagery, nuanced in character and incredibly moving in portraying the psychological journey these three must traverse to move on with their lives.
Thanks, Claire, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
It’s rare that anyone nominates three books I’ve never heard of in this slot, but you have done it — and I’m intrigued by them all, especially Hummingbird, which sounds like quite my thing.
What do you think of Claire’s choices? Have you read any of these books?