Triple Choice Tuesday: Word by Word

Triple-Choice-TuesdayWelcome 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 WingsA favourite book: Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres

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.

The-rape-of-the-lockA book that changed my world: The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope

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.

HummingbirdA book that deserves a wider audience: Hummingbird by James George

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?

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18 thoughts on “Triple Choice Tuesday: Word by Word

  1. I have just finished Birds Without Wings and can thoroughly recommend it. Beautifully written and very engaging. Hummingbird is going onto my Wish List

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Birds Without Wings is one of those books that has remained deeply embedded in my mind many years after I read it. It is a fine example of the way magic realism can be used to tell a story of great historical significance and create lasting images. I learned so much about that period of history.

    More recently I was reminded of this book when I read Khushwant Singh’s 1956 novel Train to Pakistan which recounts the forced the much bloodier aftermath of the partition of India and Pakistan in which towns where Muslims and Hindus had co-existed in their own peaceful manner were torn apart by forced relocation to lands they had no connection with. Seems that same pattern keeps repeating itself.

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  3. Hummingbird sounds fascinating – never heard of it before but I will be looking it up. I did read ‘Birds Without Wings’ back in 2005 – maybe I read it at the wrong time (I recall it took me over a month to get through) but I found it rather dull, certainly compared to ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ which I devoured in the space of maybe two days. I did however learn a lot from it about that region and period of history.

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    • I do hope you check out Hummingbird. I’m sorry you didn’t engage so well with Birds Without Wings, I remember when it came out, it was the first book Louis de Bernieres had published for 10 years and it caused quite a sensation since it followed Captain Corelli. I recall too that for me it was so much more of an epic cultural tale that I wasn’t expecting but was so delighted to be reading. No wonder it took him 10 years to finish it. I hope he has more of this kind of considered work in him, he is a wonderful storyteller.

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  4. Absolutely agree with you about Birds Without Wings, Claire. It taught me a great deal about Turkey, all wrapped up in an engrossing piece of storytelling. Hummingbird sounds excellent. Definitely one for the list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So great to learn from like minded readers of today that we might have been sharing similar opinions 10 years ago when Birds Without Wings came out. Thanks for adding Hummingbird to your list, one of those lights hovering under a bushel. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ll join the chorus, I think Bird Without Wings is a brilliant book. I’ve always like the way de Bernieres shows how it’s the little people who are most cruelly affected by the actions of great nations and I think he surpassed himself with this book.
    PS It’s nice to learn more about Claire because she’s generous with comments on my blog too:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lisa, I love what you say about Birds Without Wings and de Bernieres ability to let the smallest voices speak and show the real impact on people. Thanks for the compliment, always a pleasure to visit your writing space and learn something new or chat about something shared.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Triple Choice Tuesday: Word by Word | Word by Word

  7. What a wonderful insight and well articulated explaination for why these are three of Claire’s favourite books! Not only why she feels a personal passion for the books but I like her thoughts about what reading means to her. I haven’t read any of these three books – I only read some Pope at university but never a full book. I’ve noted down all three to read given her high regard for them.

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    • Thanks Eric, it was a pleasure to write about these books in a different way to a normal review as they encapsulate looking back over the years and seeing what still resonated and remembering those light bulb moments and that ecstasy of discovery in a new form of literature.

      I don’t know if we always receive the same feeling when we meet them again later on, but I think something of that magic lingers, as I discovered when I reread Martin Booth’s The Industry of Souls last year, another of my favourites; I decided to reread it to see if I still felt that way about it. I know that you have books like this, as I persevere with Virginia Woolf’s The Waves on account of knowing thanks to you that there is more to the work than what’s discovered through a superficial first encounter. 🙂

      I certainly hope that my choices provide something to other readers as well, thank you Eric for your kind words, that serve to uplift my own from inner ramblings to something of merit 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a wonderful theme, and a marvellous guest blog post! I might even be persuaded to give Pope’s RotL a read. Your theme has set me thinking – hmmm. I’ve read thousands of books (literally) but have any of them been life changing? I’m not sure. More thought required.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I haven’t read any of these – in fact I’ve only heard of the first one. Hummingbird sounds like the sort of book I’d love. Thanks for drawing it to my attention!

    Liked by 1 person

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