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 Eleanor, who blogs at Elle Thinks.
Eleanor grew up in Virginia in the United States as the child of an English mother and an American father. She says the best parenting decision they ever made was to buy her a book every Friday, from the age of two until she left home. This explains almost everything.
As soon as possible, she moved to England, where she read English Language and Literature at Oxford University.
She has worked a series of office jobs since graduating, and up until very recently was financing the writing of her first novel by working as a waitress — she’s now working as a bookseller in Mayfair! She lives in south London with her partner, and has more books than clothes.
Without further ado, here are Elle’s choices:
This is one of the hardest questions anyone asks me, because I have a whole shelf of books I couldn’t bear to part with. One that I reach for often, and that I sink into like it’s a hot bath, is A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Quite apart from the fact that her jabs at academia are on point, her prose is so evocative of colours, textures, space, light; she’s one of those writers — particularly in this book — who always seem to describe things perfectly, whether it’s a person’s clothes or the weather.
Possession is a nested love story — two modern-day academics discover a cache of love letters between two Victorian poets — but it’s a slow burn, and the sheer richness and density of the world that Byatt evokes lifts it far above being a simple lit-thriller.
Again, there are dozens that would fit here: Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women, which completely schooled me on what I thought I knew about the slave trade and black history; Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, which made me ask questions that led me to contemporary feminism; Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems, which permanently altered my approach to writing poetry. But if we are to be completely honest, the book that changed everything was Winnie-the-Pooh. It was the first book my parents bought me, the book that kickstarted the Friday tradition, and my whole reading life starts there.
In my opinion, 2016’s most undersung book was Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back. Not only is it a thoroughly damning portrait of the service industry in the US, it’s also a sharp, scary, beautiful exploration of a very intelligent woman’s self-sabotage through sex and drugs. Completely without judgment or condemnation, Tierce shows us why our protagonist Marie does what she does, and although she is never less than realistic, she leaves us with a tiny ray of hope for Marie’s ability to grow and change. (She also writes the sex-and-drugs scenes with an economy of style that makes them simultaneously super-evocative and not wildly graphic; it’s a very good, very hard combination to pull off.)
Thanks, Eleanor, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
I read Possession a very long time ago and loved it, but, as you state, it is a slow burner and took me a long time to get in to. And who can resist Winnie-the-Pooh (although my childhood favourite was Rupert the Bear)? The Tierce has already gone on my wishlist after you wrote about it on your blog; it sounds exactly like my sort of thing.
What do you think of Eleanor’s choices? Have you read any of these books?