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 Sarah, who blogs at A Fiction Habit.
Sarah started blogging in 2012 to record her thoughts on the various books she read when she was a stay-at-home mother. When she returned to work in 2013 as an HR manager for a large IT consulting business she found it difficult to blog as much, but it hasn’t stopped her reading.
“My reading preferences are varied,” she explains. “But I like off-beat, non-mainstream titles and translated fiction. There’s a stubbornness about me that steers clear of best sellers — I’m probably missing something because of it!”
While Sarah says reading is an essential form of escape for her, she also does a lot of cycling, some running and a bit of swimming. She also likes drinking gin — and has a collection from 14 different distillers.
She lives in Surrey with her husband and two children, aged 13 and 11.
Without further ado, here are Sarah’s choices:
A favourite book: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
If you ask my husband to name his favourite book he will almost certainly tell you it is the last book he read. This is indicative of the volume he reads rather than an indecisive nature. It’s not a bad answer when you think of it, after all a favourite anything is dependant upon your reason for and mood at the time of digesting it. In that case, I have several favourites; classics; contemporary; whole backlists of some authors. There are many books dear to me.
If you really pushed me for an answer I’d reluctantly tell you how much I enjoy Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (actually, I rate the slightly shorter Youth just as highly, but I think this is regarded as a short story, so not sure it really counts here). There are a few things I admire about this compact tale of a journey into the jungle of Congo. I love the framing of the narrative; told by the protagonist to a rapt audience years after the event, there is a feeling of anticipation mirrored in the journey itself. There’s a wistfulness as the memory reveals the tale yet a feeling of wanting to forget the awful events. Conrad’s description of the horrors of the journey and what the characters find is astonishing, more so when you consider he wrote in his third choice language.
A book that changed my world: Regeneration by Pat Barker
Countless books have sent me on literary oddyssies; the post-apocolyptic teen novel that sent me back to the library week after week to seek out more of the same; the cold-war fiction on my parents’ shelves that kept me entertained through drizzly school holidays as I worked my way through the bookcase; Animal Farm, which I read at school and made me realise literature didn’t have to be literal to put across its point.
I’ve thought about this quite hard. The book that changed my reading world was Regeneration by Pat Barker, the fictional account of a psychiatrist treating First World War soldiers for shell shock. Amongst his patients are poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. I read it shortly after its publication and having never studied war literature at school, it sent me on a journey of discovery that took in poetry, fiction and memoir — most moving amongst these being Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. Regeneration energised me to read around and explore this subject to the enrichment of my reading life and as a human being.
A book that deserves a wider audience: Trumpet by Jackie Kay
On balance, although all three deserve a wider audience; I’ve gone for Trumpet by Jackie Kay. This is the story of the life and death of fictional jazz artist Joss Moody told from the perspective of his friends and family. It focuses on the revelation of his secret only coming to light after his death. It is a book about race, gender and national identity all wrapped in a beautiful jazz-like prose.
Written almost 20 years ago, I was in my mid-20s when I first read it and it was a real eye opener; I’d read nothing like it in terms of the themes. It was a literary moment of discovery and made me realise that not everything you see is as it seems and assumption is a tricky road to travel down. You can also tell Jackie Kay is a poet when you read her fiction. Her words are well thought through, sequenced and ordered until you are left in no doubt of her talent. Definitely deserving of a wider audience; still totally relevant 20 years on.
Thanks, Sarah, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
Some great choices here: I loved Heart of Darkness when I read it in my early 20s; one day I will get around to reading the Regeneration trilogy (it’s been on my wishlist for an embarrassingly long time); and Trumpet, which is a new name for me, sounds amazing, and slightly reminiscent of Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues, a story that I loved.
What do you think of Sarah’s choices? Have you read any of these books?