This week's book give-away- the draw closes on Friday 23rd October at 12pm EST. To enter, leave a comment on this post or any of our posts this week.
I thought long and hard about what book I wanted to give away as a welcome to our blog. I debated whether to choose a book that stunned me with brilliant language; an Australian literary classic; or a book that inspired and haunted me. And in the end I decided I just couldn't pick between them, so I figured I'd leave that up to you. This week, I'll offer a choice of one of three books as the prize, and you get to pick which one you want if you win.
All three books are set in World War I, and each of the three books represent three different perspectives on the war: English, Australian and German. I didn't pick any of them because they were war genre or literary fiction. Each one came to mind when I was thinking about books that have had a profound impact on my writing, and I shall elaborate on why to help you decide which one YOU will pick if your name comes out of the hat this Friday. The books are:
REGENERATION, by Pat Barker
FLY AWAY PETER, by David Malouf
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, by Erich Maria Remarque
First up: Pat Barker's REGENERATION.
The first in a trilogy that includes THE EYE IN THE DOOR and Booker Prize winner THE GHOST ROAD, REGENERATION is based on the real-life experiences of First World War British army officers being treated for shell-shock. The novel features fictionalised versions of real people, including poets Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, and asks what is madness? The soldiers who crumble under the horrific conditions of the battlefield, or the society that keeps patching them up and sending them back to the front?
The book is dryly humourous and beautifully written with an absolute economy of language and a richness of character. The characters are vivid and real, and above all else their madness is understandable. Logical, even. This book made me wonder how any survivor of war could truly come home when the world was, for them, a different place.
Next: FLY AWAY PETER, by Australian author David Malouf.
I confess that I first read this short novella as a school assignment when I was 15, but it really changed my writing life. For the first time I stopped thinking about how the First World War impacted on other countries, and started thinking about what happened in Australia. This might sound a little crazy for someone whose relatives served in both World Wars, but honestly I didn't think too much about *them* or their experiences until after I'd read FLY AWAY PETER. And then I felt I understood a great deal more about those relatives and how they must have felt.
As well as that deeper understanding, this book showed me what it was to use words as a love letter to the Australian landscape.
The novella tells the story of three people whose lives intersect before the war begins, and examines the impact of the conflict on each of them. It's full of rich and evocative language, and captures the essence of the Queensland wilderness beautifully for the first half of the story. The story is equally stunning in the second half when it follows two of the characters to the trenches of France.
Lastly, a book that will never leave me: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
The book was written by former WWI German soldier Erich Maria Remarque based on his experiences in the war, and portrays a group of teenagers from the same school class who sign up to serve in the trenches.
Seen through the eyes of one of the boys, the short novel is a dizzying ride through shooting, shelling, and every imaginable horror of the war. Almost worse than the fighting, however, is the separation the soldiers feel from their old lives when they have a chance to visit home on leave.
This story changed my reading (and writing) life. I felt so deeply for all the characters that it showed me a whole new realm of possibility for the emotional impact of a story. To put it simply, I want to be able to write a story that stays with readers the way this story has stayed with me. And one of the most interesting things about this book is that you'd never even know the characters were German if you weren't told. They're just boys.
So, there you have my three choices. Leave a comment to be in the draw, and if you feel like it, tell me- what books have influenced your writing?