Another month, another Six Degrees of Separation meme. My how quickly the months are passing! The meme is, as most of you know by now, currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Each month she nominates a book from which we try to create a chain of seven books, linking one from the other on whatever excuse, flimsy or otherwise that we can come up with. And, guess what, this month I have actually read the nominated book, Christos Tsiolkas’ The slap (my review). As always, I have read all the books I select for my chain.
Tsiolkas’ The slap is about an extended family, of migrant background, and friends, living in suburban Melbourne. Its author, Tsiolkas, is Australian-born of Greek immigrant parents. This reminded me of Hanif Kureishi’s The buddha of suburbia (my review) to which I admit I’ve linked in this meme before. Kureishi is English-born of a Pakistani father and English mother, and his book is about the life of a multicultural family in a London suburbs. More satirical than Tsiolkas’ The slap, and more closely focused on the challenges of race and ethnicity, but both reflect the experience of immigrant generations in the ‘burbs.
Linking now on content more than author similarity, The buddha of suburbia’s exploration of multiculturalism took me back to Australia and Madeleine St John’s The women in black (my review). It is set in the ladies fashion section of a classy department store in the 1950s, a time when the post-war influx of European refugees saw Australian society challenged by new foods not to mention new values and attitudes to life and family.
My next link draws on multiple aspects – content, location and period. I’m talking Mena Calthorpe’s The dyehouse (my review) which is also set in 1950s Sydney, and which, like The women in black, deals with the lives of workers in one business. However, Mena Calthorpe’s intention is more strongly focused on labour conditions. Her business is the textile industry, a dyehouse, and she exposes how workers are poorly cared for, poorly paid, and have little power to do anything about it. Towards the end of the novel, though, there are intimations of the workers starting to organise.
Wendy Scarfe’s Hunger town (my review) is set a little earlier, from the mid 1920s to late 1934, in Adelaide’s port district. It tells of the struggles of wharf labourers to survive as unemployment and hunger took hold. It explores the ensuing political unrest and the growing attraction of leftist political ideologies like communism and anarchism, alongside unionism, in such a volatile environment. It is also, like the books by St John and Calthorpe, historical fiction.
And so, my next link is on form (genre) rather than content. I’m going to change country and era, and pop over to early 19th century England in Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable creatures (my review). You’ll realise soon why I’ve chosen this particular piece of historical fiction, but first a little about its content. It tells the story of two women who were fossil hunters in Lyme Regis in the first half of the nineteenth century: Mary Anning (1799-1847), a poor working class woman whose fossil finds helped change the course of paleontology, and Elizabeth Philpot (1780-1857), a gentlewoman who befriended Anning and who was particularly interested in fossil fish.
And now, for the first time since I started doing this meme, I get to link to one of my very favourite authors, Jane Austen (1775-1817). I could link to any of her books because they are all set in early 19th century England, and I’d love to link to one I’ve reviewed here. However, I’m choosing one that I haven’t posted on yet, Persuasion, though I expect to write on it later this year. If you know your Austen, you’ll know why I’ve chosen this one: she set a critical scene in Lyme Regis for that novel. In fact, the Lyme Regis connection is the main reason I read Remarkable creatures.
And so, I started with an unruly, messy family in The slap and ended with another one, albeit of a different sort, in Persuasion. In between we went to England, back to Australia, before returning to England again. We must travel elsewhere next month!
Have you read The slap? And whether or not you have, what would you link to?