As you are sure to know by now, I am becoming rather addicted to the Six Degrees of Separation meme currently run by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Please click on the link if you want to find out more about this meme, because I’m moving on with my selections! Our starting book this month is Jung Chang’s three generation biography-autobiography, Wild swans. This book is on my TBR. I missed it when my reading group did it, because I was living in the USA at the time, and I always meant to rectify that …
Now, I could link to a book my reading group did while I was away that I did read, but instead I’m going to choose a book that I read instead of books they were reading (even though, unfortunately, it was way before blogging so I have no review to link to). I’m choosing it because it was such an eye-opener for me, and I love to recommend it whenever I get the chance – and, it is set in Asia, albeit Japan, not China. The book is Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Makioka sisters, and is set in Osaka between the mid 1930s and 1941. It’s about a wealthy Osaka-based family and its attempts to marry off the third sister.
This is the book that introduced me in a big way to Japanese literature, a major contemporary exponent of which is Haruki Murakami. I’ve read a few of his books, but not many since I started blogging. One, though, that I have reviewed is his collection of short stories, Blind willow, sleeping women (my review). If you’ve never read Murakami, these short stories – 24 of them in fact – would provide an excellent introduction to his somewhat strange but fascinating world view.
My next link is to another collection of short stories, but to make the link a bit meaningful, I’m choosing a collection by a Japanese-born English writer – Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes: Five stories of music and nightfall (my review). These five stories touch the theme of music in some way. They also feature a typical Ishiguro device, the unreliable narrator (or at least a narrator who is not completely across what is going on in the story s/he is telling.
Now, many writers, talk about being inspired by music, but the one I’m going to link to here is our wonderful late poet Dorothy Porter, and her little book On passion (my review). Porter dates her passion for music back to her introduction to the Beatles in 1964. She writes that she has written “virtually all [her] poems to rock riffs and rhythm – the catchier, the darker, the louder, the gutsier the better.”
Porter died too young, from breast cancer at the age of 54. We Aussies have lost a few of our favourite women writers, too young, in recent years. Another is Gillian Mears, who suffered from multiple sclerosis for nearly two decades before dying last year at the age of 51. I have reviewed her Foals bread here. It’s a novel about a passion in fact, the passion for the sport of horse high jumping. I loved the way Mears conveyed that passion through her characters Noah and Roley.
And now for my final link, I’m going to return to my reading group. Gillian Mears was one of several Australian women writers we discovered in the year of our formation, 1988. Many of them, though not Mears, we found in the anthology, Room to move, which was our first book. It had stories by Glenda Adams, Thea Astley, Kate Grenville, Helen Garner, Elizabeth Jolley, and many others, including Carmel Bird. It is her latest novel, Family skeleton (my review) that I’m going to use for my last link. Family skeleton seems the perfect book to end a chain that started with a book about three generations of women. I’m sure Chang dealt with a skeleton or two!
So there you have it … we started with one sort of family in China, then visited Japan and England, before coming to Australia and ending with a different sort of family.
Have you read Wild swans? And whether or not you have, what would you link to?