I’ve decided to change my blog titling practice for my Six Degrees meme, from including the end book to not! I’ve decided it’s more fun to read the post following the connections until the end, rather than knowing the end book at the beginning? Let me know what you think. But now, the formalities. Six Degrees of Separation is a meme currently run by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). To find out more about it please click the link on her blog-name. It’s a fun meme.
Now, the book Kate chose for October is one I’ve actually read, unlike many of her other choices, but it was long before I started blogging. It’s Laura Esquivel’s Like water for chocolate. Unfortunately, I no longer have my beautiful hardback copy, having lent it to someone and never got it back, as happens sometimes in our reading lives. As always, I’ve read all the books in my chain, though not all since I started this blog.
I had fun choosing my first book. Should I go with chocolate in the title (like Chocolat), or Mexican authors (like Valeria Luiselli), or magic realism (like Gabriel Garcia Marquez), all of which or whom I’ve read? Nope! The subtitle of Esquivel’s book is “a novel in monthly installments (sic) with recipes, romance and home remedies”, so I’ve chosen another book that (like Chocolat in fact) also glorifies food and eating, Fannie Flagg’s Fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I read it before blogging, so no review to link to I’m afraid.
Food plays a shocking role at the end of Flagg’s warm Deep-South-set comedy, but I’ve decided not to go there. Instead, I’m linking on the cafe idea, and have chosen another book that I read before blogging, Marion Halligan’s The point, about a beautiful, top-class, but fictional, glass restaurant in my city, the capital of Australia. I did say I wasn’t going to follow Flagg’s shocking end, but I need to admit that there’s a murder in this book so it’s not all champagne and caviar! It deals with haves and have-nots, with insiders and outsiders (for which the glass motif works well, of course.)
And now, I’m going to get to books I’ve read since blogging. Another book which deals with insiders and outsiders is Emily Bitto’s The strays (my review). Its narrator is an outsider who is welcomed into a Victorian artists’ community as the friend of the founding artists’ children. She has her life, her expectations, her dreams turned around, until things go awry. How much it was all to her benefit is a question we ponder at the end, and that is also a relevant question for my next book …
William Lane’s The salamanders (my review) which has its origins in an artists’ colony though the book is set sometime after that colony had disbanded. However, it too explores the impact on the children of the artists. It’s a very different book to Bitto’s, however, delving into bigger issues relating to the land. Salamanders, and lizards in general, feature, both to represent the antiquity of the Australian continent and also, I think, resilience.
Regardless of the intent, this motif reminded me of the bar, cheekily called the Legless Lizard, in Thea Astley’s Drylands (my review)! It’s set in the dying town of Drylands and presents a bleak picture of Australia. Here is the quote I used in my review, describing Drylands as
a God-forgotten tree-stump of a town halfway to nowhere whose population (two hundred and seventy-four) was tucked for leisure either in the bar of the Legless Lizard or in front of television screens, videos, Internet adult movies or PlayStation games for the kiddies.
No one was reading anymore.
Drylands could be called dystopian, albeit one set in the present not the future. And that made me think of Jane Rawson’s A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists (my review). There’s no doubt about its definition as a dystopian novel, dealing as it does with the devastating effects of climate change. Coincidentally, it also has several scenes in a bar!
Well, we haven’t travelled far once leaving the Americas – besides returning there briefly in Rawson’s book – but we have spent quite a bit of time in kitchens and bars. What does that tell you about me?
Have you read Like water for chocolate? And whether or not you have, what would you link to?