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Six degrees of separation, FROM The Poisonwood Bible TO …

May 5, 2018

May is the last month of autumn for us in the Southern hemisphere, and what an autumn it’s been. So warm. I shouldn’t be pleased, however, because the cause is worrying … so, let’s get on to something uncontroversial and non-worrying – our Six Degrees of Separation meme. It’s currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Please click the link on her blog-name for her explanation of how it works. Meanwhile, this month’s meme is  Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, which, woo hoo, I’ve read, along with all the linked books.

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood BibleLike last month’s Memoirs of a geisha, I’m guessing most readers, except millennials perhaps, will have read this 1998 book. It was Kingsolver’s fourth novel, and made quite a splash. It’s about a family of missionaries who go to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

Claire G Coleman, Terra nulliusNow, I’ve read several novels about missions and missionaries, and most of them critical. The most recent one is, and if you’re Australian you’ve probably guessed it, is Claire G. Coleman’s Terra nullius (my review). It’s a debut, dystopian novel by an indigenous Australian author, and aims to encourage Australians to understand what being invaded means.

Jane Rawson, A wrong turn at the office of unmade listsAnother dystopian novel wanting us to understand “something”, is Jane Rawson’s A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists (my review). (I still love this title!) The something she’s warning us about – is the something I alluded to in my opening paragraph – climate change. It’s a great read – serious but with a touch of humour too. But, time now to move on to the next link, which is …

Sara Dowse SchemetimeCalifornia! California because Rawson’s novel is partly set in San Francisco, 1997 San Francisco in fact, to which a couple of 2030 Melbourne Aussies go. Another book in which an Aussie or two go to California is Sara Dowse’s Schemetime (my review), though her characters are involved in the film industry and they go to the Los Angeles area in the 1960s.

Dorothy Johnston, Through a camel's eyeSo, where next? Well, Sara Dowse was a member of Canberra’s famous Seven Writers, and so were a couple of other writers who have appeared here, Marion Halligan and Dorothy Johnston. As Halligan has appeared in my Six Degrees a couple of times already, and Johnston hasn’t, I’m going to share it around and choose her new coastal-Victoria-based detective series, which started with Through a camel’s eye (my review).

Jamil Ahmad Wandering falcon coverAnd now, because, after starting in Africa, we’ve only been to Australia and the USA, I’m going to take us somewhere completely different, to a perfect setting for camels, Pakistan/Afghanistan/Iran. Jamil Ahmad’s debut novel, The wandering falcon (my review) comprises nine stories, the third of which is titled “The death of camels”. This novel explores what happens when political borders are plonked down without regard to people and how they live in a land.

Yan Lianke's Dream of Ding Village

Now, I read Ahmad’s book as part of the 2011 Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize team, so I’m going to end on another memorable book I read for this project, Yan Lianke’s Dreams of Ding village (my review). Set in China, it was inspired by the plasma economy that developed in Henan Province in the early 1990s. It was an engrossing book, and I’d love to read more Lianke.

Well, I’m thrilled that this month we not only managed to keep our travels up, but I also kept the word count down! I fear I’ve become too wordy in my Six Degrees of late. Interestingly, unlike last month, which was historical fiction heavy, this month we dipped our toes into the future a couple of times. The gender balance, though, has been the same, two male authors amongst our six.

What will Kate suggest for June?

And now, my usual question: Have you read The Poisonwood Bible? And regardless, what would you link to? 

35 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2018 1:44 pm

    Those Man Asian shortlist books were great, I sort-of miss doing those Shadow Juries (but not the pressure). I like your Aussie choices too, though I’ve only read the first two.
    Here’s mine: https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/05/05/six-degrees-of-separation-from-the-poisonwood-bible-to/

    • May 5, 2018 2:01 pm

      Exactly, Lisa, I agree. That prize in particular was great to do – the books have mostly stuck with me – but the pressure spoils it.

  2. May 5, 2018 4:17 pm

    I have read The Poisonwood Bible but I haven’t read any of the books in your chain. Some of them look ‘heavy’ reading. Jane Rawson’s book tempts me the most.

    I think I should try to make my chains less wordy too – I’ll try that next month.

    • May 5, 2018 9:57 pm

      Thanks Margaret. Rawson’s book is great. It’s probably true that I gravitate to “heavier” books by some reader’s standards. This is because I feel if I am going to commit significant time to reading then I want it to be worth it. (TV provides me with my light entertainment!)

      Re wordiness. I am trying to be a bit less wordy all round this year – thought I’m not sure I’m making great progress.

  3. May 5, 2018 4:47 pm

    Apart from the Poisonwood Bible all of these are new to me. Yan Lianke is on my list for the future though. As for climate change have you noticed that the term global warming has disappeared?

    • May 5, 2018 9:59 pm

      Yes, I have Karen, and a good thing too, I think because it was easier for people to refute. I don’t know about where you are but here we are having to focus on making sure people understand that the issue IS “climate change” not simply “climate variability”.

      Yan Lianke is worth having on your list I’d say.

  4. May 5, 2018 6:11 pm

    I’m far from being a Millennial but I didn’t read this book either. I tried a couple of times but Kingsolver’s writing left me cold. The rest of the books on your chain, however sound fascinating, esp the last two.

    • May 5, 2018 10:01 pm

      That’s interesting Brona. What is it about her writing that doesn’t appeal. Have your tried The bean trees? It’s a delightfully warm book. She is though quite a politically driven writer I’d say.

      • May 5, 2018 10:53 pm

        It’s too long since I tried to read The Poisonwood Bible to remember what turned me off on the first page. It make have been too American & too ernest for me at the time? I was big into Indian & Chinese lit at the time, so maybe not diverse enough? All I know is that it was enough to keep me from trying any of her other books as well. I do get these kind of bees in my bonnet moments occasionally 😉

        • May 6, 2018 8:57 am

          Far enough Brona. Yes it possibly could have come across as being too earnest.

          BTW, we probably all get bees in our bonnets at times. And can also make some great discoveries if we tell them to buzz off!

  5. May 5, 2018 9:18 pm

    I love your first link to Terra (I still think it should have won the Stella…) – I was trying to think of a missionary link as well but oddly that didn’t spring to mind!

    • May 5, 2018 9:21 pm

      Thanks Kate. I had a few missionary links. Another was Marie Munkara’s Every secret thing, but I’m pretty sure I’ve used that before in Six Degrees. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it.

  6. Meg permalink
    May 6, 2018 8:03 am

    Hi Sue, I have read The Poisonwood Bible, but I have not read Yan Lianke. I stayed in Africa and linked to The Mission Song by John Le Carre; The Nun’s Story by Kathryn Hulme; King Leopolds’ Ghost by Adam Hochshild; A Burnt Out Case by Graham Greene; and finished with Heart of Darkness by Josephn Conrad.

  7. May 6, 2018 8:05 am

    I guess the autumn has been warm, but this morning I’m stopped 100 km short of Sydney, sunny but icy by my standards. I’ve read your first three, and let me say to all the undecideds above – READ JANE RAWSON, she’s the cleverest, quirkiest writer in Oz fiction.

    • May 6, 2018 9:06 am

      Ah, you must be – or have been-in the Southern Highlands, they can certainly be fresh. This morning has been our coldest of the year.

      And yes, I’d encourage people to read Rawson too.

  8. May 6, 2018 12:05 pm

    The Poisonwood Bible is still one of my favourites. It marked a change in my reading tastes and it profoundly affected my views on many things.

  9. maamej permalink
    May 6, 2018 2:09 pm

    What a great idea! I haven’t read any of your books, but as I’ve also read Poisonwood Bible, this inspired me to do my own list – such a good excuse to reflect on books I’ve enjoyed.

    • May 6, 2018 4:11 pm

      It is maamej, I’ll come look at your post.

      • maamej permalink
        May 6, 2018 4:38 pm

        Thanks for the visit – I remembered after I posted that I have read Wrong turn at the office of unmade lists, which I really enjoyed. I like how you linked it with the books before and after, and I’ll put Terra Nullius on my TBR list.

        • May 6, 2018 6:52 pm

          A pleasure – that’s what blogging’s about. I’m glad you have decided to enjoy the 6 degrees group.

  10. May 7, 2018 7:46 am

    This is a very interesting and imaginative chain of liked books. I want to read several of the books that you mention. A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists sounds particularly interesting. I may get to it in the next few months.

    • May 7, 2018 8:05 am

      Thanks Brian. Wrong turn is such an inventive book. You can feel the intelligence behind it, if that makes sense.

  11. May 8, 2018 10:42 am

    The Poisonwood Bible is one of my top five favourite books. Everything about it appeals to me as political literature that experiments with voice. Years since I’ve read it, the characters and their voices still stay with me. I also read Jane Rawson’s A Wrong Turn… this year and loved it, too.

    • May 8, 2018 4:17 pm

      Oh, I like that description Angela, “political literature that experiments with voice”. She is pretty political – which I don’t mind, but I haven’t read her later novels. Time. Rawson’s book is wonderful isn’t it. So witty – but political too.

  12. May 8, 2018 11:17 am

    The Wandering Falcon sounds like a short story collection that I would like. Everyone’s books are so different. What a fun exercise. My Six Degrees list

    • May 8, 2018 4:28 pm

      Thanks Anne. I’ll go look at yours. The wandering falcon is fascinating – and partly too because it was a debut novel by an author in his 60s or 70s. I think he wrote it at the time he experienced the issues and then put it in a drawer. (At least, that’s my memory which could be mistaken by now.)

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