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Six degrees of separation, FROM Atonement TO …

August 4, 2018

It’s August and the last official month of winter. I’m happy, happy, happy. I’m also happy that it’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation. How quickly it comes around. And, like last month, I’ve read the starting book. First though, the formalities. Six Degrees of Separation is a meme that is currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Clicking on the link on her blog-name will take you to her explanation of how it works.

Ian McEwan, AtonementSo now, the meme. The book Kate has chosen for August is Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I love this choice, not just because I’ve read it, but because I like Ian McEwan, and I liked this book. Also, it offers so many options for linking, including one that I considered, which was good film adaptations. I loved the clever soundtrack, for a start.

Markus Zusah, The book thiefHowever, I decided on a different tack, and I hope this isn’t a spoiler. I don’t think it is. My linking point is that it’s a metafictional work, that is, it self-consciously lets the reader know that it is a work of fiction. Another metafictional novel that contains stories within stories is Markus Zusak’s The book thief (my review). If you’ve read it, you’ll know that Death reminds us regularly that he is telling us a story.

Anthony Doerr, All the light we cannot seeBesides being metafictional, The book thief tells the story of young people, particularly Liesel the titular book thief, and their experience of World War 2. Another book set in World War 2 whose protagonists are young is Anthony Doerr’s All the light we cannot see (my review). A moving book, that won America’s Pulitzer Prize.

Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is illuminatedSo far I’ve linked on technique and protagonists, but now I’m moving to title. Another novel about World War 2 (and that, coincidentally, also has metafictional elements) is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is illuminated (my review). My linking point though is the reference to light in the title!

Rabih Alameddine, An unnecessary womanNow, one of the main characters in Foer’s novel is a translator. Another book with a translator as the protagonist is Rabih Alameddine’s An unnecessary woman (my review). She’s not a professional translator, but has done it in her spare time for much of her adult life. I loved reading, among other things, about her technique for translating.

Michelle de Kretser, The life to comeMichelle de Kretser’s The life to come (my review) is a book in five parts. The protagonist of Part 3 is Céleste. She is also a translator. She describes her technique for translating too – though unlike Alameddine’s translator, she does it for a living.

Catherine McKinnon, StorylandAnd now, all too soon, we’ve come to the end. The life to come is one of six books shortlisted for this year’s Miles Franklin Award. I’ve only read two, so far, from the shortlist, so I’ve decided to make my final link the other one, Catherine McKinnon’s Storyland (my review). I have, however, an ulterior motive for linking to this book, which is that I don’t think it’s getting enough notice so I’d like to give it another plug. It’s an intriguingly structured book, and tells a provocative story about Australia.

Well, this month we started our journey in England, and then moved to Germany, France and Ukraine, all of these trips involving, in some way or another, World War 2. We then hopped over to Lebanon in the Middle East, before arriving in Australia with de Kretser, though she did take us on brief forays to Paris and Sri Lanka. Finally, we landed back in Australia where we traversed a thousand years from the late 1700s to 2717. As for gender balance, four of my six books are by men. A major departure from the usual proportion in my Six Degrees posts, but that’s okay every now and then!

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

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    August 4, 2018 12:38 pm

    Hi Sue, I have read Atonement and loved it, and agree with your thoughts on the movie adaptation. I thought you might have began with Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. the epigraph in Atonement is from this book (and of course published after Austen’s death). I then followed with The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy; the Odyssey by Homer; The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood; Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty; and finished with A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes ,

  2. August 4, 2018 1:53 pm

    I’m not up to doing a whole page but here’s my contribution:

    Okay – starting with ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan (which I really enjoyed but read prior to this blog) I’ll go to …

    WARLIGHT by Michael Ondaatje which is also about reality during WWII – a teenage boy (1st person narrator) and his slightly older sister are left in the care of a couple of rather strange characters,the Moth and the Darter, while their parents take off from 1945 London for Asia – or somewhere else. The boy learns a lot (mostly illegal) from his “guardian,” the Darter. – (He finds out the truth in the second half.) https://beckylindroos.wordpress.com/2018/08/03/warlight-by-michael-ondaatje-2/

    This whole set-up of “orphans” being shown the underside of the world by oddly named and less than reputable adults is reminiscent of Dickens’ …

    OLIVER TWIST – https://beckylindroos.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/9176/
    which, because it’s written by Dickens reminds me of …

    WINTER by Ali Smith which is about an older woman at Christmas time seeing a little fairy (?) and revisiting her life in terms of her moral character. Dickens is specifically referenced. https://beckylindroos.wordpress.com/2018/01/20/winter-by-ali-smith/
    This reminds me of …

    ENDING UP by Kingsley Amis in which 5 elderly adults are living together and they are very annoying in their ways. https://beckylindroos.wordpress.com/2018/06/25/ending-up-by-kingsley-amis/
    But that reminds me of …

    QUARTET IN AUTUMN by Barbara Pym in which 4 people of retirement age working in the same office which is being phased out. One actually leaves but has not much to go to. Meanwhile, the others try to go on but … https://beckylindroos.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/quartet-in-autumn-by-barbara-pym/

    • August 4, 2018 5:19 pm

      Good ones Bekah. You could just cut and paste all that into your blog!! But, I’m glad to have your picks here!

  3. August 4, 2018 3:08 pm

    Oops, here it is again, but I have a review to write first. I’ll come back later…

  4. August 4, 2018 4:36 pm

    I love Atonement and its film adaptation. First time I finished it I was so moved I had to call my wife during my lunch break to talk about it. Cecilia is a character who will always live for me – and the others.

    • August 4, 2018 5:17 pm

      I agree Nathan. The characters really stick – and the whole situation is so well set up.

  5. August 5, 2018 3:30 pm

    You’ll be shocked to learn I don’t remember a word of Atonement, though I’m sure my daughter studied it for the post modern elements. I don’t remember most of what I read, am always rereading my reviews to see what I thought at the time. This week I will (re-)listen to Sense & Sensibility and be astonished anew. I remember Storyland though, shame most do not, perhaps it’s a mistake to be released early in the year.

    • August 5, 2018 4:30 pm

      Not totally shocked Bill, because I have books on my Read shelves and wonder, “did I read that?”. Atonement though is one that stuck. I do use my blog as a way of remembering what I read and thought. It’s very useful isn’t it!!

      As for Storyland – same problem for movies released early in the year too I think.

  6. August 5, 2018 4:12 pm

    You win the prize for the cleverest first link 🙂 I loved Atonement, Book Thief and All the Light – all five star books for me. I didn’t love Everything is Illuminated but looking back, I think I read it at a very bad time for me personally, and I didn’t give it my full attention (I have loved his other books).
    I’m cranky that I won’t be able to get to de Kretser at the Melbourne Writers Festival – her event clashes with another. I really wanted to hear the questions about writers festival in relation to Pip!

    • August 5, 2018 4:33 pm

      Why thanks Kate!

      It’s interesting how badly reading at the wrong time can affect your impression of a book isn’t it? I have a few books like that – the most memorable being David Malouf’s An imaginary life. I fully intend to reread it one day.

    • August 5, 2018 4:34 pm

      Oh and yes, I understand re de Kretser at the MWF. Here writers’ festival comments were fun. I’m sure she’ll get questions about that – and answer them with appropriate aplomb.

  7. August 5, 2018 9:19 pm

    Your links are always inspired Sue – love to see how you do this, even though I’ve been a bit absent of late.

    Just finished Taboo, my one & only Miles Franklin shortlister atm. Loved it but not sure how I’m going to review it. The Border Districts is lurking on my TBR pile somewhere too.

    Your trip north looked amazing – will you be putting together a post about it?

    I’m reading an Annotated Persuasion for Austen in August. Just have to finish my latest Iris Murdoch before getting stuck in. I read Atonement so long ago that the JA epigraph passed me by too.

    • August 5, 2018 9:47 pm

      Thanks Brona. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is hopeless about the MF shortlist. I have Taboo here – have had it for months – but review copies keep coming in and I find it hard to sneak in non-review-copy books besides reading group books. Wish I could carve out more time to read!

      I’ve thought about doing an Arnhem Land post — I might still — it was amazing.

      Which Iris Murdoch are you reading? And yes, I’m mortified I forgot the JA epigraph. If only I’d gone to my shelves to look at my copy!!

      • August 5, 2018 9:55 pm

        I’m now reading The Unicorn. Liz Dexter is doing a 19 month readalong of all her books in chronological order. I had 4-5 on my shelves. The Unicorn was the May read, so I’m only 3 months behind 😬 fortunately Liz is very flexible.

  8. August 11, 2018 8:51 am

    I love all your links, Sue – and have read the first four books, much to my surprise. I’ve been very lax about blogging lately and my Six Degrees posts have fallen victim to that, I’m afraid.

    And, yes, Atonement is one book that will stick with me, too.

    • August 11, 2018 9:03 am

      Wow, Debbie, I love that you’ve read the first four.

      I understand about keeping up with blogging. I’m struggling a bit currently with reading, blogging and reading other blogs. Sometimes life gets busy. doesn’t it?

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