Six degrees of separation, FROM Vanity fair TO …

Well, it’s a tricky night here in Canberra, with a nasty bushfire on my side of town. It’s probably far enough away to not put us at serious risk, but a serious fire just two-thirds into spring is a worry. For now, though, I shall put those thoughts aside and turn to Six Degrees. As most of you know, Six Degrees of Separation is a meme that is currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Click on the link on her blog-name to see her explanation of how it works.

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity FairNow, mea culpa – or something like that – I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t, though I should have, read this month’s starting book, William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity fair. It was one of the books set during my study years, but I chose other books at the time and for some reason have never got back to it, though I have a copy on my TBR. I have though seen it. Does that count? Probably not … but it’s the best I can do.

William Makepeace Thackeray, Barry Lyndon

What’s in a name?

However, I have read Thackeray, and in fact, since blogging, because his The luck of Barry Lyndon (my review) was scheduled as my reading group’s classic a couple of years ago. I must say that it wasn’t my favourite English classic, but I will get to Vanity fair one day.

Eve Langley, the pea-pickersThe reason I didn’t much like it was that it seemed to go on and on and on, which is not something that usually bothers me, but there was nothing special about the writing I think to overcome my lack of interest in all the adventures. It’s a picaresque novel, which is a style or form I can enjoy, such as Saul Bellow’s wonderful The adventures of Augie March. Here, however, I’m choosing an Australian novel with picaresque elements, Eve Langley’s The pea pickers (my review). Set primarily in 1920s Gippsland, it’s a book that has stayed with me long after reading it – because of its fresh, evocative writing and voice.

Frank Moorhouse, Cold LightNow, in The pea-pickers, the two protagonists, sisters, dress as men, partly to travel safely but mainly, as I recollect, to be considered for farm labouring jobs like, say, pea-picking. Cross-dressing was a common way for women to make their way in the patriarchal worlds of the past. Another book in which a character cross-dresses is Frank Moorhouse’s Cold light (my review), except that in this book the cross-dressing is for a very different reason. It’s practised by the main character Edith’s bisexual husband.

Amitav Ghosh, River of smokeI’m not a big reader of series, even of trilogies, but I have read two books in Moorhouse’s Edith trilogy, though only one since blogging. I’ve partly read another trilogy on this blog: Indian writer Amitav Ghosh’s River of smoke (my review), which is the second in his Ibis Trilogy. It’s set primarily in China around the 1830s. I read it in 2012 for the Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize team.

Jahnavi Barua, RebirthAnother book by an Indian writer that I read for the Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize team was Jahnavi Barua, Rebirth (my review). It’s about a woman in an arranged marriage and her journey to self. It takes the form of a first person monologue by a mother to her unborn child. The child is waiting to be born, but we sense that for the mother, Kaberi, a rebirth might be in the offing. It’s a quiet contemplative book with, as I recollect, slow dawnings rather than dramatic changes.Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and punishment

A more dramatic and much longer book in which the protagonist finally seems to be reaching for a rebirth – for redemption and a new start – is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and punishment (my review.)

A rather different chain for me this month. We started in 1840s Europe and ended in 1860s Russia. We spent most of our time in the nineteenth and early twentieth century in fact. We also spent time with four male writers, and just two female, a change from my usual ratio. And, this post contains more classics and more non-Australian books than usual, which may mean more of you have read books in my chain than usual.

And now, over to you: Have you read Vanity fair? And, regardless, what would you link to? 

21 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM Vanity fair TO …

  1. Argh! I haven’t read any of the books in your chain (apart from Vanity Fair). As soon as I think of cross-dressing characters, my mind goes to Shakespearian comedies and various operas but Cold Light looks good.

    • What? And I thought this one was a shoe-in for familiarity! Haha, Kate. Cold light is a great book – but it’s probably best to read the first in the trilogy first (not that it’s necessary), Grand days. I have the second one but it had more mixed reviews, and it is a chunkster – but I think I should read it.

      Yes, of course, Shakespeare and cross-dressing is obvious.

  2. Hi Sue, I found this Six Degrees very difficult as I wanted to go in all directions without any connection. So. Eventually went to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; The Mill on the Floss,by George Eliot; Madame Bovary by Gustave Bovary; Shirley by Charlotte Bronte; Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

  3. Apart from Vanity Fair I have’t read any of the books in your chain, but I do have Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke as well as River of Smoke, the first book in the trilogy, waiting to be read.

  4. Vanity Fair was the one book in your chain that I have read. I really liked it and thought that it was worth the read. I do not know if I would link it or not but it seemed to have been very influential upon Anthony Trollope’s novels.

  5. So a circle of classics then! A few years ago, I read Vanity Fair with a reading friend who also had never gotten around to it. It was a slow start, then rather engrossing. Now I am tempted by the new television series, which looks to be beautifully filmed. (Also, I absolutely loved the Ghosh trilogy and must read something else by him soon!)

    • Ah yes, a circle! I think some nineteenth century novels do take a while to get into – they tend to start with a lot more description and scene setting than we are used to don’t they.

      I should read more Ghosh – because I did enjoy it, and the subject matter is so interesting.

  6. I read Vanity Fair in high school, and quite liked it. Another story around that time with a moderately complicated plot is The Count of Monte Christo, by Alexander Dumas. A critical component of this story is a huge treasure, leading to Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. And thinking of islands leads to Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. Robinson’s life is turned around by footprints in the sand. Rather like the fossilised dinosaur footprints at Broome. But going back even further, we have the fossils in the Burgess shale, described in Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould. Sticking with fossils, we have Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, about Mary Anning. Sticking with Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring.

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