Our ever-creative meme-leader Kate has chosen well for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation meme (which, as you probably know by now, you can find more about if you click on her blog name: booksaremyfavouriteandbest).
I said she’s chosen well – even though it’s a book I haven’t read – because it’s been longlisted for this year’s Stella Prize, because I do have it on my TBR, and because everyone I know who has read it so far has liked it. The book is Chloe Hooper’s The arsonist. It’s a work of creative non-fiction, and chronicles the investigation into the man behind Victoria’s horrific Black Saturday fires back in 2009.
As usual, the starting book got my creative juices flowing. There were several options, the most obvious being to Chloe Hooper’s powerful book, The tall man. However, I decided to choose another obvious link, Karenlee Thompson’s short fiction collection Flame tip (my review). The stories in this book are all inspired by Tasmania’s terrible bushfires of 1967.
Where to next? With two books about bushfires in Australia, I must say that my thoughts turned to climate change, and although I’ve mentioned this book in Six Degrees before I couldn’t go past Jane Rawson’s A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists (my review). This novel opens with its protagonist Caddy living rough, having lost her husband and home in a heatwave-induced fire a couple of years previously. It’s a powerful, genre-bending novel. But, I think that’s enough of fires, don’t you?
So, my next book links on setting. Rawson’s book is set in two places – 2030s Melbourne and 1990s California – San Francisco, to be exact. Now, Sara Dowse’s Schemetime (my review) is also set in California, but Los Angeles. This little shift down the road, though, seems apposite given this week was Oscars week, and that her main character is an Australian filmmaker wanting to make it big in Hollywood.
Now, Sara Dowse was a member of the famed Canberra Seven. Another writer in this group, and whom I’ve not mentioned to date in Six Degrees, is the poet Suzanne Edgar whose collection The love procession I reviewed some years back. It’s a gorgeous collection of poems about all sorts of love, romantic and otherwise. The title of this collection was inspired by a Renaissance painting, “Love procession” (attributed to Marco del Buono and Giovanni di Apollonio, from the 1440s.)
Another book whose title was inspired by a work of art (and whose cover also features that work of art) is Carmel Bird’s Fair game (my review). Her art work is an 1832 lithograph by Alfred Ducôte. Its full title is “E-migration, or a flight of fair game”. This is a small, witty, but serious book about the 200 young women who were sent from England to Van Diemen’s Land in 1832 on the Princess Royal with the purpose of becoming wives and servants in a society where men significantly outnumbered women
My final link could be inspired by that history, focusing perhaps on women and misogyny, but instead I’m going back to the image. Bird writes in her book that the image had fascinated her ever since it was sent to her as a postcard by Lucy Halligan – who happens to be Marion Halligan’s daughter. This, together with the fact that she’s another member of the Canberra Seven, and is also a friend of Carmel Bird’s, makes Halligan the perfect choice for my final link. The book is Marion Halligan’s Valley of Grace (my review). I can’t think of a better book to end a chain that started with tragedy than this one about love and children set in that beautiful city, Paris.
Somehow, I’ve included only women writers this month – and all Australian ones at that – but I stand unrepentant! We spent most of our time in Australia, with a couple of forays to the USA, until, finally, in the last book we made it to Europe. There has, though, been variety in the writing, with the books covering both fiction and non-fiction, novels and short stories, and even poetry!!
Now, over to you: Have you read The arsonist? And, regardless, what would you link to?