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?
30 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM The arsonist TO …”
How very nice to be a link in this lovely chain.
I loved getting you and Marion in there together, Carmel! As you know, I did (do) like Fair game.
Great minds think alike! I jumped straight to Flame Tip too:)
I loved that Halligan book… it’s been a while since Goodbye Sweetheart… I do hope she’s still writing, though she’d be nearly 80 by now, I’d guess…
I thought you very well might too Lisa. (I’m a bit late as I’ve been in hospital since midnight with my Dad and Mum. All OK now, but Dad, who’ll be 99 in May, was very unwell.)
Another creative and interesting linking of books. The Arsonist sounds like an interesting but troubling piece of non – fiction.
I agree that it is a good resolution to end the chain with a positive book.
Thanks Brian … I’m really hoping to read The arsonist in the next month. Hooper is an excellent thinker and writer. And, it’s nice to be positive sometimes isn’t it!?
I do love your little Oscars element!
Like you, my mind went in lots of directions with The Arsonist as a starting point. I’m slowly working my way through the Stella longlist but Hooper remains my tip as the winner – the more I think about the book, the more I realise how much she has managed to pack into what is essentially an easy-to-read and relatively short book.
Thanks Kate. I haven’t read Hooper yet but I’m really hoping to. My sense from all I’ve heard is that it will at least make the shortlist. It’s been a while since we’ve had a non-fiction book win.
Yours is the second chain I’ve read that’s included Flame Tip, which I confess I hadn’t heard about until today. I won’t forget it now though. And I’m intrigued to find out more about the Canberra Seven, of which I am also ignorant!
My chain is here: https://www.melindatognini.com.au/6-degrees-of-separation-the-arsonist/
Thanks Melinda. Yes, I guessed when I prepared my chain that Lisa might also link to Flame tip, and of course she did. It’s a good read.
the Canberra Seven was a writers group comprising seven women writers who were active here in Canberra in, I guess the 1970s to 1980s primarily. Every one of them published, which is pretty impressive for a writers group I’d say.
That was clever to find such a topical link with the Oscars….. I feel I should have heard of those fires featured in The Arsonist. Just shows how little international news we get
Thanks Karen. That’s interesting that you hadn’t heard to them. We are very fire aware, I think, so we tend to hear of bush- and wild-fire news from around the world. But I know that there’s a lot of other international news we don’t get. And, after all, you can’t get news of every national disaster in every part of the world, can you?
we do get news stories – for example, about the floods in Queensland and have certainly had stories about bush fires but they don’t tend to get reported on extensively
Well, I must say I’m not sure we get much news from Wales!
Hi Sue, I don’t why I didn’t think of Flame Tip, I am annoyed with myself. I have read the Arsonist, a very good read. My links are Firestarter by Stephen, King; The Library Book by Susan Orlean; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; White Earth by Andrew McGahan; Surrender by Sonya Harnett; Ash Road by Ivan Southall; and The Tree of Man by Patrick White,
Haha, thanks Meg. I guess short story collections don’t often pop into the mind when you are thinking of links? Your links are fascinating ones. It would be boring if we all went to the same book.
Lovely to see ‘Flame Tip’ in such good company.
Thanks Karenlee. It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned, and really nice to give a short story collection another plug.
Just a little correction, WG. Chloe Hooper’s book is about the man who was convicted of starting one of the Black Saturday fires, this one in the Latrobe Valley. While it was destructive and killed several people the most destructive fires in terms of lives lost were elsewhere. There were around 400 bushfires that day.
Sorry historian Ian … I should have been more specific!
Interesting links and I like how you’ve introduced me to lots of Australian authors. My own first link went to Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and I ended up in the plains of Nebraska with Mt Antonia by Willa Cather.
Thanks Rosie. I’ll come see yours. I love My Antonia. It’s one of the few books I first read in adulthood (ie not at school) and chose to re-read.
I was very tempted to make my chain up completely on the theme of ‘fire’ – there are so may books to choose and that is why I didn’t – apart from the last book in my chain. As usual you chain is so tempting with Australian authors i haven’t read! Carmel Bird’s Fair Game interests me the most – and such a beautiful cover too.
I can understand that temptation – it’s such a powerful motif or subject that all sorts of writers use or explore isn’t it, Margaret?
Carmel Bird’s book is special if you can get hold of it – she has a wonderful voice – published by the small independent publisher Finlay Lloyd.
Have added the Carmel Bird to my list – looks good.
It seems eerie that I picked The Arsonist this month, with fires breaking out all over Victoria again, some in the same spots as Black Saturday… I’m writing this message with all the windows in the house closed (despite it being so hot in the house) because the air outside smells so strongly of smoke 😦
It is a great read Kate, and from a little publisher which can do with the support of more readers.
Poor you. The fires in Victoria and Tasmania have been terrible this summer haven’t they? One can’t help thinking of Nero fiddling. If only the government got their act together.
Oh that was fun! Also, nice work making them all women writers given it is Women’s History month in the US and International Women’s Day is coming up.
Ah yes, Stefanie. Of course! I should have referred to International Women’s Day. I wrote it in February and it didn’t click! I love that you have your Women’s History Month.
I’m experiencing my usual Aussie fiction frustration – Flame Tip, A Wrong Turn and Fair Game are all unavailable through my local library. I can get the first two on Kindle, but I already have 97 books on my Kindle that I haven’t read yet.
Yes, well they are all from the small end of the publishing town, particularly Fair game. I know what you mean about the Kindle. I haven’t counted recently but I’d have at least 40 TBR there now.