We are now through one-third of the year. Can you believe it. It’s been quite a blur here in Australia with our worst bushfire season in decades being followed almost immediately by the pandemic. It’s hard to feel that the year has started, and yet, here we are in May already. Last month, I noted that the starting book was the first of the year’s Six Degrees of Separation starting books that I’ve read. Well, I’m thrilled to announce to all who are fascinated by such things that I’ve also read this month’s starting book, albeit before blogging. If you are new to blogging and don’t know this meme and how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.
Now to May’s starting book, the 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by America’s Cormac McCarthy – The road. If you haven’t read it, let me tell you that it’s a mesmerising, post-apocalyptic dystopian novel. I loved it, partly because its writing is so spare (see my discussion of spare early in my blog.) It’s about a father and son who walk alone through a burned, destroyed America. They are heading to the coast, though to what they don’t know. Now, I’ve decided to do something a little different in this post: I plan to link every book back to this one. In other words, each book will be about something people do “on the road”, which means, of course, that each book will also link to each other!
My first book is French writer Raphaël Jerusalmy’s Israel-set novel, Evacuation (my review). It is also a road trip novel, but it involves twenty-something Naor driving his mother from her kibbutz back to Tel Aviv. As they drive he tells her what happened in Tel Aviv, after he, his girlfriend, and his grandfather, had jumped off the bus that was to take them out of the city, as part of a mandatory evacuation process.
Another, very different road trip underpins Australian writer Eve Langley’s The pea-pickers (my review). Here, two sisters dress as men and take men’s names, Steve and Blue, in order to work as agricultural labourers in Gippsland. The book chronicles their experiences, work, relationships and lessons learnt, over a few seasons, as they travel through Gippsland and greater Victoria.
While road trips aren’t the backbone of my next book, American writer Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel All the light we cannot see (my review), they do feature quite strongly. Young Marie Laure is taken by her father from Paris to the Brittany coast’s Saint-Malo after the Germans invade Paris in 1940. Meanwhile, the orphan German boy, Werner, becomes a master at building and fixing radios, which results in his being taken on the road through Germany and into Russia to track Resistance workers through their radio transmissions.
Staying in war-time but moving to a different sort of road, I am taking us to the Thai-Burma railroad as told by Australian writer Richard Flanagan in his Booker Prize-winning novel, The narrow road to the deep north (my review). I don’t think I need to justify this one any more, except to add that there is a dramatic road trip through a bush-fire at the end, giving this book double-linking credit!
Having mentioned railroads, I’ll stay with them and link to Australian writer Glenda Guest’s A week in the life of Cassandra Aberline (my review). Having been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Guest’s Sydney-based protagonist Cassie decides to return to her childhood home in Perth in order to resolve the situation that had resulted in her fleeing many decades ago. She chooses the train as her method of travel, because that was the way she’d left, and it would also give her time to think through her situation. This is a true “journey” novel.
Choosing my final book proved a challenge: I had many to choose from, many I wanted to highlight. In the end I decided to stay in Australia, and go a bit lighthearted. The book is English writer Louis de Berniere’s Western Australia-set Red dog (my review). My post on this book and film is among my all-time most popular posts. The story is about how a stray dog, the titular Red Dog, decides on John as his master and it then chronicles Red Dog’s various adventures in the mining communities of the Pilbara, much of it travelling in John’s truck. It also tracks Red Dog’s search for John through Australia and even into Japan, via road, train and ship. A road story with a difference!
So, a simple chain this month in terms of linking strategies, but I enjoyed looking at some of the ways “the road” has been used by novelists to chronicle journeys, whether they be actively chosen, or forced upon people.
Now the usual: Have you read The road? And, regardless, what would you link to?