Six degrees of separation, FROM The Road TO …

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.

Book coverNow 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!Raphael Jerusalmy, Evacuation

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.

Eve Langley, the pea-pickersAnother, 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.

Anthony Doerr, All the light we cannot seeWhile 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.

Book coverStaying 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!

Glenda Guest, A week in the life of Cassandra AberlineHaving 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.

Book CoverChoosing 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? 

85 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM The Road TO …

  1. I don’t usually comment here and I didn’t today – but this post did redirect me to your post about “Red Dog”, and I commented there instead.
    What ?
    Oh, keep up, ST !

      • I’m not sure that Trucking Lit is a thing (yet). I think if I was to follow The Road my next step would be David Brin’s The Postman. I have imagined SF trucking novels. One involved super trucks on mag.lev highways sweeping across Australia and into S E Asia. Another (which may actually be a book I read) involved highways which went through portals to other worlds.

        • I hadn’t even thought of Harry Potter. No, the idea is that you are protected from the outside when you are on the train. A bit like the Chunnel is for train travel only. To get your car through the Chunnel, you put it on the train. Less chance of accidents!

          There is a whole series where travelling on the train through a portal is an integral part of the story, indeed most of the action happens on the train or at a terminus. Alas, I don’t recall any titles or the author, but I’ll have a Google and see if I can spot anything. SF, of course.

        • Yes, I realised they were SF of course! Which is why HP is about as far as I can think – and I didn’t even finish them. SF and Fantasy as you have worked out aren’t my thing – though I have read some over the years, and liked them. But, I hate really series books, in general, and SF/Fantasy have a lot of that, don’t they? As does crime, and I don’t read much of that either. I can understand the fascination but it’s just not my interest.

        • A series by Timothy Zahn. The first in the series was “Night Train to Rigel”. I’m confident I read that one, not sure about any more in the series.

        • The Night Train to Rigel definitely sounds familiar, but my SF is organized alaphabetically by author so I can see I don’t own it (Lou will know if we’ve read it). Sue, it’s no.1 in the Quadrail series, an SF murder mystery, which sounds right up your alley: In a space opera setting, human Frank Compton is hired by the Spiders, servant beings who operate the intergalactic Quadrail network, and their enigmatic masters the Chahwyn, to investigate a group-mind, the Modhri, which infiltrates other sentient beings and controls them either directly, or by subconscious suggestion.

        • Oh yes, Bill, clearly a book I should order for my Kindle right now so I don’t have to wait a moment more! Still, I can see the attraction …

  2. Hi Sue, I do like your link and I have read your nominated novels, as well as The Road. I took a different direction. The Children of Men by P D James; Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam; Blindness by Jose Saramago; Amnesia by Peter Carey, and on a lighter note The Hitchhifker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams;

  3. Enjoyed your road theme, especially your last book (when I read Red Dog, I recommended it to everybody I knew – such a wonderful story).

  4. A chain of books, which contain so many that have been on my to-read pile, but I haven’t managed to get to yet. One I hadn’t heard of, but am now interested in reading as a result of your chain, is A week in the life of Cassandra Aberline.

    • It’s nice to read a chain where you actually know the books – even if you haven’t read it – isn’t it Melinda? Unfortunately Cassandra Aberline came from a small publisher so didn’t get a lot of air. However, it is worth reading if you can get it.

  5. Well roads do link places together do using them to link books is super appropriate! Love the sound of Evacuation … and I have the Pea Pickers on my digital TBR thanks to Bill’s review.

    • Evacuation is one of those wonderful finds kimbofo. I am so glad I got to read it. And The pea-pickers is so individual, so different, it really should be read by all interested in Australian literature. It has so much to it.

  6. I enjoyed your chain. I loved All the Light We Cannot See! I was planning to visit St Malo when we went to France this year but alas that did not happen.

  7. Well that was a clever move by you to go for that link. I’ve included the Richard Flanagan in my chain too. Evacuation seems just my kind of book. The Anthony Doerr I didn’t care for that much, certainly found it surprising that it won so many accolades

  8. I enjoyed your road trip! The only one I’ve read is All the Light We Cannot See, which to be honest, wasn’t a favourite of mine. Both The Road and The Narrow Road to the Deep North are on my radar, I’ve seen quite mixed reviews for The Road, though.

    • Thanks Stargazer. I guess a tough book like the road is guaranteed to get mixed reactions. I enjoyed All the light we cannot see partly because it was a book that kept me thinking the whole time I read it.

    • Ah yes, I thought of that of course Sara but I like to only include books that I’ve reviewed on my blog, which can become limiting at times. I’m glad therefore that you mentioned it!

  9. Bravo….you have given my ‘reading mojo’ a jolt with this chain of books.
    I’d read all except ‘Evacuation’. It just does not appeal to me.
    The Australian selections are very good. I’ve not been ‘down under’ in my reading for many months. Time to get back!

    • Oh good … anything that helps you read an Aussie book makes me feel I’ve achieved something Nancy!

      Evacuation is an interesting book, but I understand its not calling you, particularly right now.

  10. With dogged determination, I’m reading Ion Idriess’s “Back O’ Cairns”. There are roads, no roads, and everything in-between. The consequence of all of this is sometimes expressed very practically, sometimes mystically.

    • Oh thankyou Pamela. It’s lovely having someone here actually comment on reading Idriess. I grew up with some of his books in my home but I have yet to read one myself. I really should one day – though “the dogged determination” has me a little worried!

      • It was actually fascinating, although at times repetitive, but it has a yarn-like quality that I grew into enjoying. There’s a hauntingly attractive appeal in some of the writing, and some uncomfortable recognition of what indigenous culture was losing. A part of the fascination was personal, also. I grew up listening to my grandmother’s stories of the same era and the some of the same places.

        • Replying to your comment re reading Idriess (Reply function has disappeared on this one):
          “Back o’ Cairns” is the only one I’ve read. The back cover on the edition I have (1958) lists books, with brief descriptions. “The Red Chief”: ‘The thrilling story of Red Kangaroo, young and mighty aboriginal warrior who saved his tribe from destruction.’ Or “The Nor’-Westers”: ‘Fascinating true stories of life and death in Australia’s great Nor’-West.’ A dozen titles fit this pattern.

        • I can’t recollect the titles of the ones Mum and Dad have .. but I’ll check your reviews (which I probably saw before but haven’t recollected.)

        • Thanks Pamela. I think the REPLY function disappears after a set number of replies, so I’m glad you persevered as I appreciate hearing these titles.

  11. Interesting variation on the usual theme. I have been putting off reading The Road. I have been afraid that it may be a bit disturbing. With that, I think that I will eventually read it. I also have not seen the film. I heard that was very good too.

  12. Given their sizes, Australia and America seem naturals for road novels or just books. But in fact, I find myself having to mix fiction and memoir.

    First, and pretty obviously, On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Next, Larry McMurtry’s novel, All of My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, which has a lot of cars and driving. Third, McMurtry’s book Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways. (Sample chapter name: “March: The 70 from Baltimore to Burlington, Colorado. South on Highway 287”. I suspect McMurtry picked up way of saying “the 70” during one of his screenwriting stints, for Angelenos say “the 10”, “the 5”, “the 411”.) Fourth, Wright Morris’s memoir Will’s Boy, since it covers a lot of roads in a lot of cars ( Fifth, Morris’s novel Fire Sermon, most of which takes place on roads between southern California and Iowa. (One could also choose the sequel, A Life, which takes the same man from Iowa to New Mexico.) Sixth, Ross MacDonald’s novel, The Underground Man: one cannot set a novel in California without a lot of driving.

    • I am upset to find that I wrote “Iowa” for “Nebraska” in mentioning Wright Morris’s work. This is just the sort of thing I love to blame provincial Easterners for doing. Oh, dear. Morris was a native of Nebraska, and the University of Nebraska Press keeps his work in print, at least the novels.

    • Love this George. You know I’ve lived in the US twice – in Northern Va and then in SoCal. I am very familiar with “then you take the 5” but I hadn’t realised that was an Angeleno thing.

      You are right about the US and Australia and roads. We are big road trippin’ countries I think. I enjoyed your links.

  13. What a great chain. I am so pleased that people write books about road trips. It’s not anything I would want to do myself – I much prefer to read about them instead!

  14. Bill and I have touched on SF, but it would be remiss to not mention fantasy. The road trip is a staple of fantasy. Indeed, I would suggest at least half of fantasy stories are focussed on a road trip. Examples? “Lord of the rings”. I’m currently reading a YA by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, “Let Sleeping Dragons Lie”, this is a road story. Its predecessor, “Have Sword, Will Travel” is likewise. Joe Abercrombie’s “Half a King” is straight road trip, and road trips are an important part of the other two in the series. I rest my case.

    • Oh, I was running the two of them into each other Neil! They are much of a muchness as far as I’m concerned though I do know that are different. Still, I’m glad you have shared specifically fantasy examples.

      • They are quite different.

        Forgot to mention “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, which is a road trip.

        By the way, your wayfaring chocolate link is pointing to the wrong place. (My email to you bounced because I’m blacklisted. Will fix this up one day when I feel like fighting bureaucracy.)

        • Yes, I know they are, really, Neil, particularly to aficionados. However, in the Australian Women Writers Challenge, for example, we group them together, just as we put crime, mystery, horror and thriller together. So, in my mind I go with the broad brush unless I really need to distinguish them! You need to know that I was a librarian who spent most of my career thinking about classification!

          And thanks re Wayfaring Chocolate. That was out daughter’s blog which she is no longer maintaining so Mr Gums has taken it down. I’d forgotten I had a link to it here. I will tidy it up now!

        • Got this message in the bounce:

          host[] refused to
          talk to me: 550 5.7.1 Connection refused – IB115. is
          blacklisted. If you believe this to be in error, please contact

          So bigpond don’t like me. I got a similar message from another intended recipient. I’ll send a note to the postmaster, and hope it doesn’t bounce.

        • Bigpond takes dislikes to people every now and then and blacklists but it hasn’t happened for a while – at least as far as I know. I’ll check with Mr Gums.

        • I got to your daughter’s blog. Noticed it was a little old in the tooth. Perhaps I stumbled on an archived version. I was wondering how to diplomatically let you know it was looking a bit tatty.

        • You may have, because I was told it had been taken down, though I didn’t check. It wasn’t tatty originally anyhow (!) but it is long in the tooth now!

    • So glad you approve Lisa – just as well I didn’t include certain writers you may not have approved of, one of whom I am reading right now, and another of whom is coming up soon! You’ll recognise them when you see them (eventually!)

  15. I always enjoy seeing the direction everyone takes their chains, and yours is another great one! I haven’t read any of the books you mention, but Anthony Doerr’s book is on my TBR shelf. Thank you for sharing!

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