Woo hoo! A New Year at last after what has really been a doozy for us all, in one way or another. So glad to see the back of it. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas wherever you were and however you were able to spend it. Now though to that thing that stayed with us unchanged all through 2020, come hail or shine, come fire or covid, and that thing of course is our Six Degrees of Separation meme. If you don’t know this meme and how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.
The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book. This month, she’s chosen a book was one of many readers’ loved books last year – Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet! I haven’t read it – but what’s new? I wouldn’t be averse to reading it, I must say, because its topic of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, who died in his youth, sounds intriguing.
There are various directions I could go in, but I’ve chosen a pretty obvious one, a book that, like Hamnet, is historical fiction breathing life into a marginal historical figure. The book is Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick’s On a barbarous coast (my review), and the figure, James Mario Magra. Magra was a midshipman on the Endeavour and is believed to have authored an anonymous journal about that journey. Cormick drew from that journal for his characterisation of Magra.
Staying with the coastal theme – but shifting time (to the contemporary not colonial era), setting (to southern Victoria, not Far North Queensland), and genres (to crime not historical fiction) – I’m linking to Dorothy Johnston’s Through a camel’s eye (my review). This novel introduces Constable Chris Blackie, meaning that …
… Through a camel’s eye is the first of Johnston’s latest series, her Sea-change Mysteries. I’m not, as you know, a big reader of series, but in 2020 I did read the first in another series, Steven Carroll’s The lost life (my review), which starts his Eliot Quartet series.
I’m being a bit cheeky with my next link because I’m taking us to a literary app, rather than a book, The waste land app for TS Eliot’s poem cycle of the same name (my review). This was an exciting foray into the possibilities of using apps for the reading and study of literature, but I’m not sure it has taken off. It was, I’d say, expensive to produce and may just not have got the market size they needed. A shame. (The pic here is of a book edition of the poem, not of the app!)
The Wasteland app contains many academics, writers and actors reading, critiquing and reflecting on this major poem. One of those involved was the English novelist Jeanette Winterson, so it’s to her book Oranges are not the only fruit (my review) that I am linking next.
Jeanette Winterson has quite a bit in common with our Francesca Rendle-Short, but the most relevant to my link here is that both were raised by mothers who were religious zealots. Oranges are not the only fruit is a semi-autobiographical novel, while Bite your tongue (my review) is a sort of hybrid fiction/memoir, but both cover protagonist-daughters’ struggles against highly restrictive maternal upbringings.
Coincidentally, we’ve somehow ended up on a topic – religion and God – relevant to last month’s starting book, Judy Blume’s Are you there God? It’s me Margaret.
So, this month, half of my books are by men and half by women. We haven’t travelled far, staying in Australia except for a trip in the middle to England, but we have traversed a couple of centuries. I do like how we started with the starting book’s lovely cool blue cover and ended with Rendle-Short’s fiery one. I hope that’s not telling us something about the year to come!
Now, the usual: Have you read Hamnet? And, regardless, what would you link to?