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Six degrees of separation, FROM Phosphorescence TO …

March 6, 2021

So our strange Antipodean summer has ended, and I, for one, am sad. How often did I, this year, get to wear my summer frocks? More often than I needed to, actually, because I hated seeing them lonely in the wardrobe. I know there are people who hate the heat, and I know that it was great to have had some good soakings of rain this year, but still … a few more hot summer days would have been appreciated. With the whinge over, I’ll get to something I’ll never whinge about, our Six Degrees of Separation meme. If you don’t know how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

Book cover

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book – and wonder of wonders, for the second month in a row, I’ve read the starting book, Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence (my review). It wasn’t one I would normally have read, but it was a reading group choice, and like most of my reading group’s choices – because we have a great group of interesting women – I was glad I did read it. Subtitled On awe, wonder, and things that sustain you when the world goes dark, it sounds like it could be a self-help book. It is a bit, but not entirely.

Stan Grant, Talking to my country

So, the obvious choice for a link would be come sort of other self-help book – or memoir about surviving great odds. I suppose at a push, my next book could be seen as the latter, but it’s not really, so that’s not the linking point. The link is that, Stan Grant, the author of Talking to my country (my review), is an occasional host of ABC TV’s The Drum program for which Baird is one of the two founding hosts.

The little stranger, by Sarah Waters

I have heard Stan Grant speak in person in an ANU/Canberra Times Literary Event, and my, was he impressive. The first such event I attended after I started blogging was back in 2010 when I heard (and saw, of course) Marion Halligan converse with the English author Sarah Waters about her latest novel at the time, The little stranger (my review). She’s quietened down a bit lately, hasn’t she?

Book cover

I could then, but I’m not going to, link on authors who have quietened down. Instead I’m linking on the fact that both Waters’ novel and Shokoofeh Azar’s The enlightenment of the greengage tree (my review) deal in some way with ghosts, albeit Waters’ book is a more traditional ghost story while Azar’s ghosts are of quite a different spirit.

Book cover

Azar migrated to Australia from Iran, and her novel, while not exactly autobiographical, draws from the experiences of friends and family under Ayatollah Khomeini’s dictatorial regime. Elizabeth Kuiper was much younger than Azar when she migrated to Australia – with her mother – from Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial regime in Zimbabwe. Her novel, Little stones (my review), does have an autobiographical element.

Nick Earls, NoHo

Kuiper’s protagonist and first-person narrator is 11-year-old Hannah. Another novel – or novella in this case – with an 11-year-old narrator is Nick Earls’ NoHo (my review), which is set in Los Angeles (North Hollywood if you want to know!) although Earls is very definitely Aussie.

Book cover

NoHo is part of a (subtly linked, apparently) novella series by Earls, called Wisdom Tree. My last link is going to be a bit cheeky, because it draws on this idea of a novella series. I say cheeky because Nigel Featherstone’s three novellas published by Blemish Press were not originally conceived as a series. It’s just that at the end of a month’s writer’s retreat in Launceston, many years ago now, he found he had sketches for three novellas, and Blemish published all three. As NoHo is the last of Earls’ 5-book series, I’ll link to Beach volcano (my review) which is the last of Featherstone’s. Their subject matter is very different but both books are about sons and brothers – one 11-year-old, one 44-year-old – who are facing challenges in their lives! I’ll leave it at that…

So, hmm, where have we been this month. All over the shop really. While nearly all this month’s authors are Australian, or Australian-based now, they have taken us not only to Australia, but England, Iran, Zimbabwe and Los Angeles in the USA. That’s a bit of arm-chair travelling for you, though we’ve been through some rocky territory!

Now, the usual: Have you read Phosphorescence? And, regardless, what would you link to?

31 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    March 6, 2021 15:12

    Hi Sue, I have read Phosphorescence and like you I read it for my book club – last month. we will discuss it this Thursday. Julia Baird writes well, and I did appreciate the research she did, but I have read similar ‘self help’ books. I do like your links. Mine took a different course: Animals make us Human ed:Leah Kaminsky; Underland by Robert MacFarlane; Yorro Yorro: Aboriginal Creation and the Renewal of Nature by David Mowaljarlai, a Ngarinyin Elder, and Jutta Malnic; The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer; The Signature of all Things by Elizabeth Gilbert;

    • March 6, 2021 16:54

      Thanks Meg. I’d love to hear what your reading group thinks about it. Like you I appreciated her research as well. She came up with all sorts of intriguing ideas and ways of thinking.

      And thanks for your great links as usual, too.

      • Meg permalink
        March 15, 2021 08:17

        Hi Sue, my group book had similar thoughts to me about Phosphorescence. Some thought it was self serving, and that Baird didn’t appreciate some people weren’t in her privileged position. However, all appreciated the research and interesting facts. And, we all agreed making contact with nature will lift your spirits. I don’t think it will be our favourite book for the year. Our last five book club meetings have been in the park, where we have had a picnic tea. I must admit candles would have been nice for our last meeting in the park. Daylight saving is finishing this month, and our next book club meeting will be back to a home with lights. We are reading next month, All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton.

        • March 15, 2021 09:19

          Oh thanks so much for reporting back Meg. That’s great. It ended up sharing our third most popular book, with three naming it among their top three.

          I’d love it if our group decided to schedule All our shimmering skies.

  2. March 6, 2021 16:36

    As always, I enjoyed your chain. I’m sitting out this month.

    • March 6, 2021 16:51

      Thanks Theresa – sometimes it’s good to have a break, and not drive oneself, isn’t it? Glad you enjoyed mine.

  3. March 6, 2021 20:05

    I haven’t read Phosphorescence – I linked it to Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, through the word phosphorescence, so my chain took a very different route than yours. I have read just one of your books – The Little Stranger.

    • March 6, 2021 22:49

      Thanks Margaret. I wondered if anyone may have read the Waters, given it’s been around for a while now.

  4. Sue permalink
    March 6, 2021 20:23

    Alas, I haven’t managed to read any of these Sue – but i need want to say I understand about the summer! I personally don’t like the heat, but autumn has hit here already, and it has been a damp and grey summer. Perhaps we’ll get a lovely autumn and winter with sunny days! You do need a bit of a blast of heat in these parts to get you through the winters I agree. I remember when I was living in Canberra the trees started turning pretty much right on 1st March! My favourite time of year. Sending you best wishes from another snowy area of this country!

    • March 6, 2021 22:55

      Thanks Sue … and you’re right, the colours have started already though I think this year it was already happening in February. I agree with her re autumn here. I really don’t like leaving Canberra in autumn. My suspicion is that we may have higher minimums over winter but lower maximums, but it’s the maximums I care about in winter, as I can be snuggly inside for most of the minimums!

      Anyhow, I wish you a good year too Sue.

  5. March 6, 2021 20:59

    This chain feels very personal… thanks!

  6. March 6, 2021 21:01

    This is an interesting assortment of links. I like the connection between Julia Baird and Stan Grant.

  7. March 6, 2021 21:09

    Great chain with some interesting choices!

  8. Mareli Thalwitzer permalink
    March 6, 2021 22:01

    Hi Sue, no I haven’t read Phosphorescence and it’s not quite my type of read either. But I did manage to still do a six degrees on it, yes!

    From Phosphorescence to Lassie come home

    I haven’t read any of your books, but I am interested in the Sarah Waters one and the link you did with the Shokoofeh Azar one is quite clever.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  9. March 7, 2021 00:30

    You and Kate have both intrigued me re Phosphorescence although when I read nonfiction it is usually history or lit crit. Maybe my book group would like it when it is published in the US although we tend to wait until books are out in paperback or at the library. I like Sarah Waters – she manages to make every book so different and yet always fascinating, which is not true of every author. I was sure I had read this one but when I clicked on your review it did not sound at all familiar so that is something to look forward to.

    The armchair traveling aspect of 6Degrees is endlessly entertaining to me! However, I wish more of the Australian books I read about were available here. Postage is just ridiculous these days! Less expensive than flying to Australia to get them, I suppose, although I’d like to do that some time!

    • March 7, 2021 08:39

      Ha ha Constance, I like your comment about postage being less expensive than flying. But you are right that postage is expensive. Some online bookshops don’t charge postage though – I think Book Depository is one, that makes a big difference.

      Re Sarah Waters. What are your favourites?

  10. Neil@kallaroo permalink
    March 7, 2021 17:50

    Just for something different, I’ve given myself an end point, one of my favourite stories, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. I’ll let you know if I manage to forge the links.

    • March 7, 2021 19:42

      Haha, Neil. That’s an interesting challenge. I look forward to seeing if you can make it. I’m sure you will.

    • Neil@kallaroo permalink
      March 17, 2021 16:31

      0) Phosphorescence seems to me to be a bubbly sort of book. Which leads to another bubbly book:

      1) The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This book was originally written in French, so I was going to link to another book originally written in French (a fairly wide field), but I got no traction from this. Instead, I’m using one of the characters as the link – the fox. You can also find a fox in:

      2) Brer Rabbit (various authors, based on African folk tales). Who can forget Brer Rabbit and the briar patch? I could link to Peter Rabbit, but instead, to that great epic of Rabbitdom:

      3) Watership Down by Richard Adams. I don’t remember much of the story, but I do recall the feeling of space (as in landscape, not outer space). Another story from the same era, which also had a feeling of space (though this time in the air) was:

      4) Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. Another story that includes birds in the title (and also has a feeling of space) is:

      5) Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. This was one of my favourite stories as a young teenager. I never did get to sail in a two-person boat, or learn semaphore…

      So, only five links in the chain, but two red herrings, and I’ve read all the books bar Phosphorescence.

      • March 17, 2021 18:04

        I’ll accept this Neil. You did it, and I enjoyed watching you do it!

        Can I just say that I’ve heard of all these books but have only read Brer Rabbit (a childhood favourite) and Jonathan Livingston Seagull (about which I remember very little.)

  11. March 8, 2021 09:16

    Nice to see Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree making an entrance. What an amazing book that was!

  12. George permalink
    March 8, 2021 13:37

    I have not read Phosphorescence. But picking up the theme of light,

    First degree: In Love With Daylight: A Memoir of Recovery by Wilfrid Sheed, the recoveries being from polio, booze and pills, and oral cancer. Sheed writes beautifully, and for bonus points was the son of an Australian.

    Second: Images and Shadows by Iris Origo, also a memoir. (Origo translated Leopardi, and wrote the memoir War in Val D’Orcia among other works; I don’t quite know how to navigate between cryptic and mansplaining here.)

    Third, since we mentioned shadows, Isaac Dinesen’s Shadows on the Grass, a collection of essays following up on Out of Africa.

    Fourth, Ian Frazier’s book of history and travel, Great Plains (the American Great Plains), since almost nowhere is there more grassland.

    Fifth, since we’ve made it to the plains, Beyond the 100th Meridian by Wallace Stegner, essays about the American west, in many cases about how the dryness affects life there.

    Sixth, to get back to light, and to finish with a woman, The White Album by Joan Didion: if memory serves, at least one of the essays is about the hills or mountains of California..

    • March 8, 2021 16:06

      A very enjoyable chain, George (including the mansplaining! I don’t think every bit of imparting information is mansplaining, particularly when it is about specialist interests that not all would be across!)

      I liked the move from light to shadows to grass to plains. And I liked the reference to yet another Stegner.

  13. March 9, 2021 04:43

    Fun links Sue! You always manage to come up different and interesting ways to link books together!

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