Six degrees of separation, FROM The end of the affair TO …

March. Summer is over and I’m a bit grumpy, as you couldn’t call what we’ve just had, summer. Very few days exceeded 30°C and none exceeded 35°C. But, I can’t really complain. I am not facing war or floods, and last month a new grandchild – a healthy baby girl – joined our family circle. I’m very fortunate. So, we’ll just enjoy autumn, always a lovely season, and get onto this month’s Six Degrees. As always, if you don’t know this meme and how it works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book. For March, she’s chosen a classic, Graham Greene’s The end of the affair. I’ve read a few Greenes but am not sure I’ve read this one, which has to be a gap in my reading …

Jane Austen, Emma, Penguin

I have, in fact, even reviewed a Graham Greene novel here, but that seemed a  bit boring for a link. Moreover, it’s been some time since I included a Jane Austen novel in my chain, so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. But no, the link is not on English classics, but on books that have been adapted to films of the same name. The end of the affair and Emma (one of my many Emma posts) have been adapted more than once.

Staying with film adaptations, the most recent film adaptation of Emma was the 2020 version directed by Autumn de Wilde to a screenplay by the New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton. It’s to her Booker prizewinning novel The luminaries (my review) that I’m linking next. Helen Garner is another novelist who has written screenplays (albeit original stories rather than adaptations) but she is not my next link!

David Mitchell, The thousand autumns of Jacob de Poet

The luminaries has a large number of characters. Fortunately, Catton (or her publisher) very generously provided one of those character charts at the front of the novel. Another novel that has a huge character list is David Mitchell’s The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet (my review). No list or chart is provided in this book, but one of my reading group members created one herself. That was in 2010, and over a decade later we still often remind her of her diligence!

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

I know many of you are David Mitchell fans, but for those who aren’t this novel was set in Japan (in Nagasaki in fact). Mitchell, of course, is not Japanese, but English. Another novel set in Japan but not written by a Japanese writer, is Korean American writer Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (my review). This one, as many of you will know, tells the story of a Korean family in Japan. However, that’s irrelevant to my next link, which is a simple one …

Michelle de Kretser, The life to come

Pachinko was published in 2017, along with a few other books, says she cheekily! One of those was Michelle de Kretser’s The life to come (my review), so that’s my simple fifth link. I guess you could say there’s another link here because de Kretser’s book does include some immigrant stories.

Book cover

And now we go from a simple link to an obscure one. The life to come is told in 5 parts, one of which is titled “Pippa passes”. It surely has to be a reference to Robert Browning’s eponymous poem. This made me think of Browning, and epigraphs in books. I love epigraphs! So must Orhan Pamuk as he included four in his novel, Snow (my review), one of which was from Browning. Not from “Pippa passes”, unfortunately, but from “Bishop Blougram’s Apology”, on the paradoxical nature of things: “the honest thief, the tender murderer,/the superstitious atheist”. I enjoy paradoxes too, but, luckily for you, I’m at the end of my Six Degrees!

I feel as though I may have gone a bit rogue with my links this month, but I’ve enjoyed doing so. What isn’t rogue is that I’ve returned to my usual proportion of four links by women writers and two by men. We’ve travelled quite a bit – England, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Turkey – with some brief trips to Korea and other spots around the world.

Now, the usual: Have you read The end of the affair? And, regardless, what would you link to?

70 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM The end of the affair TO …

  1. I have read The End of the Affair, just not these forty-five or fifty years. I was impressed by the notion offered as a truism, that one must go to bed with the women of a particular group in order to be qualified to write about that group (higher civil servants in this case). Yet fascinating though the research seemed to be, somehow I never took creative writing classes in college or otherwise pursued the craft of fiction. Was it my habitual sloth, or a suspicion that Greene was wrong?

    Anyway, since we’re on orderings, degree one is The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. My opinion is that Cooper writes inferior Scott: Mark Twain is a little unfair, but not very, in the essay “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses”. Cooper was also incorrect about the elimination of the Mohicans. One can (or could recently) lose all the money one cares to at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut.

    Degree two is The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

    Degree three is Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. I hate to slip from ordinal into cardinal numbers, but it was either that or Henry IV.

    Degree four is The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.

    Degree five is Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich (oral history).

    Degree six is First Considerations by Paul Weiss (philosophy).

    • Great approach to go with orderings George. I didn’t think of that one.

      I love your question “Was it my habitual sloth, or a suspicion that Greene was wrong?” I would say that Greene was wrong, but I know others who might question that! Regardless, I suspect you are not slothful.

  2. Hi Sue, I think I have read all books by Greene. My mother put me on to him. Though my favourite is The Quiet American. I like your links. Mine are a bit different. and are The Awakening by Kate Chopin; At the End of the Day by Liz Byrski; The Way it is Now by Garry Disher, Anatomy of Restlessness by Bruce Chatwin; The long Road Home by Danielle Steele; and Devotion by Hannah Kent, ,

    • Yes, I know you like them Carmel! I don’t think everyone does, which I say because people rarely mention them. (Is this your experience?) I don’t always mention them either, but I frequently do. People miss so much by not reading and thinking about them, I think.

      • One of the books I read last year included many epigraphs but, at a certain point, the author started to repeat them, on purpose (which she explained in an interview but rather hastily). It felt like such a slap in the face for an epigraph-lover! (I won’t name the author because I don’t want to slander her with two other epigraph lovers.)

  3. Yep, read End of the Affair and loved it. The movie with Julieanne Moore and Ralph Fiennes is excellent, too.

    From your list I have read Snow and the Life to Come. And the others, bar Pachinko, are on my TBR.

  4. I haven’t read The End of the Affair but have just finished Brighton Rock. I can’t think what I’d link this book to, perhaps The Mysterious Affair at Styles, although they might be different types of affairs.
    I felt ripped off by this last Melbourne summer too which has been humid and rainy, with only a few beach days. Last summer we didn’t get out because of Covid and the summer before was a bushfire summer. However, as you so rightly point out, better a crappy summer than floods or war. And, you’ve got a new grand-baby!

  5. No, I haven’t read The End of the Affair. In fact I confess that I don’t think I have actually read any books by Graham Greene, although I know who he is and I do appreciate some of his writing-related quotes. I have also heard great things about Pichinko. And I love epigraphs too, as well the acknowledgments pages. Here’s my chain with a decidedly Australian flavour: https://www.melindatognini.com.au/6-degrees-of-separation-from-the-end-of-the-affair-to-against-certain-capture/

  6. You have leapt around quite a bit! How boring I am in comparison, sticking only to titles with ‘end’ in them. I’ve read quite a few of your books – Emma, The Luminaries, Pachinko and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and enjoyed every one of them.

  7. I haven’t read Graham Greene and in my mind I always associate him with Vietnam because when I travelled there in the mid 90’s it was the book many travellers were reading. It was perhaps the beginning of my interest in reading translated fiction, because I rejected reading The Quiet American and went for local literature by Bai Ninh and Duong Thu Huong.

    • I think that was a fair enough decision Claire. I haven’t read that book, though I remember how popular it was. I did see the movie with Michael Caine, and remember liking it. Anyhow, I’ll come check your chain (presuming you’ve done one!)

    • Hi Davida. I don’t know whether you will see this, but I have tried to post a response to your 6 degrees via two browsers on my laptop, and via the WordPress reader on my iPhone and none seem to have actually posted. Here is my response FWIW:

      “I always enjoy your linking Davida, and this is no exception. I’ve only read The wide Sargasso Sea, but I think you’re wrong. I haven’t seen anyone else link to it in this chain yet, though I guess there’s still time.

      I don’t think I realised the link between RLS and DE Stevenson. And I have read a book by Niffenegger, the one that made her name I think, but have never read any more.”

      This is not your problem but mine. I’m talking to WP’s Happiness Engineers about some ongoing serious problems I’m having with commenting on blogs but so far they are mystified. Some blogs it’s as usual, some I have to go through hoops, and occasionally some I can’t comment at all. I am quite beside myself.

        • Thanks very much Davida l saw that a bit later … it seems that it works via the WordPress app on my device, where I am writing this, but I have big problems on computers. I’ve tried three different laptops, two browsers, and 3 operating system versions (all mac Os that the Happiness Engineers recommend but the behaviour is wrong!)

  8. I am ever so chuffed to say that although I haven’t read any of the books in your chain (neither the starting point), I do recognize 5 of them! Whoo hoo!! Oh wait, I lie. I did listen to Emma on Librivox a couple of years ago. And loved the latest adaptation. Thought it was lovely!

    Very clever chain!

    Have a good weekend!

    Elza Reads

  9. I have read The End of the Affair but I can’t say that I enjoyed it. But it is well written, full of ideas and questions packed within its pages. I’ve only read one more of Greene’s books, The Quiet American, which I did enjoy. For once I have read some of the books in your chain – three – and have Pachinko and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet in my TBRs.

  10. Unusually, I’ve read all but two in your chain – Pachinkino (despite enjoying Free Food for Millionaires) and The Luminaries which I gave up early on. Enjoyed the TV adaptation, though.

  11. Nice chain! I haven’t read The End of the Affair or any of the other books on your list, but some of them do sound intriguing. I’ll give the Mitchell a miss though, we don’t get on!

    • Thanks mscez. You are out on a limb there ! these are so many Mitchell fans in the blogosphere. I’ve read two and have liked them. I wouldn’t call myself a follower though would read be happy to read more if, say, my reading group scheduled one.

  12. Fun chain. Emma is an Austen book I really love, not as much for Emma herself but all the other eccentrics. Pachinko is waiting on my Tbr but that’s one of my purchases so I have no idea when I’ll get to it with my huge netgalley pile.

    I haven’t read the End of the Affair but did enjoy his Travels with My Aunt and Our Man in Havana.

  13. I’ve read a handful of Greene’s over the years but find them curiously emotionless, or so constrained by the tight control he has over his stories that the emotion is also too bound up for me to mine. The religious conversion stuff also annoys me, but that’s a personal bugbear of mine.

    However I do ‘enjoy’ reading them. Perhaps that is because I reread A Quiet American whilst in Vietnam and Our Man in Havana whilst in Cuba. Although I managed to read The End of the Affair without having one myself!!

    • That’s an interesting thought Brora ie their being “curiously emotionless”. I’ll have to read more to see that I think. What particular “religious conversion”are you meaning? How does it bug you? Haha re ”The end of the affair”. Glad to hear it!

  14. It has been a very non-summery summer although apparently our average temperature is higher than normal. Didn’t feel like it though.

    I have been meaning to read Pachinko since it came out. Now I see that there is a TV series coming out of this book!

    • Interesting Margaret. In Canberra our average maximum was 2° lower in January and February. But maybe the average mean temperature might have been a little higher – I haven’t seen that stat – because the cloud and rain probably kept the minimums higher?

      Oh, I’d watch the TV series of that.

    • BTW I can’t seem to reply to your own post. I tick Google Account but it doesn’t do anything. I can’t do Name/URL anymore. I don’t think anyone can? I’m not sure about Anonymous but I don’t think that works. But, just want to say I enjoyed your Green theme. My favourite colour!

  15. Yes, I like The End of the Affair, both book and movie, both very intense. I like how Greene writes about the internal conflicts. I’ve even listened to the audiobook which was read by actors invited to read their favourite book. And this one is narrated by none other than Colin Firth.

  16. I think you need to be in a Freeneland mood to enjoy the novels. I read The Heart of the Matter recently and found it rather unconvincing…but there are some BRILLIANT passages!

    • I haven’t read that one either, Ian! It seems that there are those who love Greene and those who are more lukewarm about him. I suppose that’s the same with most authors. There are even people who don’t love Jane Austen I’ve discovered!

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