Six degrees of separation, FROM Our wives under the sea TO …

It’s April down under. Actually, it’s April everywhere – I know that – but, down under, April is autumn, not spring. All those Easter cards with baskets of pretty flowers, not to mention eggs with their hints of fertility and birth, have always seemed out of place. Gradually, though, we are making this time our own. Easter Bilby anyone? And now, with that important message off my chest, let’s get onto this month’s Six Degrees. As always, if you don’t know how this meme works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book, and for April it’s a debut novel I’ve never heard of – so clearly I haven’t read it (yet again). It’s Julia Armfield’s genre-bending, from what I can see, Our wives under the sea.

Susan Hawthorne, Limen, book cover

Armfield’s novel is apparently a queer story about a relationship that starts to fall apart after one partner returns from “a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe”. I thought a lot about where to go from here, riffing at first on Armfield to Aussie theatre director Armfield who has staged several novelistic adaptations – but that was getting a bit tortuous, even for me. So, I’ve gone with something a bit watery, albeit concerning a flooding river rather than the sea, Susan Hawthorne’s Limen (my review). It’s a verse novel about two women on a camping holiday whose safety is threatened by a rising river, but while there is suspense and tension, there is more here than a simple adventure or suspense story.

Ali Cobby Eckermann, Ruby Moonlight

From here I’m linking on form, because I love to give my favourite verse novels a little push when I get the opportunity. I’ve posted on a few verse novels over the years, but the one I’m choosing is First Nations’ writer, Ali Cobby Eckermann’s Ruby Moonlight (my review). A work of historical fiction about a young Indigenous girl survivor of brutal massacre, this book has a subtlety that I found impressive.

Book cover

Next, I’m staying with First Nations’ writers, but moving to a memoir and linking on name. In Tell me why (my review), Archie Roach pays great compliment to his late wife Ruby Hunter who provided much of the stability he needed to turn his life around and become the success he now is. 

One of the main issues Roach confronted, and for which Ruby Hunter’s support was important, was alcoholism. For my next link, I’m returning to fiction, and Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain (my review) in which alcoholism plays a significant role in the poverty-stricken life that young Shuggie lives.

Book cover

And now, I’m drawing on this very meme to provide my link. Shuggie Bain is one on the many many starting books I hadn’t read at the time of the meme. It is also one of the very few that I read some time after the meme. Another book in this category is Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet (my review). If these two books are any guide, I guess I really should try to go back and read more of those unread starting books!

My final link is another one personal one. Hamnet was not one of my reading group’s Top Three picks at the end of last year, but it was one of our two highly commendeds. The other highly commended was Delia Owens’ Where the crawdads sing (my review) and so I’ve chosen it for my last link. Not a perfect book, by any means, but a good, heart-felt story.

And there, I am back to four women writers and two men in my links. I could perhaps argue that we’ve come full circle given the starting book and my last one are set in watery domains. The authors all come from English-speaking countries – the United Kingdom, Australia, and the USA.

Now, the usual: Have you read Our wives under the sea? And, regardless, what would you link to?

52 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM Our wives under the sea TO …

  1. Hmm, my mind is a blank about how to get started. (As usual, I have nothing planned).
    I may have to do something banal with ‘wives’ or ‘sea’.
    BTW Goodreads says it isn’t even published yet, so no wonder we haven’t read it…

  2. It’s only just been published here and not out in the UK until July, so I doubt if many people will have read the starter book.

    The only one on your list I have read is Hamnet, which I found problematic, and I abandoned Where the Crawdad Sings after about 20 pages because I couldn’t stand the flowering writing! I see they have now adapted that book for the cinema, so maybe i will just settle for watching the film…

    I’ve read Ali Cobby Eckermann’s memoir… I like the sound of this verse novel… and would fit in nicely with my #ReadingFirstNationsWriters project. Ditto for the Archie Roach book.

    • Thanks Kimbofo. I found Crawdads a bit problematic but I loved the description partly because I’ve been around the area it’s set I suppose.

      I’ve read a bit of Cobby Eckermann. I think you’d like Ruby Moonlight.

  3. I loved Hamnet, Where the Crawdads Sing, and Shuggie Bain, all for very different reasons of course, so that suggests I ought to give the other books in your chain a go. Thanks!

  4. Hi Sue, I have not read Our Wives Under The sea by Julia Armfield. I like you linked up your choices. My links stayed watery. The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne; The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan; The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson; Past the Shallows by Favell Parrett; and The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy

  5. Our Wives Under the Sea is out in the UK now – I have a copy. I never look at Goodreads any more. It started driving me to distraction a few years ago, so I decamped to LibraryThing, where I’m much happier. It suits my library state of mind much better!

    I’ve only read Hamnet in your chain. It wasn’t all that for me. I’m interested in Limen, however.

    • Jan, thanks for the tip. Goodreads irritates me, I’ve never been able to add a private comment against a book (though I’ve been told it is possible). I had a quick play with Library Thing, and had no problem finding how how to create a note. That’ll do me. I am revamping from Goodreads and joining you at Library Thing!

      • You’re welcome Neil! I couldn’t get along with the pushiness of Goodreads, especially not after it joined the Amazon family. LibraryThing is a far more pleasant place.

      • I am at Library Thing too Neil but haven’t updated my holdings for a few years. the reason I preferred it in the beginning was that at the time it was the only one that let you export your library as a spreadsheet (so you wouldn’t lose your catalogue if the site went bust) and you could use a barcode reader to enter books. I vowed not to use GoodReads but somehow I started to. I really don’t use the community much there (at GR I mean. I’m not really interested in private or public comments there, but perhaps that’s because I do commenting via blogs. Keeps me busy enough!)

        BTW are you revamping or decamping?

        • LOL. Not sure. For four years I suffered from a slow laptop. And I was crook, so I just put up with it. A month ago I got enough energy to order a new laptop, which turned up a few weeks ago. I swear it is ten times faster. As a result, all of those projects on the back burner are now shouting for a front burner (I presume such a beastie exists).

          So the long answer to your question is that my current intentions are to migrate all my Good Reads entries to Library Thing, but this is a low priority, and for the moment I’ll just add new entries into Library Thing.

    • Ahinteresting, Jan. I started with LibraryThing eschewing GoodReads for a long time. Uodd you care to tell me why you really like it. I might return. (I was a librarian) I still receive the monthly emails.

      Limen is a good read.

      • I haven’t ever tried to articulate why I chose LibraryThing over Goodreads. Let’s see what falls out of my brain! It’s mostly an Amazon thing – I try to use Amazon as little as possible and their acquisition of GR in 2013 was the nail in the coffin for me – but there are other factors.

        I think of GR as the Facebook of book cataloguing. A lot of people want that and like GR for that reason, but it’s not for me. When I deleted my FB account, I still had GR asking me to log in using my Facebook account. I’d never logged in that way, but had shared GR content to FB in the past, so it had added the account as a login option for me. Somehow that behind-the-scenes linking left me in a weird “how do we know this is you if you’re not on FB” loop, trying to access my GR account. It’s that sort of thing that annoys me – the persistence in requesting access to other accounts. I also didn’t like the Bookshelf structure or the prescriptiveness of the platform, pushing me to behave in the way the platform wanted me to. I also joined a group on there and struggled to get the platform to accept that I didn’t want notifications via email, no matter how many times I updated my settings, and including after I’d logged out of GR, uninstalled the app and stopped being active on the web platform. I found it had a weird competitiveness about it, too, from the annual reading challenges to the book club-style groups.

        LT feels more straightforward to me – it’s a cataloguing tool built by librarians, it doesn’t have all the social media gloss of GR, it doesn’t try to force you to link accounts with any other social media, there’s no sense of corporate grift or engagement neediness about it, it doesn’t scrape your data to try to sell you other things, everyone that I’ve interacted with on there has been pleasant and, in the case of reading challenges, encouraging of and interested in what other people are reading. I’m not a massive joiner-in, but my LT forays into community have been positive.

        LT has made a number of big improvements to its user interface recently that make it feel less like work than it used to, but the techy stuff is still there for people who like to add or improve metadata. I get the feeling that the owners care more about developing something that is genuinely useful to members rather than monetising their users’ every interaction with the site. I like the freedom to create my own collections and to tag my books however I want, knowing that the platform can mash my tags with other people’s variations on the same theme. I like being able to add a book manually. I like using academic and deposit library databases rather than Amazon to add books to my catalogue. I love the new Charts and Graphs feature, too.

        Plus there are the seasonal treasure hunts, which I find fun, and SantaThing for those years when I feel like I haven’t got enough books and I’d like a stranger to choose something for me from a budget set by me.

        There we are! I don’t know if that’s any help to you in deciding whether to give LT another whirl. 😊

        • Well, thanks a bunch Jan. for writing all that. You have tempted me. All of that makes perfect sense. I might very well return to LT. I did use tags etc there more carefully than I have bothered with GR, and I did like the thoroughness of their info. I checked my login credentials from 2007, on the weekend and they still work, though I have logged in since then of course. Do you use their app or mostly use it via your computer?

          PS My home library is scattered with dots identifying my LT entered books.)

        • I mostly use it via computer. I use the barcode facility in the app for quickly adding books, but the app uses a miniaturised version of the website for further editing, so everything else I do on the full fat website.

          The app is good for quick checks of whether I already own or have read a book, or whether it’s on my wishlist when I’m pondering something in a bookshop or the library. Sometimes I forget!

          I love that you have LT dots on your entered books. I hadn’t thought of doing that.

        • Yes, I was wondering about using the app to add books since the phone cameras make it so easy.

          Haha, re the dots. I had too have some way of knowing where I was at.

        • Yoicks. I went hunting for the app, and find there are heaps more apps that catalogue a home library. Now I’m thoroughly confused. Maybe I’ll just go and read a book…

        • Haha, sounds a good idea, Neil!

          I remember there was one called Collections but it may not exist anymore. However, LibraryThing is a good system if cataloguing your books is your aim. I have done it, and exported the spreadsheet.

        • Had a bit more of a play with LibraryThing. I click with it. Shall do all recording with it in the future, and migrate GoodRead entries at some stage. I also had a play with WordPress. LOL. I still don’t get it, even though I watched a few videos. Well, if I tear all my hair out in exasperation, that is probably a good thing, seeing as how I’m avoiding the hair dresser during the current COVID wave in WA.

        • I’m just trying to get started! It has been suggested that I share my screen through Skype or Zoom with someone in the know. So I intend to tap my S-I-L on the shoulder. Probably something simple I’m misunderstanding.

        • Is your SIL a WordPress blogger?

          Mr Gums and I would be happy to help if you need it. Mr Gums set up our Travel Blog (but it’s a self-hosted one) and I set up my freebie one, so between us we have pretty good experience. If your SIL can help, great, but know we are also here.

  6. In regional Victoria, it feels like winter has come early. Definitely will consider an Easter Bilby or two to cheer me up!

    I haven’t read any of the books in your chain but like how you linked them. Love that we have rivers in common – although my river came at the end of my chain!

  7. I had not read or heard of Our Wives Under the Sea. Unfortunately, undersea literature tends to be mythological or very modern, and I have mostly had to settle for wives this side of the surface.

    But degree one has to be the Iliad: Thetis has to be the underwater wife par excellence in European literature and its descendants, even if she figures in the poem much more as mother than as wife. And all the trouble started at her wedding.

    For degree two, Herodotus’s histories. Artemisia cut enough of a figure not under but on the sea for the Greeks to put a price on her head. I don’t know that she was married, but as a queen she must have had dynastic reasons to be.

    For degree three, Antony and Cleopatra: it was something to have gathered the forces to fight at Actium, even to lose. And Cleopatra did marry=, though she is better known for her extra-marital liasons.

    For degree four, Samuel Eliot Morison’s The Maritime History of Massachusetts, in honor of a Mrs. Patten. “In the midst of a Cape Horn gale, Captain Patten came down with brain fever [meningitis?]. The first mate was in irons for insubordination; the second mate was ignorant of navigation. But Mrs. Paten had made herself mistress of the art during a previous voyage. Without question, she took command. For fifty-two-days this frail little Boston woman of nineteen years navigated a great clipper of 1800 tons, tending her husband the while; and took both safely into San Francisco.” (As I read this, I’m not sure on what grounds Morison judged her frail.)

    For degree five, Edward Beach’s novel of USN submarine service in WW II, Run Silent, Run Deep. In his book at least the men are satisfactorily under water. Wives do appear in the novel, but on shore.

    Finally, and getting the women back under water, T.S. Eliot’s Collected Poems for the ending of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/By sea-girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown/Till human voices wake us and we drown.”

    • Love your opening George… and of course your ending. Excepting Old Possum’s book, Prufrock was my first Eliot, at high school. Its details were a bit mystifying at first but I loved it for its tone and sound straight away.

      I’ve heard of Run silent, run deep, but unsurprisingly not of your Morison.

      Your comment on Artemesia’s dynastic reasons for being married made me laugh!

  8. Do you know Where the Crawdads Sing has a movie adaptation coming up soon? I can’t say I’d fully embraced the book… well maybe I should read it again before checking out the movie. It stars two of the rising stars today, in particular, Daisy Edgar-Jones, from ‘Normal People’. Always interested in seeking out woman directors and this one is by Olivia Newman. BTW, wonderful to see Jane Campion honored at the Oscars, the third woman to win Best Director in 94 years, albeit overshadowed by the ugly episode that night.

    • I just heard Arti so will be interested. I didn’t fully embrace it either but I was far more positive than negative. I guess I decided to suspend disbelief because I loved the whole setting. This is the actor Olivia Newman?

      And yes, it was great to see Campion win. But my, that Incident was ugly as you say. I do think some of the Oscars razzing can get close to the bone, but Rock did handle himself very well. You could see his brain in overdrive as he worked out how to proceed, couldn’t you.

      • My personal choice would be The Power of the Dog for Best Picture, albeit didn’t think it would win due to the last shift in popularity of CODA. Anyway, good for it to win too, another woman director. As for Power, it’s based on a book by American writer Thomas Savage and that book is very well written and I think Jane C. deserved an Adapted Screenplay Oscar. In case you’re interested, my 4 Ripple review of the movie here.

        Olivia Newman here is a director. Also, have you read/watched The Lost Daughter? Another woman director. O and thanks for the mention and link to Ripples on Passing, yet another woman director. I sure hope this trend will stay, two years back-to-back Oscar win by women directors. 🙂

        • I will read your review of The power of the dog, Arti. I only got to see it in March. I was surprised by how many awards DUNE got in areas that I thought Power excelled. I didn’t love DUNE, whereas I did love POWER. I have still to see CODA. And no, I missed THE LOST DAUGHTER too. We don’t subscribe to Netflix et all so if we don’t see it in the cinema we tend not to see it. (We do have AppleTV though, where CODA is.)

  9. I love these! I have not read Our Wives Under the Sea, but I think I would go watery too link to The Mere Wife by Maria Headley, and since that is about Grendel’s mother, it would be natural to link to Beowulf, and then there would be so many directions to go!

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