Six degrees of separation, FROM Sorrow and bliss TO …

What a cold, cold start we’ve had to winter here in the nation’s capital. We have already had a few maximums under 10°C, and winter has barely started. I hate it, but I am lucky to have a warm house, so I’ll stop complaining and be grateful. And, anyhow, we have hope that our new Government will follow up on its promises on big issues like the Uluru Statement from the Heart, climate change and resolving some long-standing asylum seeker/refugee issues. We wait to see what happens. Meanwhile, 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 May we are back to a novel I’ve not read, Meg Mason’s Sorrow and bliss about a woman, and the aftermath of her separation from her husband. What else can I say about it? I haven’t read it, as I said, but those who have are impressed.

I don’t like linking on content of books I’ve not read, so I’m not going there. Instead, I’m linking on titles comprising opposite concepts – taking us from Sorrow and bliss to Lost & found, by Western Australian-based author, Brooke Davis (my review). Like Sorrow and bliss, Lost & found deals with a sad subject, but both books do it with humour (at least I understand Mason’s does).

Humour, however, is not my next link. Instead I’m linking on the idea of a mother disappearing at the beginning of a novel. This is what happens in Lost & found, and it also happens in Margaret Barbalet’s Blood in the rain (my review), albeit under quite different circumstances. It had been on my TBR for decades, so I was really pleased to find time to read it this year.

My next link is not at all clever. I read Margaret Barbalet in January, and in April I read (actually, listened to) another Margaret – Margaret Atwood’s poetry collection Dearly (my review) which covers a range of subjects dear to Atwood’s heart, including women’s rights and environmental issues.

Another poet whose political passions are well-known is Australia’s John Kinsella, so it is to his prose memoir, Displaced: A rural life (my review) that I’m linking next. He was born in and has now returned to the Western Australian wheatbelt. He writes so evocatively of the place – and of the challenges wrought by the long tail of colonisation.

My next link pays homage to the author, Katharine Susannah Prichard, because last month I attended the online launch of Nathan Hobby’s The red witch, the first thorough biography about her. I’m linking to a short story by her, “The Christmas tree” (my post) because it is also set in the Western Australian wheatbelt. It links beautifully to Kinsella, because, as I wrote in my post, “we are still challenged by the role capitalist structures play in people’s lives and livelihoods”.  Kinsella would agree.

“The Christmas tree” was first published in 1919, and so was another short story, written by another significant woman writer, “The mark on the wall” (my post) by Virginia Woolf. They might be very different stories in very different styles – Prichard’s realist approach versus Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness – but both come from women who have now moved into the canon.

So, a bit of a different month to usual: I have only one male writer, two of the works are short stories, two are by poets, and one I experienced as an audiobook. However, we have travelled around the English-speaking world a little – Australia, Canada and England – and we have spent more time than usual in Western Australia. I can’t see any link back to the starting book.

Now, the usual: Have you read Sorrow and bliss? And, regardless, what would you link to?

23 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM Sorrow and bliss TO …

    • Hmmm … I responded this on my iPad but clearly it didn’t take. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you at The red witch launch but it was great wasn’t it.

      How funny that we both linked to Lost and found, given it’s a book that’s not really on everyone’s lips. I love that our links to it are quite different.

  1. I like the basis of your first link – an approach that I didn’t even think of (in fact, I had a bit of trouble getting started this month). Of your list, I’ve only read Lost & Found (which had parts I liked and parts I did not).

  2. One could spin out a chain involving wives or anyway women who leave or are discarded, or consider leaving: The Semi-Detached Couple by Emily Eden, After Leaving Mr. Mackintosh by Jean Rhys, Effi Briest by Theodore Fontane, etc. But I have not read Sorrow and Bliss either.

    So degree one will be The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson–yet another book about Winston Churchill, though I don’t recall that he classifies Churchill among the vile.

    For degree two, a detour into philosophy and Word and Object by W.V.O. Quine.

    For degree three, still in philosophy, Sense and Sensibilia by J.L. Austin. (Published posthumously–I don’t think he chose the title.) There are plenty of X and Y pairs among philosophy titles, but I can’t now think of more where the X and Y are so clearly opposed. So off to fiction, a big gun:

    Degree four will be War and Peace, as dialectical a pair as you can get.

    Degree five will be The Red and the Black, opposed in the politics of post-Napoleonic France, if not on the color wheel.

    And degree six, not really opposed, but perhaps laying claim to being the granddaddy of all X and Y titles, Works and Days by Hesiod.

    It is seldom that someone from the Potomac valley gets to tease anyone about cold-weather tolerance, but “a maximum under 10 degrees Celsius” is what we here would call “a high in the upper 40s”. It doesn’t sound that bad.

    • Starting at the end, yes I know that in the pantheon of cold places we are low down, but for Australia and Australian capital cities, we are among the coldest! But, I’m pleased, George, to have given you the opportunity to take the high weather ground!

      Love your links. You made me laugh with no.5 and and the colour wheel. And yes, War and Peace. Good one.

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