Six degrees of separation, FROM The drover’s wife TO …

Spring at last – in the southern hemisphere anyhow. Winter seemed to start early this year so many of us, in my corner of the world anyhow, have been desperate to see its end. Yes, I know many of you have much more severe winters than we do, but it’s all relative! And on that, before I dig myself into a hole, I’ll just confirm that it’s the Six Degrees time again. As always, if you don’t know how it works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book, but for September she threw us one of those curve balls and told us to use the last book we linked to in our last chain. For me, that was Leah Purcell’s film/book/play The drover’s wife (my post). Lisa reckoned I’m lucky to have that to start with. Perhaps so, and, cross-my-heart, I wrote and scheduled my post before I saw what Kate planned!

Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

There are so many ways I could go with this – another multiply adapted work? Another another “wife” title, because there are many of those? Or, a riff on a classic or well-known work? And this last is the way I’ve decided to go, because I enjoy seeing what later writers makes of a loved work, particularly when they look as it from the perspective of a minority or disempowered perspective – as Purcell did with Henry Lawson’s “The drover’s wife”. My first link, then, is Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad (my review), which looks at Odysseus’ story from the perspective of his wife and the hanged maids.

From here, let’s go to another adaptation of that original work, The Odyssey. This time, I’ve chosen a BBC4 full-cast dramatisation (or, “dramatic retelling”) by Simon Armitage (my post) – which I experienced in audiobook form. (Consequently, my post, like many of my audiobook posts, is more minimal than most).

Sea of Many Returns cover

Odysseus’ goal is, of course, Ithaca, and in my post linked above, I added a little postscript referencing Arnold Zable’s Sea of many returns (my review) which, I said, focuses on Ithaca, and its literal and mythological contexts of “home”.

Sea of many returns is a dual point-of-view novel, with the two points of view being grand-daughter Xanthe and her Ithacan-born grandfather whose journals she is translating. The book is about all the leavings and returnings in their family, for work, adventure, war or, simply, to find a better life. Eleanor Limprecht’s The passengers (my review) is also a point-of-view novel involving a grandchild and grandparent, and leaving and returning. Here, though, both voices are female, and they are travelling together, as the grandmother returns to America after a 68-year absence. She had come to Australia as a war-bride.

Book cover

I’m going to stick to grandchildren and grandparents, and the impact of war, by linking to Favel Parrett’s There was love (my post). In this novel we have two grandchildren and two grandmothers. It revolves around two Czech sisters, one who ended up in Melbourne with the other remaining in Prague, after their lives had been disrupted by the Second World War and the 1968 Czechoslovakian Revolution.

Anthony Doerr, All the light we cannot see

Another dual point-of-view novel – but one in which the stories operate in parallel until near the end – is Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer prize-winning All the light we cannot see (my review). It too is a war story, telling of the Second World War through the eyes of a young blind French girl and a young orphan German boy.

This month, we’ve traveled from mythical Greece to modern Australia, via Europe and Greece, but somehow war has dogged us every step of the way, starting with a background of the Frontier Wars in Purcell’s The drover’s wife.

Now, the usual: Have you read or seen The drover’s wife? And, regardless, what would you link to – except, hmm, I asked that last month of course, so let’s choose something else! Do you have any favourite grandparent-grandchildren novels?

21 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM The drover’s wife TO …

  1. I’ve not seen ‘the Drover’s Wife’ but the original short story of the same title was taught in English Lit classes. I wonder if it is based on that story or if it something altogether different? Every time I think of Henry Lawson, who penned the original short story, my mind automatically strays to Barbara Baynton who wrote similarly to Lawson but most often from a feminine perspective and I can’t help but hope that some of her sentiment (What the Curlew Cried/The Drover’s Wife) crept into any modern day retelling.

  2. I have a very hard time thinking of novels in which grandparent and grandchild are on-stage at the same time. There is something in the age difference that seems to render on or the other a cipher. The narrator’s grandfather gets some good lines early in Swann’s Way, but at that point the narrator isn’t up to much except insomnia; by the time the narrator is ready to take a part in life, his grandmother is having a stroke. In War and Peace, Prince Andrei’s son develops as a character only long after the old prince’s death; the old Countess Rostov lives to see many grandchildren, but is pretty decrepit by then.

    About the only work of fiction I can now think of in which grandfather and grandson both are effective is Peter Taylor’s short story “In the Miro District”. Well, and perhaps Wright Morris’s Ceremony at Lone Tree, which even has a great-grandfather (though again, something of a cipher). There is also Disraeli’s Coningsby, which I never finished–he did well not to give up his day job.

    In epics? In the Odyssey Laertes and Telemachus do appear together in the last book. Early the Aeneid, Anchises and Iulus are both present, but Iulus is not much of a character, is he?

    • Fascinating discussion George, and good point about grandparents often being cyphers. It’s a fine line drawing out what is universal in the role and what is individual, as with most characters I guess – but grandparents can be stereotyped more than many. Limprecht’s grandmother is well individualised, and Zable’s is more his story, as I recollect because it’s been a while, rather than him as a grandparent.

  3. I love the classical Greek theme that links your first three picks.
    It must be wonderful to have spring weather. We ought to be heading to cooler weather but it seems to only get hotter and more humid

  4. I’m very late to the party here because I was too busy enjoying myself at the Port Fairy Lit Weekend to pay attention elsewhere!
    But I like this chain. I’ve read everything except the Zable and the Doer, both on the TBR, but you know how that goes!
    I am not sure that I will have time to di #6Degrees this month…

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