Six degrees of separation, FROM Notes on a scandal TO …

It might be spring but it’s not a particularly appealing one here, with so much grey and rain, which is unusual for my corner of the world. But, Daylight Savings starts this weekend, which is always a plus, and the spring blossoms and bulbs are out which cheer up the grey. What also cheers up the grey is that it’s Six Degrees time again, which is a time of reconnecting with bloggers I don’t always catch up with over the month. 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, and in September it is another book I haven’t read, though I did see the movie, Zoë Heller’s Notes on a scandal. It was also published under another title, What was she thinking? If I’d realised that before – I only discovered it when I was searching for the book cover – I might have started my chain with the idea of different titles, but I didn’t and so I’m not!

As I said above, I have not read the book but have seen the movie, which stars Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench, so I’ve decided to go with a book that was adapted to a film in which Judi Dench played a role. There are of course many many such books in her long career but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to include a Jane Austen novel again. Judi Dench played Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the 2005 Pride and prejudice (a post on the novel), so that’s what I’m linking to.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and punishment

Next up is a simple link, another book with a three-word-title with “and” in the middle. I think I’ve done this sort of link before, but no matter, it works and my time is limited. The books is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and punishment (my review).

In Crime and punchishment, our antihero protagonist,  Raskolnikov, is sentenced to Siberia for eight years. Diego Marani’s protagonist in his The last of Vostyachs (my review) is Ivan, who is the eponymous last of the Vostyachs, an ancient Siberian shamanic tribe – hence my link!

Vincenzo Cerami, A very normal man

My next link is a more usual one, the nationality of the author. Diego Marani is Italian, and so is Vincenzo Cerami, whose novella, A very normal man (my post) has remained in my mind ever since. Perhaps because ….

… its protagonist was a civil or public servant, as I was (though in libraries/archives rather than a government department.) This public-servant subject matter, and the fact that it’s set in Canberra, is partly why my next book also remains memorable for me, Sara Dowse’s West Block (my review). It also happens to be an excellent read, and a novel with a slightly different structure that I found enjoyable to think about as I read. However, that’s not what I’m linking on next.

Dorothy Johnston, Through a camel's eye

My final link is on publisher. Both Dowse’s book and Dorothy Johnston’s Through a camel’s eye (my review) were published by a small and, I gather, highly personal publishing company For Pity Sake Publishing. I wanted to mention this because I did once meet the publisher, Jen McDonald, and found her a lovely, warm person. Tragically, however, she died this year, way too young. Sara Dowse has written a beautiful tribute on her blog. (I should add that I could also have linked Johnston to Dowse through their joint membership of Canberra’s Seven Writers group).

This month, we’ve traveled from England through Russia to Italy and across to Australia. We’ve stayed mainly in the 20th and 21st centuries but have also popped into the nineteenth century. Oh, and we’ve read a few translated novels. This month the gender split is 50:50.

Now, the usual: Have you read or seen Notes on a scandal? And, regardless, what would you link to?

31 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM Notes on a scandal TO …

      • If your comment is about the blog – god it’s been so complicated. For complex reasons too boring to go into my old blog and website were casualties of the pandemic. It took months to set up the new one, but it has a new program that’s a bit tricky to navigate. Even I have trouble. The www. gets you the website but to open the blog on an iPhone it will come up in the three little dots at the top right of the home page, on a computer there’s a menu at the rt hand top of the home page. Pressing the little cougar head is also a way to navigate. That said, thanks so much for the plug and mentioning Dorothy, Jen and the blog!

  1. Just a bit too much happening at the moment. Big proofreading job, preparing to relinquish the US citizenship I was advised to get back after I renounced it join the public service in 1972. Big mistake and not at all necessary during the time I was in Canada as advised, A great big bureaucratic mess ever since and since I’m too old to travel now (it’s my eyes) and I have never received social security etc etc I’applied to relinquish in July last year and only heard from the consulate in September to say they are granting me an interview to hand over my long defunct passport on Tuesday. Much preparation required and and the expense! Plus having an exhibition in late November which is much of a surprise. So busy. Otherwise fine. Trust you are too.

    • Oh that’s a lot Sara. I assume there are good reasons for relinquishing it. I have heard from other American-born Australians that it’s hard to relinquish.

      I’m sorry about your eyes. That must make proofreading hard.

      Anyhow, yes, busy but well here right now.

  2. I enjoy reading your chains, as much for the links as for the details of the books you choose, the only one of which I’ve read is Pride and Prejudice. I rarely like film/tv adaptations so I haven’t seen the one you mention, but I can imagine that Judi Dench would be superb as Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

  3. Aha. I’ve managed to construct a chain. A miracle springing from the boredom of hospital.
    I haven’t read Notes so for my first link I go to a book written by an author with the same surname, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I read this a long time ago. I think I enjoyed it, but have no plans to reread it.
    The next link is to another book with a number in the title, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Another book I read a long time ago, and probably should reread.
    An integral part of the story is burning books. For some reason this prompted the phrase “Burn, baby, burn”, so I enquired of Goodreads, and this gave me Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. I haven’t read this, but it looks mildly interesting. But then my TBR list is humungous. I shall not read it.
    Sticking with the theme of burning, we have The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard. This I have read, relatively recently. The title mislead me. Say “great fire” to me, and I instantly add “of London”. This story wasn’t even set in London!
    A story that does include London, and I vaguely recall mentions the Great Fire, is Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. I read this a while ago. I found it thick and bewildering, and will definitely not be rereading it.
    And to finish, using the title, we link to Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. This is one of my all-time favourites, and I’m sure I’ll be reading it again.
    There, not bad for a hospital slummer.

    • This is definitely not bad Neil. It’s in fact excellent. I’ve even heard of most of the books but have only read The great fire (long before blogging though). I do remember your love of Spinning silver, which Daughter Gums also loves. I like your little running theme re reading and re-reading (or not), too.

      Glad to have given you a hospital activity.

  4. I have not read Notes on a Scandal, and I’m going to have to go with verbal links.

    I will take advantage of the original title to make degree one What Is Called Thinking? by Martin Heidegger. I’m fairly sure I read part of it, but it would have been forty years ago, so at the moment I’m not quite sure what Heidegger called thinking.

    Degree two is Call It Sleep by Henry Roth, a novel set in New York among Jewish immigrants from Galicia at the beginning of the 20th Century. I have read most of it, but then I can’t say what that “it” is.

    Degree three is The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, one of his Philip Marlowe mysteries, set in and around Los Angeles in the 1930s. In this case, the “big sleep” is death, the death of a character dead before the action begins.

    Degree four is The Big Burn by Tom Egan, a terribly written book about the 1910 forest fires in the US northwest. I am not a fan of Egan’s work, but the title provides a useful bridge.

    Degree five is The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, a memoir of being Black in the US (mostly Harlem) in the 1940s through the beginning of the 1960s.

    Degree six, to end on a more cheerful note is Laurie Colwin’s novel Happy All the Time, set among the urban upper-middle or upper classes mostly in New York in what I take to be the late 1960s.

    I have read Pride and Prejudice and Crime and Punishment, but none of the others you list.

    • Great chain George – and good on you for starting with the alternative title. Your first chain comment re not being sure (now) what Heidegger called thinking made me laugh, as did not knowing what “it”is in your second link. While I’ve heard of some of your books, the only one I’ve read is The fire next time. Would you recommend Laurie Cowin? Is it satirical – the title suggests it could be.

      • Actually, I suppose that what Heidegger has in mind is an openness to being, and that what Roth calls sleep might be the quotidian, unaware lives of his subjects.

        There are ironic bits in Happy All the Time, but it is not satire. The four main characters are for much of the book quite happy and hope to continue so. She is good on domestic felicity, which is not to diminish her gift–domestic felicity happens and might as well be written of. W.M. Spackman, who is happy to say hard things about Henry James and Tolstoy, spoke well of the novel. I first encountered Colwin’s writings through a column in Gourmet magazine, where she wrote well and sensibly about cooking. She died young (forties?) of a heart attack.

        • Openness to being sounds good to me.

          As for “She is good on domestic felicity, which is not to diminish her gift–domestic felicity happens and might as well be written of.” I totally agree. Just wondered. How sad life wasn’t more felicitous for her. I will add this to the list of books people recommend but that I will probably never, unfortunately, come across in the rapidly declining years available to me!

  5. I ended my chain with a short story that was adapted into a film starring Judi Dench. I agree that the film adaptation of P&P she’s in hit the wrong tone (the BBC series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth can’t be bettered in my mind). I’ve added West Block to my wishlist, and would like to know if you have read Michael Frayn’s A Landing On The Sun which is a UK civil service mystery that also has archival evidence in the mix. Meanwhile, I want to read A Very Normal Man but can’t find it in the library, on or even Amazon. Perhaps it’s not available in the UK. Your review copy was from an Australian press, I see from your review. The Curse of the Northern Hemisphere strikes again!

    • I love that you put Jennifer Ehle before Colin Firth when you mention that 1995 adaptation Jan. So many people just say Colin Firth, but I think Ehle was an excellent Lizzie and deserves credit too.

      No, I have only read one Frayn, which I enjoyed – Spies. I will add this to my list of recommendations.

      Wow, that’s interesting about A very normal man. It’s Italian so we had a translation which surely was not published in Australia only. (But yes, it was published here by an independent Aussie company.)

      • I always think of Ehle first, she is the sparkle in that adaptation and the actor that makes it a classic for me.

        I really enjoyed Spies, too. I’ve liked everything I’ve read by Frayn. A Landing On The Sun is my favourite of his, though.

        And yes, I was surprised that the only translation of A Very Normal Man I could find is the Australian one. I shall dig some more!

  6. Pride and Prejudice and Crime and Punishment are the only two I’ve read from your list, and looks like I’m going to add the Vostyachs to my list since it sounds very intruguing.

  7. Pingback: A Very Normal Man – What I Think About When I Think About Reading

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