Six degrees of separation, FROM The snow child TO …

Not the weather this month, except to say that Summer has started well. Instead, I’ll just say that I hope you all have a beautiful December, sharing meaningful, nurturing times with the people who matter most to you. It’s not always possible for us all, I know, with families and friends spread far and wide, but that is my wish for you dear readers. And now, I’ll get to our Six Degrees meme. 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. In December it is another book I haven’t read, Eowyn Ivey’s The snow child, which is partly based on a Russian fairytale about a childless couple who build a little girl out of snow. Next day, the snow girl is gone, but they glimpse a little girl in the woods …

Danielle Wood, Mothers Grimm, book cover

Many writers have taken fairytales and riffed on them to explore an issue they see as relevant or important. I tend not to gravitate to these sorts of books, but one I did and loved is Danielle Wood’s short story collection, Mothers Grimm (my review) which re-visions some Grimm Brothers’ fairytales – “Rapunzel”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Sleeping Beauty”, and “The Goose Girl” – to reflect on contemporary motherhood.

Book cover

It’s not hard to find links for novels about contemporary motherhood, but I’m going to link to a memoir, Australian filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse’s Unconditional love: A memoir of filmmaking and motherhood (my review) because it’s about a mother with a successful profession who had to make some very hard decisions about balancing mothering and career. It is great to see that with her children now grown up, she is picking up her career more actively – and, yes, successfully.

Book cover

You all know that while I read nonfiction, fiction is my first love, so for my next link I’m returning to fiction and an historical novel about the early years of filmmaking, Dominic Smith’s The electric hotel (my review). It chronicles the life and career of fictional silent filmmaker Claude Ballard. He is sent into bankruptcy through the actions of the nonfictional film inventor Thomas Edison who did his best to exert control over the early film industry.

Peter Carey Chemistry of tears bookcover

Dominic Smith is Australian-born but now lives in Seattle, Washington, USA. Another Australian-born writer who has taken up residence in the USA – albeit on the opposite coast – is Peter Carey. I’ve reviewed a few of his books here but the one I’m linking to is another work of historical fiction, The chemistry of tears (my review).

Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

The chemistry of tears is set in England and Europe at that time of great industrialisation, but it’s not form or content on which I am linking next. Peter Carey is one of six writers who have won the Booker Prize twice, and I have reviewed books by three of the other five here, JM Coetzee (now Aussie-based), Margaret Atwood, and the one I’m going to link to Hilary Mantel. She won it for Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring up the bodies, but Wolf Hall (my review) is my chosen link, because …

EM Forster, Howards End

Wolf Hall is the name of a place, a building, a residence in fact, relevant to the novel. It conveys something about the protagonist’s wolfish actions and presages the novel’s sequel (being the home of Henry VIII’s next wife). EM Forster’s Howards End (my review) is also titled for the name of a place, a building, a residence. This place too has a political resonance in the novel, albeit not embedded in the name itself. It stands for traditional culture and values at a time of significant social change, and is where two opposing ideas come together.

This month, I have a rare 50:50 gender split in my selections. We’ve not travelled so far, sticking primarily to Australia, the USA and England – though Dominic Smith does have us scampering a bit around the world and Peter Carey takes us to Germany.

Vale Neil: This morning, Bill (The Australian Legend) emailed me to let me know that one of our commenters, Neil@Kallaroo, had died this week. This was desperately sad news for us. Mr Gums and I attended Neil’s wedding in 1978, and he and his wife ours that same year. Neil frequently commented on my Six Degrees posts in particular, offering his own links. Most recently, though, in late October, he engaged in a discussion about reading eBooks and note-taking on my Telltale post. Neil had been chronically ill for many years, and Mr Gums and I had long been keen to visit him. We finally managed to go to Perth and visit him in hospital in September this year. How great that we did. Neil was his same, lovely, engaged-in-life self. Frustrated by his weakness, he was just getting on with living the best life he could – reading, playing games (online with friends and family), doing puzzles. Vale Neil, you were a good person to know. We will miss your annual Gneillian News!

Now, the usual: Have you read The snow child? And, regardless, what would you link to?

39 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM The snow child TO …

  1. Oh, I’m sorry to hear about Neil but how lovely you got to see him on your Perth trip. Of your books, I’ve not read any although I have both the Dominic Smith and the Peter Carey in my TBR.

    • Thanks Lou … it is very sad, but one of the nice things that happened for him is the little community he found as a result, I think, of deciding to read my blog. So, I love hearing that you remember chatting with him.

  2. Love the unpredictable nature of your choices. Seeing the Peter Carey title I was sure your next link would be Lessons in Chemistry! Your choice takes us down a np uch more interesting path.

  3. Hi Sue, yes, I have read The Snow Child and loved it. I do like your links, and I read it just after I arrived home from seeing The Phantom of the Opera, which was brilliant. So I begin with The Phantom by Gaston Leroux; Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; The Turn of the Screw by Henry James; The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold; Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and The Hunter by Julia Leigh.

  4. I’m glad you made that final visit – it is so sad when our usual busyness gets in the way.

    Wolf Hall was such a fascinating read because so much went on in that book that did not involve Wolf Hall. I am not usually a fan of television adaptations but the actors in that miniseries all looked perfect for their parts. All the sets were very dark, which I assume was deliberate/realistic, but that was my only complaint. I liked the second book, although less than Wolf Hall, and have not yet read the third.

    • Thanks Con. Yes it is and we are so glad it didn’t this time.

      I’m like you – have read tune first two, but not tie this. It looks a bit daunting and in wondering whether I need it given all I want to read.

  5. I hadn’t realized that Coetzee is now based in Australia. He is firmly South African in my head, but I don’t exactly keep up with his work, if I’m honest. I’ve read a few of his books.

    Thank you for updating us about Neil. His name was a familiar one around here, and I’ve been wondering why I haven’t seen any comments lately. You’re a good friend.

  6. So sorry to read about the loss of your friend Neil, Sue. Good that you got to spend time with him before the end.

    I enjoyed your chain, too. I’m having a spate of reconnecting with writers I loved in the 90s but then fell away from – Carey is another.

    And thanks for the reminder via Wolf Hall that I excitedly bought The Mirror and the Light on publication but still haven’t read it. I must remedy that.

    I’ve added The Electric Hotel to my library wishlist. Early days of cinema and early days of electricity are big draws for me.

  7. Using the theme of disappearance, I’d take the first step to Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson which ends with the disappearance (by their own decision) of two women, a niece and an aunt. If I remember correctly it starts with a disappearance of sorts, of a derailed train into a lake; but it has been a long time since I read it.

    Since Housekeeping is set in the mountain west, degree two will be Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs by Wallace Stegner. His west takes in Canada, but is mostly the arid US southwest. (The title is taken from a line in the song “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”–he wrote a novel of just that name.)

    Another book with a title taken from a song, and also set in the American west, is Leaving Cheyenne, by Larry McMurtry.

    I believe that Leaving Cheyenne is set in Archer County, Texas; anyway it was to Archer County that McMurtry moved his used-books operation when he found Georgetown rents oppressive. So degree four will be Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, since the heroine is one Isabel Archer.

    Yvor Winters thought The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton the best novel of the school of Henry James. I don’t see that Winters is wrong, but others far better qualified have disagreed. Whether or not he was correct, the novel’s protagonist is one Newland Archer, so this will be degree five.

    Degree six will be, for its name, The Age of Longing by Arthur Koestler. It is not that great a novel, it is very much of its time (ca. 1950), but I cherish the old roue who has reached the age at which his two greatest fears are silence and conversation, and who defends himself against both with monologue. I recognize the tendency in myself, and have seen it in others.

    Of your list, I have read only Howard’s End. It seems to me to suffer from the same weakness of some of Forster’s other novels: the general tone is of Voltaire and harpsichords; but for anything touching on marriage, or simply the relations between the sexes, the tone switches to sermons and pipe organs. I have read Bring Up the Bodies but not Wolf Hall

    • Oh dear George … you made me laugh with your description of Howards End. I guess it does have the tone of sermons and pipe organs, but I loved it anyhow. The tone suited the protagonists! They were earnest young women.

      I enjoyed your whole chain, partly because I’ve heard of all the authors, and have read a couple of the books too. I have Housekeeping on my TBR; I would love to read that Stegner; and I really need to read some McMurtry because I enjoy reading about the American West and I sense his style will appeal to me.

  8. Pingback: Getting Old | The Australian Legend

  9. Hi Sue, I was so sorry to hear about Neil’s passing. I met him here on your blog 4 years ago when I was commenting about board games and puzzles and reviewing a book at that stage called It’s All A Game – A Short History of Board Games by Tristan Donovan. That was about 4 years ago, and Neil offered to play Backgammon with me and I’ve been playing almost every day since. While he was my only competitor and I rarely won, I understood Neil enjoyed playing many many online games with friends and family. His daughter Gemma was so kind to reach out to all of Neil’s friends on Board Game Arena to let us know of his passing which must have been incredibly difficult. My condolences to you, Gemma and all of Neil’s loved ones. He will be missed and thanks for introducing us.

    • Oh, how truly lovely Tracey. As you clearly know he loved games and puzzles, and had a lovely wit. I knew he had met a few people through this blog but had no idea how far that had extended. What happened to him seemed so unfair – but life isn’t fair is it? I admired so much how he handled it all. Anyhow, thank so so much for telling me this.

  10. Just popped over from Bill’s post as I don’t usually read people’s six degrees posts: I’m so sorry to hear about Neil@Kallaroo, it’s devastating to lose a friend, esp a long-term one.

    • It is Liz, thanks for popping by. It is always terrible to lose a friend, and we’ve lost a few this year, with Neil though, being by far the longest-term one. I’m touched by how many bloggers have taken the time to comment on Neil’s death.

      Haha, re Six Degrees posts. I completely understand. Six degrees is the only regular meme I do and the only one I tend to read in others.

  11. I’m still catching up on 2022 online (and not necessarily doing very well with it) and noticed the link to your post on Bill’s post about Neil; I’m sorry to hear this news and have long enjoyed reading his comments on your posts and Bill’s. How fortunate that you were able to meet up, and how unsettling that you wouldn’t have predicted it would be for the last time. Of course you and Mr Gums would feel the loss more keenly, having been friends for so long, but isn’t it interesting how many people took note of Neil, sitting here in the group, over the years, such a consistent and active participant in online circles.

    • Thanks Marcie … I’ve been loving all the messages from people who had noticed and/or engaged with him. It does show what a fun and interested person he was … particularly given he didn’t have his own blog so all the contact was via comments. I know that the blogging community community gave him pleasure. He picked up my blog a few years ago via our annual Xmas newsletter. I loved it when he did but little did I know how it would pan out.

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