Six degrees of separation, FROM True history of the Kelly Gang TO …

Winter is icumen in! Can I say that? For many of you, it’s not that cold here in Australia, but in Australia, my city of Canberra is the coldest capital city in the country. It’s the only thing I don’t like about living here. But, we will survive. Meanwhile, we have things like blogs and memes to entertain us. So, 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 novel I’ve read, but not since blogging, Peter Carey’s award-winning True history of the Kelly Gang in which Carey tackles on of Australia’s big (bushranger) myths.

Courtney Collins, The burial

There are so many angles to take from here. One could be its unique syntax (and go to Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl woman other). Another I considered was titles that people aways get wrong. There is no “The” at the beginning of Carey’s title, but that led me down a path I didn’t have time to fully investigate. So, I decided to go with content, and choose Courtney Collins’ The burial (my review), because it is also historical fiction about a bushranger, albeit a women, Jessie Hickman, whom most of us had never heard of.

Arielle Van Luyn, Treading air

Now Courtney Collins made quite a splash with this novel in 2012, but we’ve not really heard from her since. Another novelist we’ve not heard from again (yet) – though her novel didn’t make quite the same splash – is Ariella Van Luyn, and her 2016 historical fiction, Treading air (my review), which also focuses on a real, albeit small-time, historical character.

Book cover

Next, I’m staying with historical fiction – and writers we’ve not heard much from – but the link I’m choosing is the Brisbane 1940s setting (though only part of Treading air is set in Brisbane). The book is Melanie Myers’ Meet me at Lennon’s (my review). Both books mean something to me. Van Luyn’s book is partly set in Townsville where my Mum was born. And, my Mum became a teenager in 1940s Brisbane and experienced the wartime Brisbane that Myers writes about. She also knew Lennon’s.

Book cover

But now, we’ve spent too long in Australia. I was going to say, in historical Australia, but I’m sticking with historical fiction and linking to another another World War 2-set novel, Emuna Elon’s House on endless waters (my review). Both this novel and Myers’ alternates between the present and a past mystery, but Elon’s also moves between the Netherlands and Israel.

Sawako Ariyoshi, The doctor's wife

We are staying with historical fiction – who knew I’d read so much of it – but I’m linking this time on the idea of translation. Elon’s novel was translated from the Hebrew by Anthony Berris and Linda Yechiel. Sawako Ariyoshi’s The doctor’s wife (my review), which tells of the Japanese doctor who developed anaesthetics for surgery, was also translated (from the Japanese) by two translators, Wakako Hironaka and Ann Silla Kostant.

Haruki Murakami, Blind willow, sleeping woman

My final link is a bit of a cheat, because it too was translated from Japanese by two translators, Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin. Its Haruki Murakami’s Blind willow, sleeping woman (my review). I say it’s a bit of a cheat, because this is a collection of short stories so it’s perhaps a little more understandable that there might be more than one translator. However, if you don’t like that, let’s just say the link is another Japanese authored work. Take your pick.

And thus, like last month, I am back to more women writers in my link, with five this month. We have, however, travelled a little, from Australia to Japan, via The Netherlands and the Middle East. We have spent quite a bit of time in the early to mid twentieth century, except that with Ariyoshi we did go back to the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. I can’t think of any real link between the starting and ending books except – and maybe this is a good one – both Carey and Murakami were born in the 1940s, and both have had significant writing careers.

Now, the usual: Have you read True history of the Kelly Gang? And, regardless, what would you link to?

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?

Six degrees of separation, FROM The end of the affair TO …

March. Summer is over and I’m a bit grumpy, as you couldn’t call what we’ve just had, summer. Very few days exceeded 30°C and none exceeded 35°C. But, I can’t really complain. I am not facing war or floods, and last month a new grandchild – a healthy baby girl – joined our family circle. I’m very fortunate. So, we’ll just enjoy autumn, always a lovely season, and get onto this month’s Six Degrees. As always, if you don’t know this meme and how it works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book. For March, she’s chosen a classic, Graham Greene’s The end of the affair. I’ve read a few Greenes but am not sure I’ve read this one, which has to be a gap in my reading …

Jane Austen, Emma, Penguin

I have, in fact, even reviewed a Graham Greene novel here, but that seemed a  bit boring for a link. Moreover, it’s been some time since I included a Jane Austen novel in my chain, so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. But no, the link is not on English classics, but on books that have been adapted to films of the same name. The end of the affair and Emma (one of my many Emma posts) have been adapted more than once.

Staying with film adaptations, the most recent film adaptation of Emma was the 2020 version directed by Autumn de Wilde to a screenplay by the New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton. It’s to her Booker prizewinning novel The luminaries (my review) that I’m linking next. Helen Garner is another novelist who has written screenplays (albeit original stories rather than adaptations) but she is not my next link!

David Mitchell, The thousand autumns of Jacob de Poet

The luminaries has a large number of characters. Fortunately, Catton (or her publisher) very generously provided one of those character charts at the front of the novel. Another novel that has a huge character list is David Mitchell’s The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet (my review). No list or chart is provided in this book, but one of my reading group members created one herself. That was in 2010, and over a decade later we still often remind her of her diligence!

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

I know many of you are David Mitchell fans, but for those who aren’t this novel was set in Japan (in Nagasaki in fact). Mitchell, of course, is not Japanese, but English. Another novel set in Japan but not written by a Japanese writer, is Korean American writer Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (my review). This one, as many of you will know, tells the story of a Korean family in Japan. However, that’s irrelevant to my next link, which is a simple one …

Michelle de Kretser, The life to come

Pachinko was published in 2017, along with a few other books, says she cheekily! One of those was Michelle de Kretser’s The life to come (my review), so that’s my simple fifth link. I guess you could say there’s another link here because de Kretser’s book does include some immigrant stories.

Book cover

And now we go from a simple link to an obscure one. The life to come is told in 5 parts, one of which is titled “Pippa passes”. It surely has to be a reference to Robert Browning’s eponymous poem. This made me think of Browning, and epigraphs in books. I love epigraphs! So must Orhan Pamuk as he included four in his novel, Snow (my review), one of which was from Browning. Not from “Pippa passes”, unfortunately, but from “Bishop Blougram’s Apology”, on the paradoxical nature of things: “the honest thief, the tender murderer,/the superstitious atheist”. I enjoy paradoxes too, but, luckily for you, I’m at the end of my Six Degrees!

I feel as though I may have gone a bit rogue with my links this month, but I’ve enjoyed doing so. What isn’t rogue is that I’ve returned to my usual proportion of four links by women writers and two by men. We’ve travelled quite a bit – England, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Turkey – with some brief trips to Korea and other spots around the world.

Now, the usual: Have you read The end of the affair? And, regardless, what would you link to?

Six degrees of separation, FROM No one is talking about this TO …

February already … and so another year starts to whizz by, or so it seems to me. Somehow, this Six Degrees theme just makes it all the more obvious as it comes around very quickly. But now, as it’s clear that I don’t have any small talk – or, alternatively I have too much – we’ll just get on with the main game. (Talking of games, wasn’t Australia’s summer of tennis great this year?!) Anyhow, if you don’t know this meme and how it works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book. This month, she’s chosen a book that was near the top of her Best of 2021 list, Patricia Lockwood’s No one is talking about this. I haven’t read it, so let’s push on …

Steve Toltz, A fraction of the whole

As always, there were so many options for my first link, but I decided to go with the idea of debut novel shortlisted for the Booker Prize, which was the case for No one is talking about this. Many debut novels have been shortlisted for the Booker since it started, but one that I’ve reviewed here is Steve Toltz’s A fraction of the whole (my review). I’ve chosen it because it was a lively read and – well – because I like to remind us of older books that once made a splash.

Peter Temple, Truth

In 2019, ABR (the Australian Book Review) posted their Top 20 Aussie books of the 21st century, which seemed a bit silly given how early in the 21st century it was. However, it does provide me with an interesting link opportunity. Steve Toltz’s book came in at 17. At 16 was Peter Temple’s detective novel, Truth (my review).

I’m not really a big reader of crime fiction, but I admit there’s some good writing in that genre, including good Australian writing. Truth was an International Winner of Germany’s prestigious literary prize for crime fiction, the  Deutscher Krimi Preis (German Crime Fiction Award). And so was Garry Disher’s Bitter Wash Road (my review). In fact, Disher has won this award a few times.

Book cover

But, hmm, I’ve now linked three Australian books, so I would really like to get us overseas – in books, not just in awards! So, my next link concerns my TBR. Bitter Wash Road had been on my TBR for 8 years when I read it in 2021. A book that had been waiting much longer, from when I bought it in 1995 to when I read it in 2019, was Louise Erdrich’s The Bingo Palace (my review).

Book cover

Now, I’ve mentioned Louise Erdrich on my blog in another capacity besides for this book, and that was as an author who also owns a bookshop. Hers is Birchbark Books and Native Arts, in Minneapolis. Another American author who owns a book shop is Ann Patchett who hit big time with her novel Bel canto (read before blogging.) I read, loved and reviewed her essay (published as a booklet) on bookselling and bookshops, The bookshop strikes back.

And this leads me naturally to another essay by a novelist (and more) who worked in a bookshop, George Orwell’s “Bookshop memories” (my very short review). The essay draws from his work in a secondhand bookshop in London.

I rather like that I’ve gone from a book that deals, at least in part I believe, with the internet and the infiltration of social media into our lives with one about selling secondhand books, in which the author discusses people’s reading tastes! (And, for the first time, ever, I think, the male writers outnumber the female in my six links!)

Now, the usual: Have you read No one is talking about this? And, regardless, what would you link to?

Six degrees of separation, FROM Rules of civility … TO …

I started last January’s Six Degrees with “Woo hoo! A New Year at last after what has really been a doozy for us all, in one way or another. So glad to see the back of it”. Little did we know – still, there was no harm in hoping for better. Regardless of what the year brought us, I hope you all had an excellent Christmas wherever you were and however you were able to spend it. And, given this year’s first Six Degrees of Separation meme actually happens on New Year’s Day, now’s the time to also wish you every good thing for 2022. Now, on with the show. If you don’t know this meme and how it works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book. This month, she’s chosen a book that’s on my TBR (given to me by my wonderful Californian friend, in fact) and that I want to read, Amor Towles’ Rules of civility. One day!

I’m going to start the year’s links by being a bit silly, and so my link is on a three-word title with “of” in the middle. I was surprised to find I had quite a bit of choice – including Book of colours and Field of poppies – but the title that felt closest in flavour to Towles’ is Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of travel (my review). This novel inspired and challenged me in so many ways.

Graham Greene, Travels with my aunt

Staying with the idea of travel, I’m linking to a novel whose title starts with “travel”, Graham Greene’s Travels with my aunt (my review). I loved reading Greene again after a long hiatus. It was because my reading group selected it as our “classic” pick for 2017.

William Makepeace Thackeray, Barry Lyndon

So, my next link is my reading group’s 2016 “classic” pick … a book that I didn’t enjoy so much, though it had its moments, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The luck of Barry Lyndon (my review). (For those of you who think I LOVE every book I read – think again!)

Book cover

The luck of Barry Lyndon is a good example of a traditional – classic – picaresque novel. When I wrote my post on Eve Langley’s 20th century novel, The pea pickers (my review), I observed that it had elements of the picaresque, and so it is on that idea that I chose it for my next link.

Frank Moorhouse, Cold Light

The two sisters in The pea pickers take to the road, finding work as they can, while exploring the country. In order to find work in those times – the 1920s – when women rarely went on such adventures, and for safety reasons, they dressed in men’s clothes and adopted male names. Ambrose in Frank Moorhouse’s Cold light (my review), however, cross-dresses (in the mid 20th century) because he likes to do so, and fortunatelyfor him the wonderful Edith doesn’t mind.

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Aussie readers will know that Cold light is the third book in what is known as the “Edith trilogy”, so I decided to take the trilogy idea for my last link. I initially thought to choose the third in a trilogy – for a strong link (if some links can be stronger than others) – but, despite having a candidate or two, I decided for various reasons (including a change of continent) to go with Marilynne Robinson’s trilogy, which starts with Gilead (my review).

Coincidentally, we’ve ended up in the country where we started – the USA – but instead of 1930s New York, we’ve moved to 1950s Iowa (in the midwest). Between these books, we’ve travelled more than usual – after all, two of the links are books about travel – and we’ve gone back to 1844. We’ve also visited various 20th century decades, and dipped our toes in the current century. We’ve met ne’er-do-wells and ministers, earnest young woman and cross-dressing diplomats, as well as travellers and migrants. We’ve seen it all – or, at least, a lot.

I like, too, that I’ve started the year with half of my books by men and half by women. How very even of me!

Now, the usual: Have you read Rules of civility? And, regardless, what would you link to?

Six degrees of separation, FROM Ethan Frome TO …

And suddenly it is the last Six Degrees of the year. Once again, I’ve had fun with this meme – with doing my own and seeing what others have done. Thanks muchly to Kate for running the meme and offering us such a varied selection of titles to start from. For those of you new to this meme, please check her blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – to see how it works.

We start with the book chosen by Kate, and this month it’s Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. I read this book in 1991, and loved it (gut-wrenching though it is.) It started me on a Wharton reading journey that I am still on because, not only did she write many novels, but she was also a prolific short story writer and journalist. I’ve reviewed a couple of her short pieces on my blog. Wharton also created one of my all-time favourite female character names, Undine Spragg (The custom of the country). How good is that!

Anyhow, as you will all be aware, we have hit the silly season, and time is short – for me to write posts and you to read them – so this month I’m doing a title-based “poem”, again. The links are to my reviews.

For Ethan Frome,
A very normal man,
Things fall apart
when Love and freindship collide,
and one In whom we trust
becomes A window in the dark.
Such is The love procession.

With thanks to our sponsor authors, in order: Vincenzo Cerami, Chinua Achebe, Jane Austen, John Clanchy, Dymphna Cusack, and Suzanne Edgar.

  • Vincenzo Cerami, A very normal man
  • Chinua Achebe, Things fall apart
  • jane Austen, Love and Freindship
  • Book cover
  • Dymphna Cusack, A window in the dark
  • Suzanne Edgar, The love procession

(Apologies for the variable image sizes, mostly due to the Gutenberg Gallery editor. I’m not keen to try reloading resized images into my media library with no surety of that fixing it! So, it’s either this or nothing folks!)

So, this month we have travelled the globe – at least to North America, Europe, Britain, Africa and Australia, and we’ve achieved gender quality with three male and three female authors. What better way to end the year.

Now, the usual: Have you read “Ethan Frome“? And, regardless, what would you link to it?

Six degrees of separation, FROM What are you going through TO …

Woo hoo! This last month, we in Canberra, New South Wales and Victoria came out of lockdown. Vaccination rates are high, and it is still spring (here down under) so things are looking good in our neck of the woods. I sure hope it is for all of you, too.

But now, with the weather and pandemic report out of the way, let’s get onto our Six Degrees of Separation meme, which, as most of you know, is run by Kate. Check her blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – to see how it works.

We start with the book chosen by Kate, and it is Sigrid Nunez’s What are you going through? As happens more often than not, I haven’t read it, but, among other things, it is about two friends and assisted dying.

Spare Room

For my first link I’m breaking my personal “Six Degrees” rule which is to only link to books that I’ve read and reviewed on this blog. My link is Helen Garner’s The spare room. It’s about two friends, one terminally ill with cancer but so desperate to not die that she engages in expensive and ultimately useless alternative therapies – to the immense distress of the caring friend. Bill has reviewed it, so here’s his, because, like me, he likes the novel!

Margaret Rose Stringer, And then like my dreams

From here, I’m linking to a memoir, which is particularly appropriate given Garner’s work falls into the autofiction genre. The book is Margaret Rose Stringer’s (M-R to those of you who read comments on my blog) And then like my dreams (my review). M-R wrote this as a tribute to the love of her life, who died from cancer. Her journey with him through life, illness and death, is beautiful to read. This link is doubly apt because M-R is a keen Garner fan.

Book cover

Next, we return to fiction, but stay with the idea of grief, in Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet (my review). The trigger for this book is Agnes’ grief over the loss of her son Hamnet. Most of you will know that Hamnet was Shakespeare’s only son, and Agnes is a name used by Shakespeare for his wife Anne Hathaway. The novel ends on Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

From here we are going to another book which riffs on the backstory behind a piece of literature, though in this case rather more is known about the story. The work is Steven Carroll’s The lost life (my review). It is the first in Carroll’s “Eliot Quartet” which explores, obviously, TS Eliot’s Four Quartets. The first quartet is “Burnt Norton”, and Carroll’s novel is framed by the story of Eliot and Emily Hale, who visit Burnt Norton manor in 1934. Like Hamnet in O’Farrell’s novel, Eliot, himself, is a fairly shadowy figure in the story.

I loved TS Eliot as a student and, while his life and views have become problematic, I’m still moved by his work. I was therefore thrilled when an app appeared for another of his major works, The Wasteland (my post). This app is an impressive application of modern technology to the enjoyment and study of literature and I’m sorry that it seems not to have taken off. (I don’t have a pic of the app, so you get a print edition instead!)

Title page for Ch. 16, Sylvia Nakachi
Ch. 16, Sylvia Nakachi (Used under fair dealing provisions for purposes of review)

However, people are exploring the use of modern online and interactive technologies for literature, and one organisation doing this is/was If:Book. (It may now be defunct, or it has transformed into something else.) Produced under its auspices was Writing black (my review), edited by Ellen van Neerven. She saw a digital-only production being “moulded by possibility”, saying that the enhancements available in such an approach “lifts the imagination”. I haven’t seen a lot of work going down this path, perhaps because most readers still love books, but I love that creators experiment with the new. It keeps the arts fresh.

So, this month we have strayed far from the beginning. I can’t see any link, as we’ve gone from death and grief to exploring the new. I think that’s a good way to be!

Now, the usual: Have you read “What are you going through”? And, regardless, what would you link to it?

Six degrees of separation, FROM The lottery TO …

Another month has gone, and we in Canberra, New South Wales and Victoria are still in lockdown. However, with vaccinations proceeding apace, the end is in sight, we hope. On the plus side, it is spring, and the blossoms are out – and daylight savings starts this weekend which I love. I know that for some of you, though, it is autumn. I hope you are having a good one. Meanwhile, let’s get onto our Six Degrees of Separation meme, which, as most of you know, is run by Kate. Check her blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – to see how it works.

We start, of course, with the book chosen by Kate except that this month it is a short story, Shirley Jackson’s much studied, much anthologised “The lottery”. And, because it is a short story, I did manage to read it (my post).

My first link is an obvious one, another short story with a shocking ending, Kate Chopin’s “Désirèe’s baby” (my review). I’m a big Chopin fan, which started when I read her novel The awakening. Anyhow, our starting short story and this one make powerful statements about human cruelty, and both, coincidentally, start by describing lovely days!

Chopin’s story involves a baby and racism. Another book in which a baby is unwittingly related to brutal, racist behaviour is Nardi Simpson’s Song of the crocodile (my review). It’s a novel by a First Nations Australian, so its ambit extends beyond Chopin’s, but it is this baby who grows up and forces this novel’s shocking denouement.

Book cover

For my next link, I thought I’d move away from grimness, except I then realised that this next book also has racism at its core! However, my link is on the author’s career, because Nardi Simpson had an established singing career before she became a novelist. The author of the book I’m linking to is also a well-recognised First Nations singer, but his book is a memoir, Archie Roach’s Tell me why: The story of my life and my music (my review).

Emma Ayres, Cadence

I’m sticking with musical memoirs for my next link. It is a travel memoir by a musician who, bravely to my mind, cycled across Europe and Asia, from England to Hong Kong, with her violin. The book is Emma Ayres’ Cadence: Travels with music (my review).

Sarah Krasnostein, The trauma cleaner

Most Australians know Emma Ayres, as she was a much-loved presenter some years ago on ABC Classic FM. Most of us also know that, after she left that job, she went to Kabul and soon after that transitioned to Eddie Ayres. He wrote about this process in his book Danger music. However, I haven’t read that, but I have read Sarah Krasnostein’s The trauma cleaner (my review), an award-winning biography of a transgender woman, Sandra Pankhurst.

Now, what to end on? I think a short story might be apposite, and there is one that I read back in my first year of blogging that might fit the bill, though, back then, I gave less attention to my short story reviews than I do now. The story is Tessa Hadley’s “Friendly fire” (my post). I’m linking on the protagonists who are two middle-aged women cleaners in an industrial warehouse, Pam who owns the cleaning business and her friend Shelley who is helping her out for the day. The main focus is Shelley, and her thoughts about life and family, particularly about her son who is in the military in Afghanistan, which might give you a clue about the story’s title. I read it online, but it has been published in a collection called Married love, hence the cover I’ve used.

So, this month I have at least come full circle in terms of form. We have also travelled quite a bit, given one of the links is a a travel memoir, and we have, I’ve realised, met a few cleaners, as Nardi Simpson’s novel involves house cleaners and washerwomen. Perhaps, I’m giving myself a hint!

Now, the usual: Have you read “The lottery”? And, regardless, what would you link to it?

Six degrees of separation, FROM Second place TO …

Little did I know when I wrote my last Six Degrees, that I would have just completed three weeks of lockdown when writing my September edition, but that’s, indeed, where I am. I am aware that among most eastern state Australians, the ACT has been relatively lucky. However, we have been feeling for some time that we’ve been living on borrowed time and that time ran out. Australia did a great job last year of suppressing the virus but the Delta variant, combined with problems in vaccine supply and delivery, left us exposed. We can only hope that … oh well, what more can I say. Let’s get onto our Six Degrees of Separation meme, which, as most of you know, is run by Kate. Check her blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – to see how it works.

We start, of course, with the book chosen by Kate and this month it’s another book I’ve not read, Rachel Cusk’s Booker Prize longlisted Second place. I haven’t read Cusk yet but she’s been on my radar, and is even moreso now.

Jennings Finding Soutbek

I haven’t, in fact, read any of the longlisted books, but I’ve read previous works by some of them, so this is where I’m going first. The author I’ve chosen is South African author, Karen Jennings. I’ve read two of her books, but as I recently linked on one of them, I’m democratically selecting the other, Finding Soutbek (my review), which I remember enjoying for adding to my knowledge and understanding of her country.

Book cover

Another South African-born writer who has provided me with insights into his country, is JM Coetzee. He has also been longlisted for the Booker prize and, in fact, has won it twice. But they are not the books I’ve chosen here. That one is Diary of a bad year (my review), mainly because it’s the only one of his I’ve reviewed on my blog, although I have read a couple of others, including the unforgettable Disgrace.

Those of you who have read Diary of a bad year will know that it is quite challenging to read, not so much because of its language but its structure: it has three storylines, one running at the top, one in the middle, and the other at the bottom of each page. How do you read that? In fact, once you decide your way to read it, it’s perfectly readable. Another book that seemed confronting to read – this one because of its almost complete lack of punctuation – is Bernadine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning, Girl, woman, other (my review). It, too, turned out to be easy to read.

Sticking with potentially challenging books, I’m next linking to my latest read, Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize winning Shuggie Bain (my review). It is set in Glasgow, and much of its dialogue is in Glaswegian vernacular. This was off-putting for many English readers, a commenter on my post said, but I found it much easier to read than I expected, and quite musical in fact.

Waverley book cover

For my next link, we are leaving this little subterranean linking of Booker-related books, and delving back into the past with Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (my review of volume 1). I’m sure you’ve guessed my link – yes, Sir Walter Scott, like Douglas Stuart, was born in Scotland. There’s not much else to link these books on except, I suppose, that both are named for their male protagonists!

Book cover, The forgotten rebels of Eureka

And finally, for something completely different, we are going from Waverley the novel, to a work of history that in 2014 won the previously named Nib Waverley Award (but which since 2017 has been known as the Mark & Evette Moran Nib Literary Award.) Waverley is the name of the municipal council which manages this interesting award which focuses on research as well as writing. 2014’s winner was Clare Wright’s The forgotten rebels of Eureka (my review).

I haven’t read our starting book, so can’t comment on whether there’s much to link back to, but I think I could say that Clare Wright wrote her book because, for too long, women in history have taken second place! How does that sound?

Now, the usual: Have you read Second place? And, regardless, what would you link to it?

Six degrees of separation, FROM Postcards from the edge TO …

I love August. It’s still winter but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and when I say “light” I mean it literally as suddenly, it seems, we start to see the lengthening days. We also know that the first spring blossoms are about to give us joy. These are pluses because in fact August, September and October here can have some really cold days with winds coming off the snow … but summer! It’s not far off! Now though, I’ll get onto our Six Degrees of Separation meme, which, as most of you know is run by Kate, and explained on her blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule, of course, is that Kate sets our starting book. This month it’s a book I’ve not read, though it’s been around for a long time, Carrie Fisher’s Postcards from the edge, which was published in 1987. For some reason, I’ve always thought it was a memoir, but it’s actually fiction, albeit semi-autobiographical. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who Carrie Fisher is, so I’ll just move on to my next link.

Helen Garner, Postcards from Surfers

I can’t resist going for the obvious this time – and linking on the title – because it gives me an opportunity to share a short story collection from a favourite author, Helen Garner’s Postcards from Surfers (my review). I could cheekily suggest it’s a double link because, like much of Garner’s fiction, this collection has autobiographical elements.

When I review short story collections, I often comment on the title, because some are given an original title while others are titled for one of the stories in the collection. Garner’s collection is one of the latter, and it is on this that I am going to link, and go to Adam Thompson’s Born into this (my review). The titular story is perfect for the collection because the stories are all about the lives First Australians are born into.

Cate Kennedy, Australian Love Stories cover

It was at this point of my research for this Six Degrees that I decided to focus on short stories, so all my links will be short stories. For the next link, I’m delving into the collection. One of the bolder stories in Born into this is titled “Honey”. One of my favourite, and cheekiest stories in the Australian love stories anthology edited by Cate Kennedy (my review) is Carmel Bird’s “Where honey meets the air”.

Next I’m linking on form. By this I mean that Australian love stories is an anthology of stories by different writers versus one writer’s collection as we’ve had to this point. My next link then is to another anthology, Love on the road 2015: Twelve more tales of love and travel edited by Sam Tranum and Lois Kapila (my review). The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted another double link, this time on the theme – love.

Book cover

Love on the road was published in Dublin and contains stories from around the world, so we are going to stay overseas. However, just in one place, Mumbai, and one writer, Jayant Kaikini’s No presents please (my review) which was published in Australia by Scribe. It’s so good to see small Australian publishers bringing books like this to our shores.

Penguin collection, translated by Garnett, book cover

My last link is to a single short story, Anton Chekhov’s classic The lady with the dog (my review). Can you guess what the link is? I’ll give you some marks if you say because it’s set overseas, but I chose this particular overseas-set story because, like Jayant Kaikini’s collection, I read it in translation!

I know some of my readers here aren’t short story lovers so these links won’t thrill them much, but for the rest of you, I hope you see some collections or anthologies that you know or that appeal to you. I did my best to take us a bit around the world.

Now, the usual: Have you read Postcards from the edge? And, regardless, what would you link to?