Six degrees of separation, FROM Beach read TO …

A new year, and here we are again with our Six Degrees meme. Before I get stuck in, though, I would like to wish you all the best for the New Year, and hope that 2023 proves to be a healthy and peaceful one for us all. We could all do with it, particularly those in troubled and disaster-affected parts of the world. Meanwhile, on with this post’s business. 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 January it is another book I haven’t read, Emily Henry’s Beach read, but, what’s new! It sounds somewhat intriguing. According to GoodReads “A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.” It is of course a perfect title for a down under January book …

Mary Grant Bruce, Early Tales

So, it would be easy to go with what my choice of a beach read, but that’s not where I’m going. Instead, I’m looking at author’s name. Emily Henry’s last name can also be a man’s first name. This is also the case with Mary Grant Bruce, so it is to her juvenilia, The early tales (my review), that I’m linking to first.

From linking on author’s name, I’m next going to title, and another Australian oldie, Price Warung’s Tales of the early days (my review). This title is so similar to that given to Bruce’s juvenilia, but the work is very different. Bruce’s juvenilia are family stories, though not without socio-historical interest, while Warung’s are about convict days and lives, and have clear political intent.

Next, we are going back to author’s name for the link. Price Warung is a pseudonym used by William Astley (1854-1911). Another Australian writer, pretty much a peer in fact, is Jessie Catherine Couvreur (1848-1897). She wrote under the name Tasma, so it is to her satirical Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill (my review) that I am linking to next.

Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin (Public domain, via Wikipedia)

And now, enough of names and titles! My next link will likely push your credulity a bit, but, you know, all’s fair in six degrees linking, so here goes. As I recorded above, Tasma died in 1897. That year Kate Chopin’s short story “A pair of silk stockings” (my review) was published. It’s a powerful short story, and I want to leave Australia, so that’s where we are going.

Now, since I’ve pushed things a bit, I’m going to push it again. If you’ve read any of Chopin’s stories, you won’t be surprised to hear that she was inspired by Guy de Maupassant. In my review of the story above, I shared some of Chopin’s thoughts about de Maupassant, which included that, in him she saw, “Here was life, not fiction”. Another writer who admired de Maupassant, albeit with some reservations about the man I understand, was Henry James. However, he did say that his story “Paste” (my review) was inspired by Maupassant’s famous short story, “The necklace”.

William James
William James (Public domain, via Wikipedia)

For my last link, I am taking the easy path, and linking to Henry James’ brother, the philosopher William James and his essay “On some mental effect of the earthquake” (my review).

So, a bit of an unusual chain this month. Despite the fact that several of my links are straightforwardly on authors and titles, all of the works I’ve linked to are nowhere near contemporary, and the last three are short works rather than books. Some of you, though, may have read Chopin’s or James’ stories, at least? I’ll be interested to hear. Meanwhile, it does seem that this month we’ve not roamed far … staying essentially with “New World” authors.

Now, the usual: Have you read Beach Read? And, regardless, what would you link to?

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?

Six degrees of separation, FROM The naked chef TO …

Oh my, oh my, I’m becoming one of those people who complains about the weather – but really, we’ve had so much rain in our neck of the woods. It’s proving difficult to get our washing dry, to carry out some necessary house maintenance, and so on. The problem is, though, that I feel embarrassed about complaining, given we have brought so much of this upon ourselves. So, that recognised, I think I’d best just move on … to why we are here, 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, and in November it is another book I haven’t read, Jamie Oliver’s The naked chef. I don’t have it, but I am forever grateful to Jamie Oliver for teaching Son Gums to cook, through his books and cooking app. Oliver is a wonder. I was impressed with the app.

Ouyang Yu, Diary of a Naked Official

So, where to from here? I have in fact posted on a couple of cook books, but I’m not going there. Instead, I’m linking on the word “naked” in the title, and going to Ouyang Yu’s Diary of a naked official (my review). My reason is that this enabled me to link to a book that I haven’t – until now – managed to include in this meme. Ouyang-Yu is a Chinese-born Australian-based writer who has a significant body of work.

Linda Jaivin, Found in translation Book cover

Besides writing novels in English, Ouyang Yu translates English (Australian) books into Chinese. My next link is to Linda Jaivin, who not only wrote a Quarterly Essay on translation, Found in translation: In praise of a plural world (my review), but who also does Chinese-English translation, but in the reverse direction to Yu.

Book Cover

I have reviewed a handful of Quarterly Essays for this blog, another being Sebastian Smee’s Net loss: The inner life in the digital age (my review). I read this particular issue for my reading group, as the result of a little confusion. We weren’t sure whether we were to read this Quarterly Essay or …

Penguin collection, translated by Garnett, book cover

Anton Chekhov’s short story, “The lady with the little dog” (my review). Several of us, myself included, read both. The point was that Smee references Chekhov’s story in his essay, because Chekhov’s Gurov discusses his inner and outer lives. In case you are interested, Gurov argues that the inner life is where “everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people”, and Smee is concerned that in our digital age the “notion of an elusive but somehow sustaining inner self is eroding”.

Chekhov’s short story has been translated multiple times, and is much anthologised. Another frequently anthologised short story is Shirley Jackson’s “The lottery” (my review). Indeed, I wrote in my post that it is “one of the most famous short stories in the history of American literature”.

Christos Tsiolkas, The slap

In that post on Jackson’s short story, I also quoted Jackson as saying her story was a “graphic dramatisation of … pointless violence and general inhumanity”, which brings us to my final link, Christos Tsiolkas’ The slap (my review), because I argue that one of its themes is the pervasiveness of violence in western middle-class society.

This month, we’ve spread our wings wide, visiting England, China, the USA, Russia and Australia. For a rare change, my authors are four males to two females. What came over me! I can’t think of any real way of linking Tsiolkas back to Oliver except to say, perhaps, that both are cool dudes with something to say?

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

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?

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?

Six degrees of separation, FROM The book of form and emptiness TO …

Last month, as I wrote this post, I had just got back from Melbourne, and this month I am back in Melbourne. Next Six Degrees, I should be in Sydney, all being well. Life is busy at the moment, but we are enjoying catching up with family and friends after two years of limited opportunities. All that’s well and good, do I hear you say, but what about the main point of this post? It’s the Six Degrees meme, of course, and 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 for August it is another book I’ve not read, Ruth Ozeki’s The book of form and emptiness. GoodReads says it’s a “inventive new novel about loss, growing up, and our relationship with things”. Sounds interesting, but that doesn’t help me right now …

When I haven’t read the starting book, I prefer not to link on content because, you know, I might get it a bit wrong. So, for my first link I’m going with title, and another book that starts with “The book of”. My book is Australian author Leslie Cannold’s The book of Rachael (my review).

Book cover

Cannold’s book is about biblical characters, although the title character is a fictional one. Another book about biblical characters, though in this case the protagonist is real, is Christos Tsiolkas’ Damascus (my review) about Saul who became Paul, in the New Testament.

My next link is weak – I know it – but I’m going there anyhow. Tsiolkas’ Saul became the Apostle Paul, though throughout the novel he remains known as Saul. Garry Disher’s detective in Bitter Wash Road (my review) is Paul Hirschhausen, but throughout the novel he is Hirsch. No-one would ever know he was a Paul!

And now it’s time, after three links, to leave Australia, and the best way I can think of is to go to a much beloved detective of recent decades, Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe from Botswana. I’m choosing one of the two novels I’ve reviewed from this long series, The Saturday big tent wedding party (my review). You’ll have to forgive this very loose link, because Precious is a female private detective whilst Hirsch is a male police detective.

Now, if there is someone who could have done with some of Precious Ramotswe’s common-sense and warmth, it’s Tambu in Tstitsi Dangarembga’s This mournable body (my review). Again my link is very loose, based as it is on the fact that the two novels are set in neighbouring African countries, Tambu living in Zimbabwe bordering Precious’ Botswana.

And now, having found myself here, I can’t resist returning to Australia, linking this time on authors who also make films. Tsitisi Dangarembga has an impressive resume, having won multiple literary awards while also being an active filmmaker of feature, short and documentary films. While she’s not as prolific, Australia’s Leah Purcell is also known as a novelist and filmmaker. I’m linking to her latest production, The drover’s wife (my review), which she’d also written as an award-winning play and a novel.

This month, then, we’ve managed to travel through history and place, from biblical times in the middle east to modern times in Africa and Australia. And we have a 50:50 split in authors, three male and three female.

Now, the usual: Have you read The book of form and emptiness? And, regardless, what would you link to?

Six degrees of separation, FROM Wintering TO …

Why do I always start these posts with the weather or the seasons? This time I’ll break with tradition and start with the fact that I’ve just got back from a lovely trip to Melbourne where we enjoyed some good family times, albeit interrupted in the middle by COVID isolation. How our lives have changed over the last two to three years, as we take these things, not quite in our stride but, at least, as sort of normal or to be expected? What hasn’t changed, however, is our Six Degrees meme. 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 July we are back to a book I’ve not read, Katherine May’s Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times. It’s a memoir, and I think the subtitle speaks for itself. I like the concept of “wintering” or lying fallow as you heal.

I thought a lot more than usual about my first link this month, toying with several ideas. In the end I decided to go with a title using a present participle that refers to an action that’s the subject of the book. Jim Crace’s Being dead (my review) is about a couple found dead among the dunes on a beach. As well as being the story of a crime, this novel also details what happens to dead bodies. It’s pretty visceral, but I learnt things I’ve not forgotten! I love it when fiction does that.

Bianca Nogrady, The end book cover

My next link was easy, because I went for the obvious, science writer Bianca Nogrady’s book The end: The human experience of death (my review). As you might have guessed from the title, it’s a nonfiction work that explores death and dying from multiple angles, including physical, psychological, scientific, and legal. I found it so interesting.

Bianca Nogrady, The best Australian science writing 2015

My next link is also pretty obvious, as it’s on the author Bianca Nogrady, except that for this book she’s the editor not the author. It’s The best Australian science writing 2015 (my review). I’ve come to love these volumes for their varied content ranging across all sorts of science from climate to AI, from how the brain works to research into disease, and so on.

Trent Dalton, Boy swallows universe

And now, unusually for me, I’m sticking with creator for yet another link. It’s interesting how many writers of fiction are also journalists and essayists. Trent Dalton, to whose book Boy swallows universe (my review) I’m linking, is an example. He had a piece in Bianca Nogrady’s anthology called “Beating the odds” about a driven Australian man who developed an artificial heart.

Rabih Alameddine, An unnecessary woman

But now its time to branch out, and I’m going personal this time. Trent Dalton’s book was my reading group’s first book in 2019. Our first book the year before, 2018, was Lebanese American writer Rabih Alameddine’s An unnecessary woman (my review). This was a great read on many levels, including the fact that the main character, a 72-year-old woman is a great reader who comments frequently on the books she reads, including Australian authors like Patrick White and Helen Garner.

Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the crowd

I nearly linked on one of those authors, but we’ve spent a bit of time in Australia this post, so I’m linking on something different. Alameddine’s protagonist Aaliya spends her time translating books, even though they will never be published. It’s an exercise for her. Another novel that features a translator – though in this case it is her job for a while – is Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the crowd (my review).

I don’t see any obvious link back to the starting novel. The meme doesn’t require there to be, but it’s fun if there is one. As is common for me, four of my books are by female writers (or editors) and two by male. While we’ve spent quite a bit of time in English-speaking countries, we have also been to Beirut and Mexico City, which are places I rarely take us to.

Now, the usual: Have you read Wintering? And, regardless, what would you link to?

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?

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?