I so nearly didn’t post a chain for this month. I made a start but the second half had several false starts and then when the final link came, I was aghast at how I could have missed the last few. By then I’d taken a step back from the blogging world for a short while, and it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted about anything other than books; I thought, maybe I’ll just let this one pass …. But here I am: posting about books.
Thanks again to Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest for hosting Six Degrees and giving us the starter book: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. For me, Tales of the City means a tv series that I caught snatches of every so often many years ago, when I never knew who anyone was or what was going on, yet it felt like I ought to be watching it. I knew there was a series of books but I haven’t read any of them and almost certainly never will.
But the title gave me an easy start for my chain. Does anyone remember Tales of the Riverbank? Another tv series, this time for children, which was first broadcast in the UK in 1960 and of course, in black and white. I loved it. (I hasten to add I would have been very young and I must have been watching repeats rather later in the decade.) Hammy Hamster and GP Guinea Pig – neither of which strike me now as likely creatures to be messing about in boats – it was the gentlest and most delightful little programme; I can still hear their ‘human’ voices and see Hammy’s twitching nose…
But forcing myself back from this nostalgic reverie, of course there is no leap at all from Tales of the Riverbank to Kenneth Graham’s anthropomorphic classic The Wind in the Willows, which I re-read just a few weeks ago. My favourite character in the book is Mole and I tried very hard to forge a link using dear, gentle, timid Mole as the connection, but to no avail. Instead I thought about the many and various locations claimed for the book – one of which happens to be the river Lerryn – just a few miles from me. I have walked this stretch of the river; it’s a beautiful and peaceful place. Certainly, Graham was no stranger to the area and it’s said that the character of Ratty the water rat was based on that of Arthur Quiller-Couch, who lived in nearby Fowey.
When I first walked beside the Lerryn I was unaware of the connection with The Wind in the Willows but I certainly felt the timeless and unique atmosphere of the place. Quiet, peaceful, secretive: my mind was taken up with the creeks running off the river – and the book in my head was Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier. Although Daphne would have known well the riverbank that I walked along, Frenchman’s Creek was not set here, but further into Cornwall, off the Helston River. But it was nice to dream.
My thoughts were now focusing on animals and boats, which brought to mind a very different book. Unlike Frenchman’s Creek and The Wind in the Willows, Jamrach’s Menagerie will never be a favourite. In fact, I don’t think I finished it – or if I did it was only because it was a book club choice. Starting in 19th century London, when a young boy is rescued from the jaws of an escaped tiger, the book moves on to a harrowing voyage involving madness, starvation and cannibalism. It may have been listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 but that didn’t make me want to read it and I didn’t enjoy what I read one jot.
Man Booker, quirky animal collection, shipwreck, marooned at sea, tigers, young boy…. There was no problem with where to go next. Everything pointed to Life of Pi – which went one better than Jamrach’s Menagerie and had won the Man Booker ten years earlier in 2001. I loved the early part of this book: the zoo in India, and I never lost interest in the rest of the story even when I wasn’t quite sure what was going on at the end.
And here is where I got stuck. Ridiculous really. I had a book in my head, but I could not get anywhere further from that book. I almost gave up. Yet it was obvious. As soon as I gave up on the problem book and went back to start again from Life of Pi and tigers, there it was.
I haven’t read Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively but I very much want to. It’s in the running for the Golden Man Booker Prize, having won the Booker in 1987. It doesn’t have a tiger in it so far as I know but it sounds wonderful. The winner of the Golden Booker – the best of the fifty years of Booker winners – is announced today (July 8th) so perhaps by the time I publish this, Moon Tiger may have won. Either way I shall be reading it soon.
And it leads me into the ideal book for my final link. A more recent offering from Penelope Lively, and one I’ve had on my list for a year or two. If I was more on the ball, given my love of reading books in the appropriate season, I ought to be reading this one right now. Heat Wave was published in 1997. Its title makes it an ideal end for July’s chain as we in the UK swelter through the summer of 2018. In fact, given the long stretch of sun symbols on my weather app, I probably still have time to read it now before the weather breaks…
My chain has travelled from sunny San Francisco via quiet Cornish creeks and deadly seas to a seemingly quiet backwater in sunny Middle England. Thinking about it, the sun features heavily throughout these choices. I can’t imagine why!
Next month’s starter? Yet another Booker shortlister: Atonement by Ian McEwan. One that I’ve read and read recently, and which featured in my six degrees chain in May. I’m going to have to think differently for next month. And hopefully I’ll have managed a few posts not involving books before it’s time for the next Six Degrees.