It’s already time for Six Degrees again, hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest.
From the starter title provided by Kate, create a chain of six books, each one linked to the one before. This month is a wildcard: we each start our chain with the book we ended on last month. For me that was The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. Although each book is only required to link to its predecessor, often a theme arises or a choice spins back to an earlier link. This month is no different in that regard. It is different in that beyond the starter book, none of the others are books that I’ve read; they are all books that I very much want to read. So perhaps this chain will give me a nudge! It also takes me on a whistle-stop tour across the globe, sampling cultures far removed from my own. We begin in France.
The Paris Wife is the fictional account of the marriage between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, most of which is spent in Paris. With Paris and Wives in the title, I have a huge array of novels to choose from and my first obvious link does feature another wife in its title but that’s only a part of why I chose it.
The Paris Wife was McLain’s debut novel, published in 2011. Another debut novel published in 2011 went on to win the Orange Prize for that year (now known as the Women’s Prize for Fiction). The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht has been on my wish list for years and weaves an eclectic account of the turbulent history of the Balkans. It has mixed reviews but I’m drawn to its lyricism and its blend of history and folklore. (I see that Téa’s next book will be released in the UK this month. I’ll be keen to see how she fares with the notorious second novel.)
From wife to wife, from tiger to tiger: I skipped past The Life of Pi by Yann Martell – a book which has stayed with me for years with its enigmatic and lyrical prose – and have chosen instead The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo.
Helen at She Reads Novels has recently reviewed it and it caught my attention immediately. For this one we travel to Malaya in the 1930s for another tale blending history, folklore and magical realism into a rich mystery concerning a missing finger. This book has leapt to the higher echelons of my wish list. (I knew it sounded familiar when I read Helen’s review: FictionFan also reviewed this one and loved it – despite the magical realism. That’s high praise indeed.)
The next obvious link is night. This book is on my Twenty Books of Summer list so will definitely be read soon. Night Waking by Sarah Moss is set on a fictional island in the Hebrides and has a dual timeline relating the stories of contemporary Anna and also May, whose letters from 200 years ago when she was sent to the island as a midwife perhaps connect with the skeleton of a baby discovered in Anna’s garden. May goes on to feature in Moss’ two following novels and I’ve read and loved the third of the trio – Signs for Lost Children. If Night Waking is anywhere near as good as that one, I’m in for a treat.
Once again ‘night’ is the obvious link to my next choice. But there is more. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is another book that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. We are now in small-town America with two elderly neighbours who are confronting loneliness and old age and have a special friendship. Night Waking features the skeleton of a baby. From babies to grandparents; from birth to death; from skeletons to souls. I just know I will love this book – I can’t understand why I have still not read it!
My next choice is The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, a book that came to mind so quickly that I felt sure I must have read it. But I haven’t; I can only assume that it has stayed in my mind from reading other books by Amy Tan. We have another ‘wife’ in the title, but it connects to its immediate predecessor through shared themes of friendship and family, old age, death and dying. The present-day thread of the story occurs in America but we also visit China for the older elements and spend time on another small island – this time off the coast of Shanghai in the 1920s. Another opportunity to absorb the history, culture and folklore of a society very different to my own.
My last link yet again appears to be an easy one based on the titles: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. Once again this is a book that came to my attention through a recent blogging review, this time from Jan at What I Think About When I Think About Reading I was drawn in by Jan’s review and although this time we are in contemporary Japan the themes are again universal: family and friendship, loneliness, loss and death. Banana Yoshimoto has gone on to write many well-regarded novels. But Kitchen, published in 1988, was her debut.
I didn’t intend to create a chain of books that I haven’t read and I’m not sure I’d do it again. But it has reminded me of several that have been waiting on a list for far too long. We have travelled from debut to debut via France, the former Yugoslavia, Malaya, the Hebrides, America, China and Japan. From wife to tiger, to night, to kitchen via a rich variety of cultures exploring the universal themes through marriage, motherhood, birth and babies to friendship, neighbourliness and loneliness and finally grandparents, death and loss. What a rich chain I’ve created for myself. All I need to do now is read them!
Next month’s starter book is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – a book I’ve read quite a lot about and yet another that I’m champing at the bit to read! Sadly, that won’t happen before the next Six Degrees but I’m already into a chain spinning off from it.