Six Degrees has come around already. It only seems a week or so ago that I was making the chain for June but that’s because I was late in June. Remarkably, I am on time for July!
This month we begin with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. Set in New York and described as ‘intense’, it tells the story of two men and their families in the later decades of the twentieth century. It ought to be a book which attracts me but I can’t see myself reading this one. The book is narrated by art historian, Leo, one of the two main characters in the story. It is the name ‘Leo’ which sets my chain in motion.
Tim Pears wrote a trilogy of books also covering several decades in which the main character is named Leo. We first meet him as a young boy in 1911, living with his family as tenants on a large country estate in the West Country where his father works the land and in particular works with horses. The Horseman is the first of the trilogy. I was captivated by this book in particular but really by all three, and read them all back-to-back. They remain in my head now. Hopefully there will be a post about the trilogy soon.
The West Country Trilogy, as the books are collectively known, led me easily to my next link. Long Summer Day is the first in another trilogy set in the West Country, written by R F Delderfield. The trilogy itself is known as A Horseman Riding By. It begins about a decade before Pears’ books and is also about a country estate in the first half of the last century. I very much enjoyed both series but there is a world of difference between the two writers and their aims. They are chalk and cheese in style and it’s inappropriate to compare them.
A single, long summer day is what we get from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I’ve read this book twice but I’m planning a third reading having read an article (courtesy of one of Paula’s excellent Winding Up the Week posts) which suggests that Mrs Dalloway was at the time of this particular day recently recovered from the Spanish flu – the pandemic of 1918-1920. Will my interpretation differ this time around, armed with that awareness and given our present crisis?
I began to realise that in keeping with the title of our starter book, I have been thinking about books that I love. Whilst I can’t say that I love Mrs Dalloway, I do love The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, which is cleverly based on Woolf and Mrs Dalloway and which in turn became a wonderful film. In the film of The Hours Clarissa Dalloway was played by Meryl Streep. There is a Clarissa in another of my favourite series which has also been adapted, this time for television and radio.
Clary was always my favourite of the Cazalet girls in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s 5-book series, The Cazalet Chronicles. In the first book, Clary is a diffident young girl but already with aspirations to be a writer. My choice of book for the chain is the final one in the series, All Change, which takes place some decades after the war-time years of the previous four. In this final book, Clary has grown up and has children of her own and finally the writing career she dreamt of.
In the BBC Radio dramatization she is voiced by Georgia Groome – who looks exactly as I would expect Clary to look. (Not that it matters in radio!) A tv adaptation of the earliest novels was made some years ago. I would love to see the whole series adapted and should that happen, Georgia Groome would be perfect for the role on tv.
Which brings me to my next much-loved book. Georgia is the link as it is the setting for Alice Walker’s wonderful The Colour Purple. There is far too much to say about this book; I should probably read it yet again and write a proper post about it but for now I’ll restrict myself to mentioning that it’s an epistolary novel – one of my favourite forms.
At this point I was stunned that I hadn’t seen the final link in the chain coming but I truly hadn’t. Isn’t it satisfying to be surprised by such a neat and tidy final link!
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson is also an epistolary novel with the ideal heroine – in name at least. It’s the only book in my chain that I haven’t read (starter notwithstanding). Am I tempted? At more than 1500 pages, I think not, though who knows…
My chain this month has been a complete surprise to me and has focussed on things that I love: favourite books, the West Country and summer. But it’s also linked by names: from Leos to Clarissas via Georgia and back to Clarissa. And I never anticipated any of them! It’s been great fun putting it together. Rather less fun battling Block Editor…
Next month’s start book is How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell.
Having published this, I have suddenly realised I have an extra book in the chain! No idea how that happened but I’m sure no one will notice…