Welcome back to Six Degrees of Separation, in which book lovers everywhere are invited to start with the book nominated by Kate from booksaremyfavouriteandbest and connect it to six others in whatever way your mind makes random connections.
This month, we’re beginning with Hydra by Adriane Howell, which is on the 2023 Stella Prize shortlist. According to Kate from booksaremyfavouriteandbest, is “loosely Australian Gothic”, and the book’s protagonist, Anja has recently ended her marriage.
The Last Love Note by Emma Grey also involves the end of the marriage, although the latter is due to a death rather than a relationship implosion.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman is also about facing the impending loss of a loved one, although the protagonist in this novel is a best friend rather than a wife. However, both books were written after the authors lost someone in real life.
As in We All Want Impossible Things, the illness in Chloe Hooper’s memoir, Bedtime Story, is cancer. Hooper writes this in an attempt to find a way to explain to her sons about their father’s diagnosis. Unable to find a children’s book of non-fiction that adequately addresses the topic, she delves into the world of children’s literature, including fairy stories and the hero’s journey.
Chloe Hooper was recently on a panel at the Perth Festival Writers Weekend, together with Alice Pung and Larissa Behrendt (you can listen to this fascinating conversation that centres around mothers on Radio National’s Book Show). I’ve just begun reading Behrendt’s novel After Story, which features a mother and daughter who travel from Australia to the UK for a tour of well-known literary sites.
Also set in the UK is The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams. Spanning the years of the First World War, Peggy works in a book bindery across the road from Oxford University. Peggy longs to study there, but the gender and class constraints of the time means that her dream is destined to remain just that. For anyone who has read Williams’ previous book, The Dictionary of Lost Words, you will notice a couple of characters who reappear.
One of the books that Peggy reads while attempting to study for the entrance exam that might see her move beyond societal expectations is Homer’s The Odyssey, although she has the additional challenge of trying to read it in its original Greek.
This month, I inadvertently top and tailed my Six Degrees with references to Greece, with experiences of illness, grief and relationships of various kinds woven throughout.
Over to You
Where will six degrees of separation lead you?
If you would like to see where it took other readers, then head to booksaremyfavouriteandbest, where you will find links to a stack of bookish chains.
Next month’s chain will start with Friendaholic by Elizabeth Day.