From “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak to “Shtum” by Jem Lester.
This is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are here in this graphic.
This month (July 6, 2019), the chain begins with “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.
Oh goodie! Finally, I get to start with a book I know well… Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” and yes, that’s a link to my review of this children’s book (a rare instance indeed, I know). If you read that review, you’ll know that I (probably still) know the complete text of this book by heart in Hebrew, because that’s the version of this book that I read to my kids! It is an enchanting story about the young boy Max escaping to a fantasy world, until he realizes the error of his ways and along the way, comes to understand what real love is, even if it isn’t always what it seems.
First Degree. A fantasy world and true love? Well, that can mean only one book for me; “The Princess Bride,” by William Golding! If you’ve never heard of this book, welcome to planet earth (and we hope you come in peace from whichever planet you’ve come from)! Seriously, this novel is iconic, a modern classic, if you will. It is funny, it has adventure, it has touches of fantasy, and it has romance of the least saccharine kind you’ll find anywhere! Why do I say that? Because Buttercup isn’t just the twentieth most beautiful woman in the world, but she’s also a strong and intelligent woman, who doesn’t care about her looks, and in fact, she resents the fact that her looks cause her such a great deal of trouble. Furthermore, Westley’s love for her is not because of her beauty, but because of her mind and her character. In short, she was a badass woman, and people admired her because of this.
Second Degree. I’ve read quite a number of novels with badass women characters, both real and fictional. Although Nellie Bly is a popular one these days, instead of picking one of the two books about her I’ve read lately (or the novel inspired by her adventures), I’ll go with the novel “Girl in Disguise” by Greer Macallister, which is about the first female detective in America, Kate Warne of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Now, from the pictures of Kate I’ve seen, she wasn’t any great beauty, but her dedication to her principals and her desire to stop evil and fight injustice were not just admirable, but brave as well. Case in point: she was directly involved in keeping Abraham Lincoln from being murdered on his way to his inauguration ceremony (but too bad she wasn’t at that theater a few years later). She also spied against the South during the Civil War. She was an amazing woman that few people know much, if anything about.
Third Degree. This might be a bit of a stretch here, but that line above that talks about a woman who stands on her principals made me think about a character in two of Fredrik Backman’s novels. I’m thinking of Britt-Marie, who was a somewhat minor character in his book “My Grandmother” and later he put her front and center as the main protagonist in his novel “Britt-Marie Was Here.” Essentially, Britt-Marie is a bit… well… strident would be a good word; passive aggressive would also work. But as difficult as she can be, when she finds out (early in the book) that her husband has been cheating on her she realizes that she needs to get away. So, she just picks up and leaves to take up a position in a small town working at a rundown recreation center, with some very interesting results. Most of the blurbs about this novel talk about it being a classic novel about friendship and second chances. I think its more about discovering that your weaknesses can be strengths, and the things you show the world, aren’t always reflective of who you really are.
Forth Degree. Yes, Britt-Marie just picked up and left her husband, without even a “by your leave,” as they say. This isn’t all that different from the story in Nina George’s novel “The Little Bretton Bistro.” In that book, when Marianne Messmann is on vacation in Paris with her husband, she decides to jump off the Pont Neuf bridge, in an attempted suicide. When she survives the jump, she runs away to Breton town of Kerdruc, before her husband can take her back to Germany. Come to think of it, there are quite a bit of parallels between these two books. For example, in addition to the running away bit, in both these books the protagonists end up taking jobs after being housewives most of their lives. Mind you, the biggest difference here is that Marianne projects a much softer persona to the world than Britt-Marie. However, both of them learn to find an inner strength that they didn’t know they had before.
Fifth Degree. So now we have journeys, or escapes that lead to some kind of self-discovery in a type of “coming of age” story. Where does that lead me? Actually, it led me to two books, but rather than choose between them, I’m going to connect them separately, because I think they’re worthy enough on their own (and I came up with a clever way to connect the last one to first book). The first is “Its. Nice. Outside.,” by Jim Kokoris. The fact is that most of this book takes place during a very problematic road-trip. John Nichols is the divorced father of Ethan, who is 19-years-old, and autistic. John is also the father to two adult daughters. The story’s action takes place when John takes Ethan half way across the country – from Illinois to South Carolina – to attend one of John’s daughter’s wedding. All the while, John is trying to find a better solution to having Ethan at home with him, something that will work for everyone in the family, especially for Ethan. While this sounds like it could be a very heavy story, it is very funny at times, and very poignant, and this was one of my favorite books of 2015.
Sixth Degree. The connection to “Shtum” by Jem Lester is obvious. While this novel takes place in England, we also have a severely autistic son named Jonah, who is 10 years old. Jonah’s parents are Ben and Emma, and they’re having a very hard time finding getting their son accepted to a school that truly meets Jonah’s needs. When Emma discovers that disabled children with parents who are separated or divorced get bumped up the waiting lists for prime facilities, they fake a separation, and Ben moves in with his elderly father Georg, with whom Ben has a very rocky relationship. This novel also has quite a bit of humor in addition to the many poignant passages, and if I had read it in 2016 when it was published, I’m certain it would have made my top-five list that year. The reason why I’m putting this last is because it also connects a bit to our first book. Remember how Max returns to reality when he realizes that his fantasy world doesn’t give what he really needs, which is love from his mother, even when she’s angry or upset with him? I think there’s a little bit of that here, but surprisingly it is mostly between Ben and his father Georg. Plus, Max is a “wild thing” and Jonah is also apt to bouts of wildness because of his autism.
How about that, right? Once again, this took me along a very specific path, which I’m sure will differ wildly (how appropriate, right) from others who participate in this monthly meme! If you decide to join in on this meme, I hope you’ll give me the link to your post in the comments below, as well as on the linky page that Kate has on her blog for this meme.
Next month (July 6, 2019), we’ll begin .
If you decide to join in on this meme, I hope you’ll give me the link to your post in the comments below, as well as on the linky page that Kate has on her blog for this meme.