From “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles to “The Last Mrs. Parrish” by Liv Constantine.
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 we started with “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles.
I haven’t read this “A Gentleman in Moscow,” but the Goodreads blurb says “In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.”
First Degree. The first thing that struck me was the bit about the house arrest, as well as the bit about “some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history”. Although I’ve just read a book that might fit this, the house arrest part made me think of “The Noise of Time” by Julian Barnes. This fictional story of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich takes place during much the same era as Towles’ book, and although he wasn’t sentenced to house arrest, per se, he did have some unfortunate run-ins with the Kremlin. In Shostakovich’s case, his circumstances are constantly changing, which also provide him with his own version of emotional self-discovery.
Second Degree. Dmitri Shostakovich was a composer, and some of his music is very powerful. Of course, music in general can evoke many emotions in people, as long as they’re willing to listen. That brings me immediately to Rachel Joyce’s novel “The Music Shop.” In this book, (which was one of my favorites of 2017) the protagonist Frank believes that music can heal people. He also has a knack of being able to find just the right piece of music for whatever someone needs to listen to, at that particular time of their lives. One could almost call him a music doctor. But when they say “physician, heal thyself”, they mean that doctors can’t cure themselves, and Frank certainly isn’t using his own abilities to understand what he really needs, and it is the appearance of Ilse that changes all this.
Third Degree. The parallel of Frank with music in “The Music Shop” would be Jean Perdu with books from “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George are absolutely unmistakable. In fact, they’re practically identical. Neither of these men seem to know what would best help them (musically or literarily), both of these men are searching for something, and both of these men have an innate ability to understand others around them better than they understand themselves. So, although one is centered around music in London, and the other is centered around books in France, you can understand why I couldn’t avoid connecting this novel to the previous one.
Forth Degree. From France, we travel westwards across the big pond (waving at England along the route) to America, and a sparsely populated island New England and its only bookstore (there’s your connection). There we find “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin. Although this book is also about a person with a bookshop, since Fikry’s wife died, he’s more into avoiding things, especially people, than he is in searching for anything. Well, he would like to know who stole his most precious collector’s item – a rare edition book of poems. Still, that takes a backseat when a very unusual package ends up left for him on the doorstep of his shop. Zevin delightfully drew a portrait of a curmudgeon who slowly learns to enjoy life again, despite himself.
Fifth Degree. Fikry came out the same year as my next book in this chain. That was actually the year I called the “year of the curmudgeon” because all five of the books that made my “best of” list were books with protagonists who were all essentially unhappy and/or grumpy older men. The question is, which of these grouchy fellows do I go with? Oh, what the heck, I’ll go with the best known of these loveably irritable guys, “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. The added connection here is the change in the attitudes of these two protagonists regarding their lives. What I’ll always remember about Ove is that despite how it begins, we’re sad when we find out he finally gets what he wanted at the end of the book. If you don’t know what I mean, you’ll just have to read the book. (Which, by the way, I read before it was published, and I knew immediately that Backman would become the phenomena that he is today.)
Sixth Degree. So, if what we learn from Ove is that you should be careful what you wish for, I think the final link in this chain should go to “The Last Mrs. Parrish” by Liv Constantine. In this story, Amber wants to get herself a rich husband, so she can finally live a life of luxury she’s always envied and been deprived of having. However, Amber doesn’t want just anyone. No, Amber not only wants a husband, she also wants to bring down the type of a privileged woman she’s always hated, and thereby make someone else suffer for once in their lives. What Amber doesn’t count on is what kind of a rival she has in Daphne, her target’s wife, nor what kind of a man she’s actually getting with Jackson, her target. Just so you know, this isn’t a romance novel, but rather a psychological women’s fiction drama, that I found to be fascinating.
Hm… once again, I ended up somewhere that I didn’t think I’d go. This time, I blame it on my love of Backman. I took his novel instead of something else (I was originally thinking that Fikry would lead to “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” due to island connection), which might have led me to a completely different final book altogether (sorry, I don’t know which one that might have been. These things tend to come to me as I write the blurbs). That’s what I love about this meme – the chain can come to you while you’re in the midst of writing it!
If you don’t know any of these books, I hope you’ll click on the links to my reviews and check them out!
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.