From “Stasiland” by Anna Funder to “I am, I am, I am: Seventeen Brushes with Death” by Maggie O’Farrell.
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:
- Link the books together in any way you like.
- Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books are My Favourite and Best.
- Share these rules in your post.
- Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
- Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
- Share you post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hash tag.
- Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.
THANKS FOR PLAYING!
This month we start with “Stasiland” by Anna Funder!
This month we start with Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder. This is another book I’ve never red, but I believe I’ve heard of it. According to Amazon “Anna Funder delivers a prize-winning and powerfully rendered account of the resistance against East Germany’s communist dictatorship in these harrowing, personal tales of life behind the Iron Curtain—and, especially, of life under the iron fist of the Stasi, East Germany’s brutal state security force. In the tradition of Frederick Taylor’s The Berlin Wall and Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families, Funder’s Stasiland is a masterpiece of investigative reporting, written with novelistic vividness and the compelling intensity of a universal, real-life story.”
First Degree. When I saw that these were stories about real-life people, I immediately realized that (because I don’t read biographies) the best route to go for me this time would be a combination of autobiographical non-fiction and short stories. Seeing as I have achieved a first degree connection to someone who wrote a book a book of this kind, I’m starting this chain with the travel memoir, “Not Quite Lost: Travels without a Sense of Direction” by Roz Morris. Roz approached me to review one of her novels, but while I felt an affinity towards her through our emails, I wasn’t sure that her fiction genres were to my taste, but I tentatively agreed. Then she mentioned this book and I immediately asked if I could beg off reading the fiction and read this one instead. She readily agreed and we ended up both being happy campers. Where’s the connection? I’ve been able to meet up with Roz on two of my trips to London – that’s a first-degree connection if there ever was one, right?
Second Degree. Speaking of London, until I read Helen Hanff’s book “84 Charing Cross Road” I had no idea who she was. In fact, I had no idea of the significance of that street in London at all. But I fell in love with Helen, and the first time I visited London after reading this, both my husband and I made a pilgrimage to that road – which is something we now do on every one of our visits (since my husband is British, from London, we do go often), even though that store is long gone. This book is an account of Helen’s correspondence with Frank Doel, an employee of the used bookstore Marks & Co, located at the titular address, and as boring as that may sound, but it is really quite fun. Plus, there’s a personal connection here. Frank Doel lived in the same apartment complex (or should I say ‘block of flats’) where my husband lived when he was a boy! I don’t know if his parents actually knew him, but this gives me my own second degree of connection to this book (which is why I put this book here)!
Third Degree. I don’t think there are any more books that connect back to me, so we’ll just continue with the theme of autobiographical stories. Since Hanff’s book was made into a movie (and not a bad one, at that), my next choice therefore also connects to Hollywood. That is, “Me: Stories of My Life” by Katharine Hepburn. Bar none, Katharine Hepburn was (and still is) my favorite actor of all time. Strange as it may seem, this is probably why I will never read a biography about her, because I don’t believe anyone could do her life justice. When I found this short autobiography, I was thrilled I could read about her through her own first-hand accounts. I’m sure she wasn’t a totally reliable narrator, but things I read here made me absolutely HATE how they portrayed her in the movie “The Aviator”. That just wasn’t our Kate!
Forth Degree. Keeping with the film industry, I think the next link in my chain belongs to “The Fry Chronicles: an Autobiography” by Stephen Fry. While this is actually the second installment of his autobiography, I never read the first one, but that concentrates on his earlier life. In this book Fry gives us an account to the part of his life, which starts just before he came to be noticed by the public, while he was in Cambridge, and meeting people who would later become even more famous than he, such as Hugh Lurie and Emma Thompson. Of course, not all Americans will know who he is, but will recognize him as someone familiar from any of his films. Off screen, Fry has proven to be a prolific writer, and one whose rapier sharp wit can be appreciated on both sides of the big pond. Of course, that humor is absolutely evident in this book, making it a true delight to read, even if you don’t know much about him.
Fifth Degree. While I expected Fry’s book to be funny, the level of humor I found in the next book was totally unexpected for me. I’m the book talking about is “Things My Son Needs to Know about the World” by Fredrik Backman. Yes, there were some very funny parts to his debut novel “A Man Called Ove” but the majority of Backman’s novels were more bittersweet than outright funny. This book, on the other hand, really made me laugh out loud, and that made it un-putdownable. As I said, in light of the very tragic subject matter of Backman’s last two novels (which must have been difficult to write), having something that is this much fun to read was a real surprise to me. I’m hoping that his next novel will be a touch lighter than Beartown and Us Against Them, but whatever he comes up with will certainly be put on my TBR right away!
Sixth Degree. The tragic elements of Backman’s last two novels are what connect to this next book, which is once again, a collection of personal stories about and by the author. Although “I am, I am, I am: Seventeen Brushes with Death” by Maggie O’Farrell deals with some pretty dreadful experiences, it is also very hopeful in the end, and boy was I crying my eyes out when I finished reading! This is the type of book that makes you realize just how good your life really is, because there are people out there going through things you just can’t imagine. That O’Farrell has lived through all of these things, and still succeeds in writing books that – from what I can tell – are totally separate from her own life, seems like a miracle to me. Frankly, I find her to be a miraculous writer, and I am reading her new novel, “Hamnet” right now!
So, there you have it – a chain of books that all are real-life stories. So… does the Maggie O’Farrell book connect back to “Stasiland” in any way?
Actually, I think it does. Both of these books are made up of vignettes that describe terrible experiences. The biggest difference is that O’Farrell’s events happened to her directly, and Funder documented the events of others.
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, and/or put your link on the linky page that Kate has on her blog for this meme.
Next month (May 2, 2020), we will start with “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy.