From “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell to “Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler.
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 “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell (my favorite book of 2020)!
This month (January 2, 2021), the chain begins with “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell. YES! I get to start with a book I’ve not only read, but loved. Of course, my regular readers already know that this was my #1 favorite book of 2020, and I consider this winner of the Women’s Fiction Prize to be O’Farrell’s masterpiece (so far)! I’ve been a fan of O’Farrell’s works for many years, and I actually pre-ordered this in print, and then was totally chuffed when I got approval to read the ARC as well (no, I didn’t cancel my order. This is one of those books you want to display proudly on your shelf). I couldn’t resist this fascinating investigation into Agnes (Anne) Hathaway, the wife of the great William Shakespeare, and the tragedy of their losing their only son at only the age of 11. (By the way, although I try not to use the same books twice in these, I reserve the right to use this particular book in a future #6Degrees post, because it was Kate’s pick, and not mine).
There are many ways I could go from this starting point, but I think I’ll use Shakespeare for this link. Well, modernized Shakespeare, and for that I have “Hag-Seed” by Margaret Atwood. This novel was commissioned Hogarth Press to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, where authors were asked to write modern versions of his famous plays. Atwood picked The Tempest, and to tell the truth, this is one of his plays I didn’t know at all. But through Atwood’s eyes, and her masterful storytelling, I think I now get the gist of it now, and it certainly is an unusual one. To be honest, I’d say this play is a bit too fanciful for my taste, but what Atwood does with it, is amazing!
Keeping with Atwood, and back to masterpieces, I guess one might say that “The Handmaid’s Tale” is hers. I was very glad to have read this book before the TV series came out, although it did make me have some criticisms of the first season. Because of this, I noticed all the things that were in the book and those that were added for the series. There were also things in the book that were talked about only in passing, but upon which the series put more emphasis. That wasn’t a bad thing, to my mind, and I think they did a very good job with the series, and added on to the story very nicely with the second and third ones. Mind you, I’m not ready to read the sequel to this book.
I’m going to be a bit obtuse with this next connection and use only part of the previous book’s title, that being the word “hand”. For this, I’m going with one of the last books I read by John Irving before giving up on him, which is his “The Fourth Hand”. This unusual story is about a handsome, but mediocre TV news reporter who loses gets his hand bitten off by a lion from an Indian circus. After this accident (well, he was partially to blame, he gets three hand transplants. But all of those are rejected, until he gets the fourth one. Strangely enough, with that hand, he becomes involved with the widow of the donor. Yes, it really is an unusual story, that borders on being almost fantastical, which I didn’t really care much for, but it wasn’t too bad. I guess if you’re willing to suspend disbelief, you might enjoy this novel more than I did, but I couldn’t give it more than three stars.
The protagonist in the previous novel is called Patrick Wallingford. One of my favorite authors is Patrick Gale, and so I think my next connection will be to his novel “A Perfectly Good Man”. This story takes place in a small Cornish village, where Barnaby, the minister, tries to deal with the complex problems of his constituents, and in particular the young man Lenny, who Barnaby was unable to stop from committing suicide. What intrigued me about this novel was that the title can be interpreted in different ways. Who was the one who was perfectly good – Lenny or Barnaby? And was being “perfectly good” ironic, or sincere? This is a beautifully written novel, that might sound confusing – due to the mixed-up timelines – but which comes together… well… perfectly, in the end. Gale is truly masterful at portraying troubled characters, that we can easily empathize with.
I don’t have too many books that deal with suicide that I haven’t already used, but there is one. That being “Campari for Breakfast” by Sara Crowe, which strangely enough, is a very comedic novel! See, our protagonist here, Sue Bowl, is only 17 years old, when her mother commits suicide, and soon thereafter, her father starts up with another woman. On top of this, her grandfather has recently passed away. Feeling at loose ends, Sue’s Aunt Coral generously invites her to her remote village outside of London, to spend a gap year in her mother’s ancestral home, in hopes of giving her comfort while also receiving some in return. In this isolated location, Sue finds plenty of time to work on her romance novel, and she even gets involved in her Aunt’s creative writing group to help her along. This was Crowe’s debut novel, but you might also know of her from her comedic acting work (such as her part as the “first bride” in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral).
And weddings are what I’ll use for my last connection! I have quite a few options here, but I think the one that works the best would be “Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler. Now, I almost made this one into an earlier link in this chain, but decided to go another route. And yet, it still got into this chain (fate?)! You see, this too is an updated version of a Shakespeare play, that being his “Taming of the Shrew,” and was also one of the Hogarth Press commissioned novels. Why I think this is the most appropriate for this link is because the movie Crowe was in was about weddings – plural, not singular. We all know that the shrew in this play is the older of two sisters. Their father insists that the elder get married before he’ll allow the younger daughter to wed the man she loves. But she’s a difficult woman to match with any man! Although this isn’t my favorite of Tyler’s novels, and not the best Shakespeare modernization I’ve ever read, the play that it’s based upon is one of my favorites, so why not, right?