From “Second Place” by Rachel Cusk to “Jeeves and the Wedding Bells” by Sebastian Faulks.
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 (and tag @kateinkew as well).
- Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.
THANKS FOR PLAYING!
This month we start with “Second Place” by Rachel Cusk!
This month (September 4, 2021), the chain begins with “Second Place” by Rachel Cusk. This novel is shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. According to the blurb it is: “A haunting fable of art, family, and fate from the author of the Outline trilogy. A woman invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision might penetrate the mystery at the center of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigma–and disrupts the calm of her secluded household. Second Place, Rachel Cusk’s electrifying new novel, is a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art’s capacity to uplift–and to destroy.” Hm… sounds interesting. I’ll put it on my “maybe” list, then.
Trying to find a book for this first link in the chain has been harder than I thought. In the end, I went with painting, and among those novels on this subject that I haven’t used for this meme, only two books seemed to fit. I think I’ll go with the older of the two – “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos” by Dominic Smith. This is another one of those dual-timeline books, where we switch between the 17th century and the 1950s. There’s a whole lot to love about this novel, as well as a few things that didn’t sit totally right with me. But overall, the themes of this book work here to make a good link – those being the art/painting bit and that bit about female fate and male privilege – and I can recommend this novel, so there you go!
For this link, I decided to not work too hard, and went with the word “last” to find my next book. I’ve got a whole bunch of those, several of which I haven’t highlighted before. One of my favorite books that has that word in the title is Fannie Flagg’s “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” which is a total blast (I bet you thought I was going to give you “The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt” again, didn’t you? Sorry, I already used that in a previous #6Degrees, so no)! As I noted in my review, I cannot describe this book without the word “delightful” coming to mind, even for the parts when things don’t go well with the characters or the story. This is the type of book you can read when you need something fun and positive, which seems to be happening to me more often lately, to be honest!
Another book about a type of reunion, but one that is far darker than Flagg’s books, is “The Behaviour of Moths” (aka “The Sister”) by Poppy Adams. This book is about two estranged sisters of 47 years, and what happens when Virginia (Ginny), the sister who left, returns to her family home, which has become dilapidated over the ensuing years. Vivian (Viv), the sister who stayed, seems unstable from the outset of this book, but what happens during this visit is lusciously written, and you can feel the tension grow until the (mostly) unexpected climax. What impressed me the most about this novel was that it was a debut work, and it felt far more accomplished than that. Shame she didn’t write more adult fiction, but she seems to have a large collection of children’s books as well as a few YA stories in her bibliography, which I didn’t realize when I read this book.
Discovering that Adams is an apparently well-known children’s writer took me directly to another author who wrote almost only children’s books, but did put out a few adult novels and stories, most of which are essentially unknown. I’m speaking of the author who was famous for his Winnie the Pooh books, A.A. Milne, and his lone mystery novel “The Red House Mystery.” I really enjoyed that book, even though the copy I bought used quite an old font which made it hard for these dyslexic eyes to read. But that was the only problem I had with the book, for which obviously I wasn’t going to fault the novel. I’m also sorry that he didn’t write more adult books or more mystery novels, and apparently, he intended to do so, but never got around to writing them. Still, he’ll always be a beloved author for his Winnie the Pooh books.
When I wrote the review of the A.A. Milne book, I combined it with a review of a short story/novella by the “queen of crime” P.D. James, called “The Part-Time Job.” That review noted that James didn’t write many short works, and this story was therefore a bit out of character for her. Also out of character for her was her novel “Death Comes to Pemberley” which is a fan fiction book, written as a type of sequel to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Strangely enough, even though I recall that my father-in-law was a fan of her novels, this was the first of her books I ever read. Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that enamored by how James executed this book, which felt like it was missing the both charm and the social commentary for which Austen was so famous. I’m afraid I’ve never picked up anything else by her, but I do recall greatly enjoying several TV series based on her Detective Dalgliesh novels.
This gave me a link to another fan fiction book, “Jeeves and the Wedding Bells” by Sebastian Faulks. Here too we have a writer who is known for a very different type of book – mostly psychological thrillers and spy novels. My husband was a huge fan of Faulks and there are about seven of his novels on my shelf. Mind you, the only book of his I read was his Charlotte Gray, which I read long before I started blogging. As for this book, Faulks attempted to write another Jeeves and Wooster novel, to honor the memory of their creator, P.G. Wodehouse. These books (which I never read, but adored the TV series based on them, staring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry), are high comedy with a good bit of social commentary on the upper classes. Obviously, they’re a total 180 in direction for Faulks, but I have to say that I think he did a pretty good job, all told! (Much better than he did with his fan fiction 007 James Bond book, which I didn’t care much for and DNF.)