From “Our Wives Under the Sea” by Julia Armfield to “Perfect” by Rachel Joyce.
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:
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THANKS FOR PLAYING!
This month we start with “Our Wives Under the Sea” by Julia Armfield!
This month (April 2, 2022), the chain begins with “Our Wives Under the Sea” by Julia Armfield. One summary I found says that, “Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home. Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.” This book is the debut novel by this author, and I’m unsure if I want to read it – sounds like someone suffering from PTSD to me, and well… with a war going on in Ukraine, I don’t think this is what I want to read right now.
That said, I think I can easily fill up this whole chain just with books with characters who change because they survived a trauma. So my first one will go with the extra connection, the word “sea” in the title, that being “On a Cold Dark Sea” by Elizabeth Blackwell. This novel is about three women who all survived the sinking of the Titanic, where each one was on a different class ticket. What I found most fascinating about this book was how each of these women deal with both the trauma of the voyage and rescue, and how they deal differently with being survivors.
Staying with the idea of trauma and change, while also connecting with part of the previous link’s author’s name, in Diane Setterfield’s novel “Bellman & Black,” when William Bellman meets the cloaked, silent Black, he becomes obsessed with the notion that he must do everything he believes that Black asks of him, to help make his uncle’s mill successful. He also believes that if he succeeds and Black is pleased, he will finally gain forgiveness for the time he killed a rook when he was only 11 years old. A dark story, but beautifully written.
The bit with the rook in the previous novel made me think of the next link, “The Gravity of Birds” by Tracey Guzeman. Although the trauma here isn’t as sudden as it is in the previous ones, it still is a life changing one. Here the trauma is a physical one, that being the Rheumatoid Arthritis that Alice Kessler suffers from, which forces her sister Natalie to give up everything to care for her. I have a feeling that not many people know of this book, but I can assure you that if you’re looking for something that combines a mystery with the art world, this might be one for you.
Birds gotta fly, but so do pilots or aviatrixes, which brings us to “Her Last Flight” by Beatriz Williams. In this novel, Williams does a bit of a variation on the theme of the Amelia Earhart story, where a famous female pilot disappears, and is assumed dead, since no one can find her plane or her body. Investigating her disappearance, is journalist Janey (Eugenia) Everett, who has her own mystery to solve (and trauma to get over), while trying to find out what actually happened to the legendary Irene Foster on her last flight, where she was trying to set a new around-the-world flight record with her instructor and flying partner Sam Mallory.
Something that any pilot needs to fly a plane with is a compass, which brings me to my next link, “Noah’s Compass” by Anne Tyler! In this novel, the trauma starts with 61 year old Liam being suddenly unemployed, and when he moves to a smaller apartment (to save money), he’s attacked in his sleep on the first night there. Although there’s no one named Noah in this novel, you have to read this book to understand the metaphor here, and see how that relates to Liam and how his life changes after this unfortunate chain of events.
And that concept of one event that sets off a chain of things, effecting everything in someone’s life, is how I get to my last link, “Perfect” by Rachel Joyce. This is probably Joyce’s least known novel, but one that any of her fans really must read. The is about two best friends, Byron Hemmings and James Lowe, who find out that the world is adding an extra two seconds to the clock in 1972. The idea astounds them both, as they witness it. But then one of the boys notices his watch moving backwards instead of forwards, which happens at the exact time as an accident happening. The trauma here lands one of these boys into a mental institution, which 40 years later is about to close its doors. It sounds complex, but trust me, it lives up to the title!