Six Degrees of Separation – from Memoirs of a Geisha to The Time Traveller’s Wife

 

It’s time for April’s Six Degrees and I’m only two days late!

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April’s starting book is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I can go one of two ways with this chain. I could list six of my favourite books about Japanese life, but that would be too obvious. Instead I’m going to celebrate the joy of friends lending books.

I consider it a privilege when someone lends me a book. It’s something that they have enjoyed enough to want to share it with me, and that adds something to the reading experience.

Carole, with whom I used to work almost fifteen years ago, was a great lender of books. She lent me Memoirs of a Geisha because she knew that I was (am still) crazy about Japan.

She followed it up with a book by an American woman who went to work as a Geisha in order to understand the profession better while researching her anthropology PhD. The book that she lent me was The Tale of Murasaki.

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In this imagining of the life of Murasaki Shikibu, author of The Tale of Genji, Dalby draws on the surviving fragments of Murasaki’s diaries and the different manuscript versions of her novel, as well as other contemporary writings like The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.

Carole also had a taste for historical fiction that explores the underbelly of society. She lent me Slammerkin.

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Emma Donoghue’s novel is inspired by a true crime – the murder of a young woman in the Welsh Borders in 1793. The book is about Mary Saunders, a young woman so obsessed with fashion that she becomes a prostitute in order to afford the fabrics she lives. A slammerkin is a loose fitting dress. It also came to mean a loose woman.

Because I enjoyed Slammerkin, Carole then lent me Fingersmith.

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Fingersmith is a historical novel set in Victorian England. It’s a tale of deception that twists and turns and leaves you wondering who the victim really is.

A book that both Carole and I borrowed from our mutual friend Cath was The Lovely Bones.

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Alice Sebald’s novel deals with the harrowing subject of child rape. Fourteen year old Susie is raped and murdered by a neighbour. The book is about her looking down from heaven, trying to come to terms with her death while watching her family struggle to cope with what has happened. I found it too sentimental.

The Lovely Bones reminds me of The Time Traveller’s Wife, which my good friend Dip lent me.

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Although there are fundamental differences to their plots, there are some similarities. Henry, the titular Time Traveller, gets to watch and interact with his wife Clare throughout the different stages of her life, which makes for uncomfortable reading at times. The book also asks similar questions about the meaning of life and death to Sebald’s novel. It was another book that I found too sentimental. But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it.

Dip has lent me a good many other books over the years, as has my best friend Mandy, as has my husband. I have The Crimson Petal and the White on my pile of books. That’s another book that Dip has lent me.

I find it difficult to lend books. I’ve had bad experiences of people not returning books I’ve lent out or returning them in a state that suggests lack of respect. I’m selective about who I lend to.

Where’s your chain going to take you? Who is a good source of book lends in your life? And who do you lend to most often?

 

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6 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – from Memoirs of a Geisha to The Time Traveller’s Wife

  1. I am also selective about lending books out to people – I’ve also had one too many instances of them never being returned (the horror!).

    In terms of borrowing them, one of the teams I’m on at work is very bookish and willing to lend, which is great as we all seem to have similar tastes in literary fiction, especially that written by women.

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    1. I would love a pool of people to swap books with at work. There are a couple of people who read similar things to me, but most of us are library users so swap recommendations rather than physical books.

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  2. What a great chain, Jan! The Time-Traveler’s Wife features in my chain too. (One of my favourites though I agree about the sentimentality.) I love your connections between that and The Lovely Bones. I also read this but found it harrowing rather than sentimental. I’ve never been attracted by Slammerkin or Fingersmith – perhaps I should reconsider… 🙂

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    1. Everyone else I know who has read The Lovely Bones has that harrowing response to it. I can be quite hard when it comes to stories based around distressing events. It’s more than likely a defence mechanism! Slammerkin and Fingersmith are great, gritty, graphic tales of women trying to survive in a world where they are taken advantage of. They’re not for everyone! I’d suggest trying the first page of each and seeing if you want to read on.

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  3. I’m reflecting now, Jan, on how I respond to books about distressing events. I suspect mostly I avoid them, certainly I rarely seek them out. I do have a number on my tbr but they do tend to sit there indefinitely: books I feel I ought to read but …

    Interesting! I’ll think some more! Looking forward to reading more of your blog 🙂

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