Hello May. You’ve arrived quickly. But then again, maybe not that quickly. Maybe I was simply in a fog for most of April. Anyway, I’m on time for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. This month, Kate has chosen Cormac McCarthy’s The Road as the first book in the chain. I wonder where this will lead.
McCarthy is an author I keep meaning to read but never seem to get round to. I’ve seen the film version of The Road, so I might one day make my way to the book. What I know of it, then, is that it’s a tale of a man and his son making their way across a destroyed America to the coast, remembering the wife and mother they both loved and lost.
I could do a chain about dystopias. I could do a chain about men who lose the women they love. I could even do a chain about books I haven’t read but have seen the film adapations of. But I’m not going to do any of those things. I’m going to take a tangential leap from the fact that I have another of McCarthy’s books on my library wishlist.
Since all of the libraries in my local service are closed for the duration of the Coronavirus lockdown, I thought I’d build my chain from books I want to borrow as soon as my local library re-opens.
First on the list is The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, which is my sole active reservation. I’ve made it to the top of the list of people waiting to borrow it, so I’m hopeful I’ll still be in pole position when lockdown ends. It’s about a young Nigerian woman who is determined to find her own voice and be recognised as a person in a society that treats her as nothing.
Hamnet is my next choice. I’ve wanted to read Maggie O’Farrell’s story about Shakespeare’s wife and the death of his young son since it was first trailed as a book to look out for in 2020 by The Guardian. I suppose, in its own way, it’s about a woman who doesn’t have her own voice because of the time she was alive in, because of the man she married. Reservations are suspended at the moment, but this is on my wishlist so that I can bang in a reservation as soon as the suspension is lifted.
Also on my list to have a reservation placed as soon as I’m able to is Jenny Offill’s Weather. I’m a sucker for books about librarians. I never wanted to be a librarian, and now I’m an archivist I understand why – the detective work involved in managing original source material satisfies something in me that nothing I experienced while working in libraries ever did. The protagonist of this book appears to also feel a lack of something in her life as a librarian, moonlighting as a fake psychiatrist. She might have her own voice, but is it a genuine one?
Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King is a fictionalised account of the female soldiers who guarded a fake Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia at the time of Mussolini’s invasion. The female soldiers are led by Hirut, an orphan forced to work as a maid in the household of an officer in the actual Emperor Haile Selassie’s actual army. The novel promises an exploration of female power, and has another woman who finds her own voice at its heart.
An older book on my library wishlist is Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark. I’ve only read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Spark and, when I decided I wanted to explore more of her work, this novel about a female psychiatrist with a secret who becomes involved with two patients who both claim to be the disappeared Lord Lucan tickled my fancy. I’m sure I’ll need something light but clever at the back end of this enforced period of isolation.
My final choice is another older book. I’ve been intrigued by Leonora Carrington ever since I went to hear Joanna Moorhead speak about her book about Carrington at the Manchester Literature Festival. I flirt with buying The Hearing Trumpet every time I’m in a bookshop that has it in stock. It’s been on my library list since 2017. Perhaps it’s time to borrow it. It’s about 92 year old Marian Leatherby who is committed to a residential home by her family, and the surreal adventures she goes on as a result of a book.
I’ve created a chain of books with strong women at their centres. Some of them are women who have to fight to have their reality seen and heard, others are women who are not who they claim to be. I’ve avoided dystopia, if not hardship, and I’ve built myself a list of books to prioritise when my local library reopens. Where would The Road take you, if you took part in the challenge? Why not head over to Kate’s blog to see where other readers travelled?