Six Degrees of Separation: From The Bass Rock to The Lowland

Hello June, here so soon. I’m a day late for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation because summer arrived in Manchester this week and yesterday was too glorious to pass up the chance to read in the garden. Kate, who hosts the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best, has chosen the Stella Prize winning book The Bass Rock for the first book in the chain.

The Bass Rock is an historical novel that follows three generations of women between the 17th and 20th centuries and the male violence that blights their lives. I haven’t read it yet, but Evie Wyld is a writer I’m keen to make the literary acquaintance of.

An Australian writer that I have read books by is Hannah Kent, and I’m going with her second novel for my first link in the chain.

The Good People is also an historical novel, this time set in 19th century Ireland. The story centres on folklore and superstition within a rural farming community and also links to The Bass Rock through the portrayal of certain women as witches by judgemental religious societies.

Sticking with Australian writers, but one whose book is set in Australia, I’m heading for the east coast fishing town of Eden next.

Shirley Barrett’s Rush Oh! is about Mary Davidson and her siblings, children of the whaler Fearless George Davidson. Mary is a budding artist and a delightful narrator of life in this male-centric community that reminded me of frontier America.

And so to America we go, and an author I have only recently grown familiar with.

Willa Cather wrote about the Pioneers who moved west across America, something her own family did in the last quarter of the 19th century, when Cather was a child. Her novella My Ántonia is loosely inspired by that family relocation from West Virginia to Nebraska and is a gorgeous piece of writing about ideals of love and the transition to adulthood.

Growing up and understanding that the ideals of our youth aren’t always realistic is a theme in my next book choice.

Anne of the Island is possibly my favourite of the eight books in the Anne of Green Gables series by L M Montgomery. Our heroine Anne Shirley heads off to college on Nova Scotia to study for her BA. Over the course of her studies and in her return home to Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, Anne comes to realise what is truly important in life.

From a campus in Canada, I’m heading back over the border to another island campus, that of Brown University on Rhode Island.

In The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides follows Madeleine and Leonard through their campus romance to their postgraduate life together on Cape Cod. Their relationship is complicated by Leonard’s bipolar disorder and by the attentions of their mutual friend Mitchell who is infatuated with Madeleine. Madeleine starts out as a bright character, researching the 19th century marriage plot as embodied in the works of Jane Austen, George Eliot and Edith Wharton. There was a question for me about whether she sacrificed herself as an individual to her love for Leonard.

Complicated relationships and the choice between love and duty play their part in the final book in my chain, also partly set on Rhode Island.

The Lowland follows two brothers, raised in Calcutta. Close throughout childhood, the brothers’ paths diverge at university, with Subhash heading to Rhode Island for graduate studies and Udayan joining the militant political Naxalite Movement. Without giving too much away, Udayan’s pregnant wife Gauri ends up in Rhode Island with Subhash and eventually gains her independence and an academic career of her own in California.

In my chain this month, I’ve travelled the globe from Scotland to the USA via Ireland, Australia, Canada and India. I’ve followed the paths of women who are seeking a way of being in the world that is true to who they are, but also limited by the patriarchal mores of the societies they inhabit. With one exception, I’ve chosen books by women writers, but Jeffrey Eugenides writes Madeleine so well that I’ll let myself off including him in this feminist chain.

Where will your chain take you? Why not head over to Kate’s blog to discover other readers’ chains?


23 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From The Bass Rock to The Lowland

  1. Very interesting chain Jan … including some authors I really like (though some I haven’t read since blogging). I’m a big Willa Cather fan so it’s lovely to see you including My Antonia which is a book I’ve read more than once (a rarity for me).

    I had forgotten about Rush Oh. I would love to read it, so thank you for reminding me of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I had fun this month, feeling the need to find positive books.

      I’ve read three Cather books so far, and have a Folio copy of another waiting, plus others on my library list. I’m trying not to hoover her up all at once!

      I loved Rush Oh! and highly recommend it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Margaret! I can’t believe you haven’t experienced the Anne books! They were among my mum’s favourite childhood reads and she made sure I read them, too, as a child. I haven’t re-read them as an adult, though. They’re in the class of books from childhood that I’m scared of spoiling the memory of.

      Of the others, I’d nudge you towards Rush Oh! and My Ántonia, if I were the type to encourage the increase of someone else’s TBR 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s funny, they never appealed, and I was a well-read child. I wonder if at this late stage I should put it right? In my defence, Enid Blyton didn’t appeal either ;). You’re welcome to add to my TBR list. It’s now getting so ridiculous it’s a work of fiction in its own right.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Childhood me, who felt a kindredness with Anne, says yes. Adult me is wary of setting both of us up for disappointment. My memory is of them having a sass about them that was lacking in books like Little House on the Prairie.

        Your TBR assessment made me laugh!

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      3. Little House on the Prairie was a series I learned to enjoy with my daughters. But yes, they were a bit too good to be true, weren’t they?


      4. They were! Anne Shirley, and the Cuthberts who raised her, seemed much more believable to me as people. The main thing I liked about it was the way Anne wasn’t a paragon of virtue, had a temper, but was thoroughly likeable and a laugh.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Anne of the Island is one I read and reread and when I visited that part of Canada, I wished I could figure out if there was a house in Halifax LMM used as inspiration. There is a Facebook group led by two Montgomery scholars who have been leading discussions of lesser known titles during the pandemic. We are starting Emily of New Moon soon if you can be coaxed to join in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not on Facebook, Constance, and have too big a pile of unread books to go back to a previously read book at the moment. Thanks for the invitation, though! It sounds like an interesting discussion group.

      I’m jealous of your trip to Canada. I’ve long wanted to visit but never made the time. One day!


  3. Lovely chain, Jan, and veering off in a delightful globe-trotting direction! I loved the Anne books (which I only read as an adult) but I can’t settle on a favourite.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Sandra! It’s reassuring to hear that the Anne books still inspire love when read as an adult. Perhaps I’ll overcome my reluctance to revisit them and have a re-read one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a different thing altogether, I think. Revisiting something which was very special as a child is always risky. I have several such books and daren’t take the chance of bursting the bubble!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True, and I understand it completely. I have been brave enough to revisit two of my childhood favourites as an adult, and both were still as good as I remembered – The Silver Sword, and The Family at One End Street. I think it’s because there’s a realism about them that makes them true no matter what age you are when you read them. So far I haven’t dared re-read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The Silver Sword is one that I daren’t re-read! It made such an impression on me as a child; I can’t bear the thought of it not living up to my memory of it. Another is The Little Princess. One End Street, on the other hand, I have been meaning to revisit for a while. I read Pink Rabbit just a year or so ago!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read Pink Rabbit so many times as a child. Mum used to say, “Are you borrowing that again?” On the days she’d take me into work during school holidays, it was the book I’d most often sit and read in the Reference Room. I think re-reading it now might alter that memory.

      I really enjoyed The Silver Sword as an adult – I’ve re-read it twice in recent years.

      A re-read that surprised me was I Am David. I didn’t enjoy that as a child, but understood it better as an adult.

      Liked by 1 person

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