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?