Six Degrees of Separation: From Our Wives Under the Sea to Mothlight

2 April 2022, the first Saturday of the month, and another Six Degrees of Separation rolls into view. This meme is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

For this month’s Six Degrees of Separation, Kate has chosen a book that I own but haven’t read yet.

I only acquired Our Wives Under the Sea a few days ago, after an author event with Julia Armfield. She did a reading and spoke about how the book came about, how it doesn’t fit snugly into any particular genre, and what her writing process is. I was intrigued enough by the premise to buy a copy.

My first link in the chain is The Doloriad. Its author Missouri Williams also appeared at the same event as Armfield. I didn’t buy a copy of this novel because I’m not in the mood for a dystopia focused on incest and emotional abuse. Not right now. No matter how much Williams protested on the night that it’s a hopeful book.

The following week, I went to the launch event for my second link, a short story anthology around motherhood from Fly on the Wall Press. Of Myths and Mothers brings together stories by five authors that explore the meaning of motherhood in different ways. Sascha Akhtar read from her story ‘The Last of the Nest Gatherers’, about Pabellon island in the Philippines, where swiftlets build nests from their saliva and local people known as Busyadores harvest the nests as a delicacy once the swiftlet chicks have fledged. It was Akhtar’s energetic reading that sold this collection to me. (Kenzie Millar has a story in the collection, too, about selkies, which sort of but not quite links back to Our Wives Under the Sea.)

One of the Of Myths and Mothers authors, Gaynor Jones, was unable to attend due to having Covid. Instead, Louise Finnigan read an extract from Jones’s story. Finnigan had had to miss the launch of her short story the previous year because of the pandemic, so she also read from Muscle and Mouth, my third link in the chain, and a story I’m looking forward to reading. It’s about Jade, an A Level student who is carrying out a project that explores life on one of Manchester’s most deprived housing estates.

There are two more author events coming up that I’m interested in attending. I’d really like to hear David Peace speak about the final volume in his Tokyo Trilogy. I loved the first two books and, although the hardback came out last year, I’ve been waiting thirteen years for Tokyo Redux to arrive in paperback. Only another week to wait now! This final volume is my fourth link in the chain. It begins a year after Occupied City and concerns the real life disappearance of the president of Japan’s national railway. It’s been described as a post-modern noir.

The other event is for the launch of a book I read a short time ago, which is the fifth link in my chain, Paul Scraton’s In the Pines. I enjoyed this novella that married a literary sense of place with the work of a German photographer, Eymelt Sehmer.

Scraton will be part of a two-hander at the event with Adam Scovell, whose third novel Nettles came out this year. Nettles isn’t my final link, I’m choosing Scovell’s first novel, Mothlight, instead. This is another novel that I own but haven’t yet made time to read. It’s a book about grief, memory and obsession, based around a researcher in lepidoptera, Thomas, who believes himself to be possessed by the spirit of his dead mentor.

All of my choices this month are linked by literary events, both those I’ve attended and those I’ve yet to attend. I could have reached further into my past to choose books from other events, but I felt like focusing on the present. Everyone on it is British, as well. In my chain are a fair few books that I’ve bought and need to read. My To Read pile is now three piles, stacked precariously in front of two of my already full bookcases. There are worse things to be addicted to than books, right?

And now for my usual question: where might your chain take you? Head over to Kate’s blog to discover the chains shared by other readers.


11 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Our Wives Under the Sea to Mothlight

  1. Thirteen years! That’s a long time to wait, Jan! I’m sure you have a treat in store after so long. And as ever, a highly creative chain which is much too tempting for those of us with excessively long lists of titles just waiting in line!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! I even wrote to Faber at the five years point to ask when they expected it. Apparently he got a bit blocked. Although he wrote two other books while I was waiting.

      I’m giddy at the thought of reading it. The other two are quite experimental in structure, and very different to each other, so I can’t guess what the final one will be like. I’ve avoided reviews so that I am fresh to it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some wonderful sounding books here Jan. I think most of them would interest me. But David Peace’s Tokyo trilogy? I’ve never heard of it? Is it historical fiction, crime, thriller, or? I don’t really read crime, though crime based on real events can interest me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s historical true crime literary fiction. Peace was in the Guardian this week talking about how publishers are risk averse with his genre spanning work – “too literary for crime fiction and too ‘crimey’ for literary fiction” is in the sub heading of the article. I haven’t read the full article yet, because he talks about Tokyo Redux in it and I don’t want to spoil my anticipation!

      The trilogy is set during the post-WW2 American occupation of Japan and each novel takes a crime that actually happened as its basis, with Peace building a fiction around the crime. There’s a sociopolitical aspect, too, in the background commentary on the occupation and how Japanese people struggled with it.

      Tokyo Year Zero is a murder mystery/noir, but is as much about the mental breakdown of the investigating detective as it is about the crime. The staccato, run together narrative reflects the chaos of post-surrender Japan and Detective Minami’s mind. The novel is punctuated by occasional pages of stream of consciousness from Minami, always on a verso page, which I took a while to get used to. I’ve seen reviews that say the style is derivative, but when I read it, I hadn’t encountered anything like it before and found it powerful.

      Occupied City is inspired by Akutagawa and the Japanese oral tradition for telling ghost stories. The novel is written from 12 perspectives, with each perspective separated by the extinguishing of a candle. It’s about a bank robbery and massacre, but it’s also about the legacies of war and how people survive trauma and mourn the loss of a familiar way of life.

      As context, I’ve read one other novel by Peace, GB84, about the miners’ strike in the UK, which I struggled with. It’s written in a noir style mixed with farce, which I found too bizarre. For that reason, I’m a bit wary of his Red Riding Quartet, about the Yorkshire Ripper. It’s on my Still Thinking About Reading It list!


  3. An inspired idea, to focus on literary events. I went to one too this week, for the first time in ages, to celebrate Annie Garthwaite’s Cecily. Your chain sounds quite a dark one. Maybe the Scraton, whom you have of course recommended before is the place to start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s good to be back in the world of in person events, even if still a little warily. So far, I’ve avoided infection, despite often being the only person in the room with a mask on.

      Maybe the Scraton, as long as you don’t expect anything different to the other book of his you read but weren’t fully engaged by 😉.

      I’ll get to Of Myths and Mothers soonest of the unreads in my chain, and will be able to confirm whether it’s fully dark.

      Liked by 1 person

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