Six Degrees of Separation: From The Book of Ramallah to The Book of Istanbul

It’s the first Saturday of the month and time once again for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. This month we start our chains with the book that was the final link in last month’s chain.

I chose The Book of Ramallah, a collection of short stories by writers from or based in this Palestinian city. This month, I’m going to use it to promote the books of its Manchester-based radical left wing publisher, Comma Press, and the female editors and writers featured in their books.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From Wintering to The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

Here we are again and already at the first Saturday in the month. July this time, and a new round of Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

I’ve read this month’s starting book, Katherine May’s Wintering. It’s a bold choice with which to start our chains, and it took some thought for me to find a thread. I forged my chain late on Saturday night, but chose sleep over wrangling it into a post. Only a day late with that.

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The Lincoln Highway

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Read 18/05/2022-28/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

The Lincoln Highway follows 18 year old Emmett Watson from the middle of the United States to its East Coast along the Lincoln Highway. It is June 1954, and Emmett has just been released early from an eighteen month sentence at a juvenile work farm in Kansas, due to his father dying. With an 8 year old brother, Billy, to look after, Emmett wants to leave his childhood home in Nebraska behind to start a new life somewhere else. Duchess and Woolly, two friends who have escaped from the work farm, stowing away in the boot of the car that carries Emmett home, have other ideas about that. Continue reading

The Radetzky March

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Read 02/01/2022-09/01/2022

Rating 5 stars

Onwards in my European literary tour to Austria. Joseph Roth was born in a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is now in Ukraine, but studied in Vienna and is considered to be an Austrian writer. I have his novel The Radetzky March in a Folio edition, which is no longer in print.

The Radetzky March is considered to be a political masterpiece that draws parallels between the elevation and subsequent fall of a military family and the decline and eventual collapse of the Habsburg monarchy. The focus of the novel is the Trotta family, Austro-Hungarians of Slovenian origin, the patriarch of whom rescues Emperor Franz Joseph I from death during the Battle of Solferino. This earns him an elevation to the nobility and the title Baron Trotta von Sipolje.

It’s a funny book that captures the camaraderie of military life, the ridiculous nature of civil service life, the generational changes in parent-child relationships, and the curious rigidity of friendship between men of a certain class. Having studied the causes of the First World War at school, it also provided a different, more social context to the political one I garnered from O Level text books in the 1980s.

It’s also a poetic book, in the way Roth describes landscape, seasons, thoughts and emotions. His turn of phrase is perfection. I loved the lightness of his touch, the humour and fondness for his characters, and the way he skewers the social structures of the time, while simultaneously mourning their passing. Continue reading

The Equestrienne

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Read 28/12/2021

Rating 5 stars

The Equestrienne is a novella that I picked up speculatively, prompted by Meytal Radzinski’s Women in Translation initiative. Every day during 2021, Meytal has tweeted about a non-Anglophone female writer whose work may or may not, more often not, have been translated into English. A different writer every day. It’s quite a task and a great source of authors for anyone wanting to broaden their reading.

Uršuľa Kovalyk is a Slovakian writer from Košice who now lives in Bratislava. She campaigns for women’s rights, and is the director of the Theatre With No Home, which provides opportunities for homeless and disabled actors.

Košice is close to Slovakia’s border with Hungary. I thought I would visit there on my virtual tour of Europe, rather than the Slovakian capital. Continue reading

The Invisible Bridge

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Read 08/12/2021-27/12/2021

Rating 4 stars

An unplanned side trip to Hungary with my next book. On Margaret’s Six Degrees chain for December 2021, I spied a title that interested me. The Invisible Bridge is a novel about the experiences of Hungarian Jews following Hitler’s rise to power and during the Second World War.

Author Julie Orringer is American, so the book doesn’t fit my loose rule for my European literary tour of reading books by authors from the countries I virtually visit. A large amount of the book is set in Paris, too, with a brief period in Ukraine. Continue reading