#6Degrees February 2021

Time once more for my favourite set of bookish links, as hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. This month we start with Redhead by the Side of the Road, the latest Anne Tyler book. I have read Anne Tyler previously and, although I generally admire her understated style, close observation and ability to show us the depths in even the most average-seeming of people, she has not stuck in my mind or become one of my favourite writers.

The link to the first book in my chain today is ‘redhead’ and one of the most famous literary redheads of them all Edna O’Brien. Thanks to my customised monthly book subscription at a very nearly local bookshop, my good Twitter and blogging friend Jacqui has sent me this author’s Selected Stories. It’s been a long time since I read the Country Girls trilogy, but I remember loving that Irish firebrand.

It would be too easy to use Ireland as the link to my next book, so instead I will use the word ‘Country’ in the title. And, since my recent trip to Japan via reading was so enjoyable, I will stick to a famous Japanese novel by their first Nobel Prize winner, Yukiguni – Snow Country by Kawabata. While it is wistful and yearning and poetic, I did find the (at least latent) misogyny and class distinctions a bit hard to stomach, and it is not my favourite novel by him.

Another novel that is considered the most famous by a certain author but which is not my favourite of theirs is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. It is, of course, iconic and I’ve always enjoyed it a lot, but there was something slightly too Gothic about it and the more day-time, claustrophobic setting of Villette always appealed to me more.

Both Villette and Jane Eyre are at least partially set in a school, so that is the link to my next choice. After the death of John le Carré, I felt compelled to read some of his novels that I hadn’t come across before and his second one A Murder of Quality is set in a snobbish public boys’ boarding-school probably modelled on Eton and the author’s own much-hated school Sherborne.

Famously, John le Carré was a pseudonym, so the next link is to another author who uses a pseudonym, although she manages to keep her anonymity rather more successfully hidden. I am referring of course to Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan Novels have been such a resounding success worldwide. I enjoyed them well enough (although perhaps not as deeply impressed as some others have been), and am also keen to catch up with the second part the TV series, which thus far has been excellent in both acting and period detail.

I found the English covers terribly kitsch, but am quite fond of the French covers of the Neapolitan novels.

My final link is to another book (or series of books) which has had a recent TV adaptation that I quite enjoyed (although I think I like the books more than the adaptation): Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I remember at the time when all of my colleagues at work were talking about Harry Potter, I was far more entranced by this trilogy.

So my literary travels this month have included Ireland, Japan, Yorkshire and Dorset, Naples and Oxford (plus a few parallel worlds). Where will your six links take you?

12 thoughts on “#6Degrees February 2021”

  1. Now I know who your literary redhead is and she’s rather more famous for it than mine! We shared a Jane Eyre link this month, too, and with it a lack of fondness for the novel. I’d agree about Villette.

    1. Yes, now you know why I was smiling while reading your chain! It’s not that I’m not fond of Jane Eyre – it’s too much part of my childhood not to be – but I find Villette more interesting, more mature.

  2. What a clever and interesting set of links, Marina Sofia! I’m really impressed with the way you moved from book to book here! And you do make an interesting point about iconic books that we enjoy, but aren’t tops on our list. I’ve got some books like that, too, but hadn’t thought about it much. Thanks for the idea!

  3. A clever chain, that reminds me I still haven’t read Villette. Like you, I’ve read Ferrante and enjoyed her books without being a real fan. Until her last, The Lying Life of Adults, which I haven’t enjoyed at all. Have you read it?

  4. I am thrilled to find someone else who has read A Murder of Quality! I read it years ago and loved it – then lent it to my mother, who was distinctly unimpressed. I also read the Smiley books at a young(ish) age, and feel I should reread them as I’m sure I missed so much.

    I keep reading about Ferrante but when I’ve picked her books up in the library (in the days when we were actually allowed into libraries…) I’ve somehow not felt interested enough to take them out. I didn’t know there was a TV series, I will have a look for that.

    Jane Eyre! We were force-fed her at school, which was the kiss of death for me with so many novels. I ought to reread her – or at least listen to the audiobook currently available on BBC Sounds. I just remember her as so worthy and depressing! I haven’t read Villette, perhaps that would be a better choice.

    I’m very lukewarm about Harry Potter. My children were obsessed with him for a while, though I’m relieved to say they did eventually move on. I saw the film of the first Philip Pulman book, and also a TV programme about him – he seemed so thoughtful and ‘normal’.

    By the way, I love that picture on the left of this page – it reminds me of the canal in Edinburgh, to which I used to live quite close, though I imagine this is somewhere warmer?

    Thanks for a thought-provoking chain.

    1. Thank you for your interesting comments. Yes, my older son went through a Harry Potter phase, but never rabid, while my younger just wanted to do the opposite of what his brother was doing, so never picked up HP.
      There are three pictures in rotation actually on the landing page: one is Mont Blanc as seen (with hugely magnifying lense) from the balcony of where I used to live in France. Second is a mountain scene from Romania, close to where my parents live. Third is a side canal on the Thames, very close to where I currently live.

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