#6Degrees of Separation: May 2023

Time for my favourite monthly reading/linking meme, the Six Degrees of Separation as hosted by Kate, and this month we are starting with a book shortlisted for the Stella Prize in Australia, but which has yet to make its way across to this corner of the world. Hydra by Adriane Howell is a bit of a Gothic novel, and there are lots of possible links: Greek mythology or islands, mid-century furniture, haunted houses, careers and marriages imploding…

There is also a neighbouring naval base, I understand, in this novel, so I will choose that to link to C.S. Forester’s Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, the first (and not necessarily the best) in his lengthy and very successful Hornblower series. I can’t really remember which couple of them I’ve read, as they tend to follow a similar pattern of naval exploits set during the Napoleonic Wars.

The mention of Napoleonic Wars makes me instantly think of Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma, which opens with quite a visceral account of the Battle of Waterloo.

The next book is a bit of a lazy link, perhaps, especially since both of my boys have been reading it recently and talking a lot about it, but it is also French and deals with the consequences of the Napoleonic Wars and the political turmoil and suspicion which followed after the fall of Bonaparte and his supporters, namely The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Dumas notoriously made a fortune from sales of this book, built a chateau and led such an extravagant lifestyle that he lost all the money again and had to sell the chateau a short while later. Another author who went bankrupt (although thanks to bad investments rather than a profligate lifestyle) was Mark Twain, so my next link is to his lesser-known but very funny work A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. A satire about monarchy and the people surrounding the throne, which feels particularly timely this weekend.

My next link has something to do with the monarchy, one of the few books about the late Queen which I actually enjoyed and which presented her in a whimsical, charming light, which is probably not at all warranted: Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader.

I can’t resist books about books, readers and writers, so the final very loose link is with another passionate reader, the title hero of The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke, who leads the Bohemian life in Paris (probably based on Rilke himself).

It’s ended up being quite an old-fashioned set of connections, although I have travelled throughout Europe with it. Let’s hope next month I will be more adventurous, right?

9 thoughts on “#6Degrees of Separation: May 2023”

  1. As usual, an interesting list Marina. I remember Hornblower from boyhood reading but my last acquaintance with reading about Bonaparte was when he had a bad cold before The Battle of Borodino. Tolstoy had such an eye for detail.

  2. A very clever chain, Marina Sofia! And thanks for mentioning Stendahl. A lot of people think of The Red and the Black when they think of his work; it’s nice to see another of his books. And you remind me that it’s too long since I read Dumas…

  3. Someone else linked to that Stendhal too but differently. How interesting. The only one I’ve read is The uncommon reader which I enjoyed. Anyhow, good chain.

  4. Great chain. I love The Count of Monte Cristo and love your bankruptcy link! I can’t think of many books I’ve read about the Queen, but The Uncommon Reader was fun.

  5. I just started reading The Count of Monte Cristo! Nice unexpected link there to Twain, I didn’t know that about either author.

  6. It’s rather nice to read a chain that’s full of classics. It’s so easy to be caught up by the next-and-newest must-read that we can forget how many wonderful books have already long been published.

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