I took part in Six Degrees of Separation hosted by Kate of Books are my Favourite and Best for the first time last month and enjoyed it, so I thought I’d try it again this month. The idea is that Kate chooses a book to use as a starting point and then we have to link it to six other books of our choice to form a chain. A book doesn’t have to be connected to all of the others on the list – only to the one next to it in the chain.
The first book this month is Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, last year’s Booker Prize winner, which I read just before Christmas. With its unusual and experimental structure it wasn’t really my sort of book, but I did appreciate the originality and creativity.
In Lincoln in the Bardo, Abraham Lincoln visits Oak Hill Cemetery to grieve over the body of his eleven-year-old son, Willie. This brings to mind another book set in a cemetery: Pure by Andrew Miller. Pure is the story of a young engineer from Normandy who arrives in Paris to begin work on the destruction of the overcrowded and unsanitary cemetery of Les Innocents.
Pure appeared on the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize in 2012. Another book shortlisted in the same year – the eventual winner, in fact – was On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry. This beautifully written novel is narrated by Lilly, an elderly woman looking back on the eighty-nine years of her life.
Sebastian Barry is one of my favourite Irish authors. Another Irish author I love is John Boyne and the first of his books that I read was This House is Haunted.
This House is Haunted is a wonderfully entertaining and atmospheric ghost story set in Victorian England. At the beginning of the book the narrator and her father go to watch a public reading by Charles Dickens. I could have chosen a Dickens novel as my next link, but instead I’m going to highlight Claire Tomalin’s biography, Charles Dickens: A Life.
Claire Tomalin has written several other biographies on subjects including Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft, but apart from the Dickens book the only other one I’ve read so far is Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.
In his diary, Samuel Pepys famously wrote about the Great Fire of London of 1666. The fire provides the setting for The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor. It’s the first in a series of historical mysteries, with the second book, The Fire Court, due to be published soon.
Have you read any of the books in my chain? What did you think of them?
Next month’s chain will begin with a book I haven’t read and know nothing about – The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.