It’s the first Saturday of the month – and of the year – which means it’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate of Books are my Favourite and Best. 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.
This month we’re starting with Beach Read by Emily Henry. It’s not a book I’ve read or plan to read, but here’s what it’s about:
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
My first link this month is to Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie (1), a novel set on a beach. Published in 1941, this is a Poirot mystery which takes place on a private island belonging to the Jolly Roger Hotel. When a woman is found murdered on the island, almost all of the other guests become suspects – but luckily Hercule Poirot is also staying at the hotel and is able to begin investigating immediately!
My copy of Evil Under the Sun has a postcard on the front cover, which reminds me of a book I read just a few months ago: Blue Postcards by Douglas Bruton (2). Set in Paris and weaving together three different narratives, this is a very unusual novella. It’s written in the form of five hundred numbered paragraphs – and each one contains the word ‘blue’! Very cleverly done, but not really a book for me.
Paris is always an interesting and atmospheric setting. One of my favourite books set in Paris during the time of the French Revolution is The Way to the Lantern by Audrey Erskine Lindop (3). Audrey Erskine Lindop wrote more than a dozen novels between 1954 and 1978 and sadly all of them are now out of print, despite being successful at the time and, in some cases, adapted into films. I keep hoping her books will be picked up again by a publisher, but no luck yet!
My next link is to another book with a title beginning with the words ‘the way’: The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry (4). The name Ambrose Parry is actually a pseudonym for the husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman, who worked together on this historical mystery set in the medical world of 19th century Edinburgh. There are currently three books in the series; I’ve enjoyed all of them and am hoping for a fourth.
I’ve read lots of novels with a medical theme, but the first one that comes to mind is The Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov (5), which I read in an English translation by Michael Glenny. This is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories based on Bulgakov’s own experiences of working at a small village hospital between 1916 and 1918. I loved this book, although it’s completely different from The Master and Margarita, the only other Bulgakov novel I’ve read so far (and also loved).
Another author who shares a name with Mikhail Bulgakov is Mikhail Lermontov, who wrote A Hero of Our Time (6). This entertaining Russian classic was published in 1840 and consists of five stories which combine to produce a portrait of a young army officer, the flawed but fascinating Grigory Pechorin. I really enjoyed it and can recommend Nicolas Pasternak Slater’s translation.
And that’s my first chain of the year! My links included: beaches, postcards, Paris, ‘the way’, doctors and the name Mikhail.
In February we’ll be starting with Trust by Hernan Diaz.