I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.
This month the chain begins with Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, a book I haven’t read.
It’s described on Goodreads as the extraordinary story of a geisha -summoning up a quarter century from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan’s dramatic history, and opening a window into a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
Japan is the first link in my chain with An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro.
It is set in 1948 as Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War Two. The celebrated artist, Masuji Ono, fills his days attending to his garden, his house repairs, his two grown daughters and his grandson. He spends his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. But his memories continually return to the past – to a life and career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism and a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity.
The word ‘world‘ takes me to the next link – Eowyn Ivey’s To the Bright Edge of the World a novel about Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester’s journey in 1885 from Perkins Island up the Wolverine River in Alaska. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its rich natural resources to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy. It’s a book full of love, the love of Allen and Sophie, his wife, and the love of the country, the landscape and its people.
Also set in Alaska is A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow, the first in her Kate Shugak series. This is crime fiction in which Kate Shugak returns to her roots in the far Alaskan north, after leaving the Anchorage D.A.’s office. Her deductive powers are definitely needed when a ranger disappears. Looking for clues among the Aleutian pipeliners, she begins to realise the fine line between lies and loyalties–between justice served and cold murder.
The next link is also to crime fiction – Silver Lies by Ann Parker, historical fiction set in 1879/80 in the silver-mining town of Leadville, Colarado in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Leadville was a colourful place, a boom-town, bustling with life -everything is there – the Silver Queen saloon and the Crystal Belle Saloon, Leadville’s leading parlor house, a brick built opera house, whose patrons ‘swelled the after-midnight crowds’ in the Silver Queen saloon, five banks and a small white church with a steeple.
Pompeii by Robert Harris is also historical fiction, set in August AD 79, recounting the eruption of Vesuvius destroying the town of Pompeii and killing its inhabitants as they tried to flee the pumice, ash and searing heat and flames. My favourite character is the hero of the book, engineer Attilius. Before Vesuvius erupted he realised the danger when the aqueduct Aqua Augusta failed to supply water to the people in the nine towns around the Bay of Naples, and attempted to repair the aqueduct.
Part of the book’s appeal to me was because I visited Pompeii and had a trip up to the summit of Vesuvius some years ago and so I could easily picture the location.
This leads me on to Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner because this is also a place I’ve visited. It’s also historical fiction featuring a crime – that of the murder of Eugénie Patinot when she takes her nephews and niece to the newly-opened Eiffel Tower in 1889. She collapses and dies, apparently from a bee-sting. This book is full of historical detail but the mystery element is not really convincing.
My chain this month has a lot of crime fiction and historical fiction, but it has travelled through time and space from the first century AD to the 20th century through Japan, Alaska, Canada, Italy and France. It has followed artists, explorers, silver miners and detectives and looked in on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the opening of the Eiffel Tower.
Next month (April 7, 2018), we’ll begin with Barbara Kingsolver’s bestselling novel, The Poisonwood Bible.