It’s time again for 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.
The starting book this month is Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness, which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year. The judges stated that: it stood out for its sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy. A celebration of the power of books and reading, it tackles big issues of life and death, and is a complete joy to read. Ruth Ozeki is a truly original and masterful storyteller.”
I haven’t read it. Amazon’s description makes me wonder whether I want to: After the tragic death of his father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house and sound variously pleasant, angry or sad. Then his mother develops a hoarding problem, and the voices grow more clamorous. So Benny seeks refuge in the silence of a large public library. There he meets a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret; a homeless philosopher-poet; and his very own Book, who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
There are a number of ways I could have started my chain, but I made it easy by linking to another ‘Book of’ title – The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster. It tells the stories of two men, David Zimmer, a professor whose wife and two sons were killed in a plane crash and Hector Mann, a silent movie star who disappeared mysteriously in 1929. David is plunged into depression and ‘lived in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity’ until he watched a clip from one of Hector’s films. It made him laugh. In typical silent movie style Hector, with his slicked-back hair, thin and greasy little mustache and white suit, is the target and focal point of every mishap.
Another silent movie, Safety Last!, features in Simon Garfield’s Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time. Harold Lloyd climbs the outside of a department store, obstacles falling on him as he does so, until he reaches the giant clock at the top, grabs hold of it, and dangles above the street below. Garfield recalls that for the first audiences time just froze, some went into hysterics and others fainted. Garfield’s focus is on the concept of time that the movies portrayed and goes on to explain how films were originally produced and shown when the timing depended on the cranking skills of the cameraman during filming and the projectionist during showing.
I’m linking next to another book with the word ‘Safety‘ in the title – A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, nonfiction about the French Revolution concentrating on three of the revolutionaries – Georges-Jacques Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Maximilian Robespierre, from their childhoods to their deaths. I never really sympathised with any of them – after all they were responsible for the deaths of many people, including their own friends and played a major part in the Reign of Terror. But at times I was drawn into hoping that they would escape their fate – they were all guillotined.
From a book about the French Revolution my next link is to : Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, about her grandmother, her mother and herself, telling of their lives in China up to and during the years of the violent Cultural Revolution from 1966 until Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. In it she casts light on why and how Mao was able to exercise such paralysing control over the Chinese people. His magnetism and power was so strong and coupled with his immense skill at manipulation and his ability to inspire fear, it proved enough to subdue the spirit of most of the population; not to mention the absolute cruelty, torture and hardships they had to endure.
From a book about a grandmother, mother and daughter in China the next link is to another book about a grandmother, mother and daughter, in Kingsmarkham, a fictional English town, a novel Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter by Ruth Rendell, an Inspector Wexford mystery. Chief Inspector Wexford and Inspector Burden are faced with solving the brutal murders of author Davina Flory, her husband and daughter, shot dead at Tancred House. Only Daisy, her granddaughter survived, and wounded in the shoulder she had crawled to the phone to call for help. ‘Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter’ is a phrase derived from a tradition in the Royal Navy, as Wexford explains, it means being flogged.
Another character called Daisy also in Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn, the first book in her Daisy Dalrymple series, a typical country house murder mystery, with plenty of suspects. The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple, keen to be independent and earn her own living, is on her first writing assignment for Town and Country magazine, writing about country houses. One of the guests, Lord Stephen Astwick is found dead in the lake and it appears he has had a skating accident. Enter Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, who is also investigating a jewel robbery at Lord Flatford’s house nearby.
My chain this month has a variety of books linked in different ways – words in the titles, revolutions, daughters and characters with the same name. I has books of historical fiction, crime fiction and nonfiction.