It’s time again for #6Degrees, I can’t believe how quickly the months roll around. This is my quickest turnaround I think, just saw that Kate at BAMFAB had hers up, so pulled this together quickly. Hope you like.
The starter book is Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks. I really enjoyed this book. It’s set during a plague and shows how a small village responds (or doesn’t) with some interesting passages around the knowledge of infection and how it can be transmitted. I wonder if it came from a musing about how people would have worked things out without being told, before doctors might have known what was going on. I also really enjoyed the smallness of the story, how Brooks kept the lens narrow.
Another book that had a ‘small’ story scope, but was very readable and poignant, was Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, a book about a strange man who is on a journey (I love journey books, I just realised). This novel is simple and affecting, I loved it. [I decided not to link to that other lighthouse book that we all know, I didn’t love that and am trying to keep this selections positive. See what I did there?]
Strange men (people, really) are interesting to me, in life and in fiction. Another strange fictional man who I can’t get my head around is the protagonist, Patrick Oxtoby, in MJ Hyland’s This is How. His name is unusual and reflects his character. I would love to know how she chose the name and was it deliberate, I reckon so, has to be. Even though the title suggests an explanation will be forthcoming for how the central life-changing event occurs, it isn’t that simple (of course it isn’t) and I think the title refers to a longer, more convoluted and obscure ‘how’ which can’t be answered in a novel and can’t even be answered looking at a life. Psychological and brilliant. I am a huge fan of Hyland’s work and I had heard she was working on a novel about a kidnapping, but it’s yet to surface. Fingers are crossed.
Another novel concerned with psychological-type inquiries is Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller. Yes, it’s a terrific film, but the book takes the reader into interior spaces that are otherwise inaccessible via media other than literature. It’s a great example of an unreliable narrator.
Another fantastic unreliable narrator is to be found in Engleby by Sebastian Faulks. If you haven’t read this book I implore you to get to it. IMPLORE. It is marvellous. It’s set in England, during the ‘50s and ‘60s ish, and tells the story of a young man at university and the disappearance of a girl of his acquaintance. I found it entirely gripping and it’s up there with my best lifetime reads.
Best lifetime reads: what would be the book you would rank as #1? Anytime I think about trying to pick I just can’t, I think, nah, not possible. But I have several times over the last year or so (since I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara) made the comment: “It’s my read of the year, if not longer.” That’s more manageable, isn’t it? Grouping them to a year, because we all know what it’s like going back to a much-loved book from early, seminal years. Sometimes they just don’t hold up (for what it’s worth: John Irving’s The Water-Method Man and The 158 Pound Marriage hold up for me 100%, as does Garp.)