Six Degrees of Separation: From Stasiland to The Mirror and the Light

Which day is it?  At the moment it seems very hard to keep track of the passing time.  One thing is for sure: if it is the first Saturday of the month, then it is time for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate over at BooksAreMyFavouriteAndBest.

This month we are starting with Stasiland by Anna Funder, a fascinating-sounding collection of stories about life for people in the former East Germany.  I have particularly been encouraged to add this to my To Be Read pile after listening to a recent episode of one of my most favourite podcasts, the BBC’s A Good Read, in which comedian Angela Barnes picked Stasiland as her book choice.

I was also pleased to hear Amy Liptrot’s recommendation in a different episode of A Good Read, namely Kathleen Jamie’s wonderful Sightlines.  This is a compelling collection of essays in which Jamie explores ‘the ‘natural’, the remote, and the human-made’.  Gorgeous writing.

Jamie’s most recent book (Surfacing) has been shortlisted for the 2019 Highland Book Prize.  So my second link is to another book on this list: The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel by David Gange.  This sounds like just my kind of nature and travel writing.  Gange writes about his journey in a kayak around ‘the weather-ravaged coasts of Atlantic Britain and Ireland from north to south: every cove, sound, inlet, island’.

Another book in which the UK coastline plays a staring role is Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path.  This is an absorbing read about how Winn and her husband walked the 630mile south-west coastline of Britain when after losing their home, their jobs and their mental and physical health.  Winn has a lovely light-touch way of writing, even about the most serious of subjects.

Walking is most definitely a feature in my fourth link:  Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  This is a lovely, gentle, yet powerful story; ‘the odyssey of a simple man’ (according to author Claire Tomalin).  I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by the gorgeous Jim Broadbent – there could be no better actor to bring Harold vividly to life.

Audiobooks are perfect literary packages when the narrator fits exactly the reader’s idea of the character.  Jim Broadbent as Harold is one such example.  Another is Meryl Streep reading Nora Ephron’s Heartburn.  This is such a brilliant listen – as if you are sitting with Streep/Ephron in a cafe having tea and cake, chatting about marriage, life and recipes.  Highly recommended.

And so for my final link, I thought about who else I might like to sit with in a cafe over tea and cake.  The answer just at the moment is Hilary Mantel.  I have seen a few interviews with her recently about the publication of The Mirror and the Light – it is so interesting to hear her talking about her writing process and of course about what it is like to spend 15 years in the company of Cromwell and the Tudors.  I am looking forward very much to reading this trilogy finale and am re-listening to the first two books in preparation.

So this month’s chain meanders around from its start in recent European history, through various examinations of the present, to its conclusion in C16th history.

Next time, in Kate’s words: “Given the current pandemic, the obvious choice for next month (May 2, 2020) is The Road by Cormac McCarthy”.  Quite.  🙂


*Featured image:  Piles of French Novels, Vincent Van Gogh – from the Van Gogh Museum




32 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Stasiland to The Mirror and the Light

  1. Okay, I loved Harold Fry (and it is going into my chain for May), so that Salt Path sounds good. In fact, I wonder how many people will be doing salt paths after this virus is over! Heartburn also sounds good. I’ve never read any Ephron (perhaps I should)! Excellent chain.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read The Salt Path, but it provoked very different responses in one of my readers groups. Some people had read it and really loved it, others had been bored stupid by it. It’s interesting how one book can provoke so many different comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Streep is perfection! I am really finding it helpful to listen to books at the moment. There are lots of free options available at the moment, including some classics via audible, so a good time to give it a try. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve read Harold Fry and I thought it was a lovely book too. I haven’t read any of the others in your chain, but I’m about to start reading my copy of The Mirror and the Light!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you read the sequel which is from the perspective of Queenie? I have seen mixed reviews and am not sure whether to try it.


  4. I’ll have to have a listen to that episode of A Good Read. Oddly, although I listen to lots of podcasts, few bookish ones have made my regular listening list (I think because I follow bookish things through so many other media streams…). That said, I often tune into single episodes where a topic or author catches my eye.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your chain is so interesting and has reminded me that I have The Salt Path and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in my TBRs – maybe I’ll get round to reading them soon, especially as I see you enjoyed both of them

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An interesting selection of writing in your chain, Liz. I am sure I would enjoy The Salt Path ( it has been calling to me for some time now) and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. They will be added to my list. When I saw Sightlines I was immediately reminded of another Sightlines, published almost twenty years ago. A fantastic selection of short stories, poems and excerpts collected together in support of the RNIB Talking Books Appeal.
    I hope you are keeping well, Liz?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for that link, Clare, which looks brilliant, and such an important cause. I will see if I can get a copy from the library when everything eventually opens back up. Meanwhile, we are doing well thanks – I very much hope that you and the family are ok too? X

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.