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