It’s the first Saturday in April, so it’s time for another Six Degrees post. This meme is hosted by Kate over at BooksAreMyFavouriteAndBest.
We all start with the same book and then add six linked titles of our own. It’s amazing and fascinating to see how differently all the chains turn out.
This month the starting title is Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Set in Glasgow, this won the Booker Prize last year, and deservedly so. It is an incredible read, so poignant and authentic. As this year’s book prize season is in full swing, I have decided to pick titles from a range of different prizes, so they all link from that perspective. And each pair of titles in the chain has its own bespoke link too, just to make it extra fun.
My first link is In The Dream House: a Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado. This has recently won the Rathbones Folio Prize so has winning in common with Shuggie Bain. In addition, Shuggie has many semi-autobiographical elements from Douglas Stuart’s life as a gay child and then adolescent. Machado’s book is of course fully autobiographical and recounts her life of suffering through queer domestic abuse.
Memoir takes us to memory for my next title: In Memory of Memory by Maria Stapanova (translated by Sasha Dugdale). This has been long listed for the International Booker Prize. With the death of her aunt, the author “is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: a withered repository of a century of life in Russia”.
Another book to emerge from old papers, diaries and other documents is Kate Grenville’s A Room Made of Leaves, which has been shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. This novel tells the tale of how Elizabeth comes to marry John in 1788 before they journey from Devon in South-West England to settle Australia.
An epic journey is also the backbone of Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, which has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Gifty is intrigued by her family’s migration from Ghana to Alabama, but the realities of immigration wreak havoc on her father and brother, driving Gifty to seek answers to generational questions. I loved Yaa Gyasi’s previous novel Homegoing so am looking forward to reading this one.
Next, from a book that is transcendent in name, to one that is transcendent in nature. The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey won the Costa Book of the Year 2020 and has been shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. Set in St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch, “a fisherman sings to himself in his pirogue, waiting for a catch but attracts a sea-dweller he doesn’t expect. Aycayia, a beautiful young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid, has been swimming the Caribbean Sea for centuries. And she is entranced by this man David and his song”. I don’t always get on with magical realism books but this sounds intriguing.
From a fictional Caribbean island, we leap for my sixth and final link (or is it….?) to the real islands in the Outer Hebrides. Frank Rennie’s book The Changing Outer Hebrides has been shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize. This is described as a “fascinating and intimate account of the inter-relationship between one small island village in the Hebrides and the wider world. From the formation of the bedrock 3 billion years ago, to the predictable near-future, the layers of this unique landscape are explored.” Since I am obsessed with Scottish islands, I’ll definitely be reading this one.
Finally, a cheeky extra link, this time to an even smaller Scottish island. In honour of Kate and her brilliant hosting of this meme, I could not finish a chain based on book prizes without mentioning the fabulous Stella Prize, which celebrates Australian women’s writing and champions cultural change. On this year’s shortlist is The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. This somehow ties a tiny rocky outcrop to the lives of three women from the early 1700s to the present day. Another one that I will definitely be reading.
So this chain takes us from bonnie Scotland, all around the world and back again. How very satisfying!
Next month’s chain will be starting with Beezus and Ramona. I hope to see you then! 😀