Six Degrees of Separation – from The Arsonist to Ghost Moth

Back from lovely Lille – more of which later in the week – and it’s time for my favourite meme. Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best. It works like this: 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 others on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

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This month we’re starting with Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist which I haven’t read but which I know from Kate’s review is about an appalling conflagration which took place in Australia in 2009 and the man who set some of the fires which contributed to it.

For obvious reasons my first link is to Sue Miller’s The Arsonist about the burning down of summer houses in a small New Hampshire town.

One of the characters in Miller’s novel is called Frankie which leads me to Barbara Trapido’s Frankie and Stankie whose main protagonist flees South Africa’s apartheid regime in the ‘60s to live in the UK.

South Africa shares a border with Zimbabwe, the setting for Petina Gappah’s The Book of Memory in which the eponymous narrator tells her story from death row, imprisoned for the murder of the white man she’s been living with since she was nine.

Edgeworth Bess shares a similar predicament, telling her story via Billy Archer as she awaits sentencing for the possession of stolen goods in The Fatal Tree, Jake Arnott’s rollicking tale of eighteenth-century thieves and whores.

In Emily Woof’s The Lightning Tree a girl from one side of the tracks – comfy, middle-class, leftie activist parents – meet a boy from the other side – council estate, working-class, Thatcherite mum and dad – they fall in love, the girl heads off to India, the boy to Oxford and then we see what happens, following them into their thirties.

Emily Woof is an actor, a profession she shares with Michèle Forbes who wrote Ghost Moth, set in Northern Ireland, which tells the story of a marriage in alternating narratives, twenty years apart.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from an investigation of a devastating fire in Australia to a Northern Irish love story, and this time I’ve read all but our starting point. Part of the fun of this meme is comparing the very different routes other bloggers take from each month’s starting point. If you’re interested, you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #6Degrees, check out the links over at Kate’s blog or perhaps even join in.

29 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – from The Arsonist to Ghost Moth

  1. Liz

    Welcome back from Lille – look forward very much to more about your trip. Meanwhile, thanks for another fabulous chain. It’s bursting with shiny new reading goodies for me and a nice reminder of Trapido, who I read and loved years ago. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you, Liz. Trapido’s good, isn’t she, although I suspect not so much read these days. It’s been quite some time since she published a new novel.

      I’m planning to post on lovely Lille on Wednesday.

      Reply
        1. Susan Osborne Post author

          I’m sorry to say that I think I have but have forgotten the book entirely. I’ve reached the stage that if I don’t write about a book it doesn’t stick for long.

          Reply
          1. Liz

            Completely agree! I have got out of the habit of writing notes on finished books and it’s like I never read anything before

          2. Susan Osborne Post author

            I’ve a feeling you may share my habit of purposefully striding into the living room only to find you’ve forgotten what you went in there to do…

  2. FictionFan

    I didn’t know Michelle Forbes had written a novel! I fear I still think of her as Ro Laren in Star Trek, but I guess a girl needs to have something to fall back on when her career as an alien freedom fighter comes to an end… 😉

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you! The Lightning Tree is well worth a dekko and The Fatal Tree is just brilliant. I learnt so many wonderful bits of seventeenth-century criminal slang when I read it. Sadly, I’ve struggled to get any into conversations since.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Ah, I was a late poster this month. I’m usually pretty prompt as this is my favourite meme: good for your brain and always interesting to see what other bloggers come up with.

      Reply
  3. buriedinprint

    I haven’t read any of these, but I enjoyed reading your connections between them. (I’ve read another of Sue Miller’s and recently heard Barbara Trapido recommended on BBC4’s “A Good Read”, one of my favourite podcasts!)

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you. I love putting these posts together then checking out the routes other bloggers take. I’m a huge fan of A Good Read, too. Such a great way to discover books not in the public eye.

      Reply
      1. buriedinprint

        I especially loved the recent episode. I never remember the guests’ names (as I’m sure non-Canadian listeners would find to be the case about CBC shows too) but I hadn’t read any of the books but had two already on my TBR (which only made me want to read them more – one was Coetzee, which I know is difficult, but I’m still keen) and the other was new to me (it might even have been the Trapido). I just love the discussions and the mix of popular and readily recognizable titles and deeply backlisted choices.

        Reply
        1. Susan Osborne Post author

          I’m a bit behind and need to catch up! Interesting if it was a Trapido as there’s a South African connection there. I agree with your point about discussions and mix of titles. The programme’s been running for quite some time. I remember customers asking for the same obscure backlist title which had almost invariably been one chosen by one of the guests when I was a bookseller nearly two decades ago.

          Reply
  4. Jessie

    I hadn’t heard of any of them before, but The Fatal Tree, The Lightning Tree, and The Ghost Moth all sound like ones I need to check out. Thanks for sharing them this month!

    Reply

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