Six Degrees of Separation – From The Road to Northanger Abbey

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme 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 others to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the titles on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

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This month we’re starting with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road which has become something of a dystopian classic, following a man and his young son as they walk through a post-apocalyptic America. Personally, I’m hoping that the corona virus will put the kybosh on dystopian fiction.

You could say that Richard Yates Revolutionary Road depicts a suburban dystopia which young marrieds Frank and April think they can escape, a plan that ends in betrayal.

The late and sadly missed Iain Banks’ The Crow Road is an old favourite of mine. Part thriller, part family saga, part coming-of-age story, it follows Prentice McHoan who’s determined to get to the bottom of what happened to his Uncle Rory many years before.

‘Away the crow road’ is a Scottish expression for death, according to Banks’ novel, which brings to mind Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice about a man’s obsession with a beautiful boy against the backdrop of a cholera-stricken Venice.

Donna Leon’s Acqua Alta is just one of a long series of novels featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti based in the city of Venice where Leon has lived for many years.

It seems that fictional detectives are often associated with beautiful cities. Peter Lovesey’s The Last Detective is set in my home town of Bath as are most of his novels featuring Superintendent Peter Diamond.

Bath is also the setting for Jane Austen’s satire on gothic fiction, Northanger Abbey. There’s an apartment complex I sometimes pass whose name pays tribute to her novel.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from dystopian America to my home town by way of Scotland and Venice. 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.

38 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From The Road to Northanger Abbey”

  1. I loved The Crow Road! It might be time for a re-read, I think I’d find it comforting. If I remember rightly, the first line is ‘It was the day my grandmother exploded’ – I never remember first lines but that one stuck with me!

      1. Yes, I recently recommended that adaptation to friend who’s a huge Peter Capaldi fan and she’d never seen it. It was so well cast. Your right, some comfort re-watching might be in order!

  2. Nicely done, Susan! And now I have to see that adaptation of The Crow Road that you mention. Revolutionary Road not only shares the ‘Road’ in the title, but is perhaps equally bleak or bleaker about human relationships.

    1. Thank you! I think that’s why the Yates popped into my head despite being determined to resist the dystopian theme. It’s a suburban rather than apolcalyptic version. I hope you can track The Crow Road adaptation down.

  3. Oh, I don’t think anything will put the kibosh on dystopian fiction, not even this virus. In fact, I can see a whole slew of post-virus dystopian fiction books in our future. Great chain.

  4. You couldn’t get two authors more different than Austen and McCarthy! I like how you’ve linked them. And coincidentally, I started reading The Crow Road last night, in part inspired by that famous first line (which also appears in The Bookshop Band’s song “Once Upon a Time” — they’ve been doing weekly lockdown concerts and mentioned that they’d been reading The Crow Road for a book club there in Wigtown).

    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I hope you love The Crow Road as much as I did. I’d really like to see The Bookshop Band if we’re ever able to gather in groups again. Perhaps I should, try a lockdown concert.

  5. Fabulous! I now have that gorgeous Mahler soundtrack from the Death in Venice film adaptation in my mind – lovely.

  6. I like your links! We both finished with Jane Austen, but took quite different routes. I am not familiar with Donna Leon, but Acqua Alta sounds like one, I might enjoy.

  7. I read Crow Road more than 25 years ago. I went through an Iain Banks phase and read a bunch of his novels. Complicity was my fave

  8. Yes! I would recommend them. Every Friday at 8:30 via their Facebook page. They choose five lockdown reads and play songs about them. Some of these live-stream gigs can have dodgy quality, but their picture and sound have been impeccable.

  9. How lovely to get far, far away from the horrors of The Road all the way to the charming delights of Northanger Abbey! I wonder how Catherine and Henry would have waltzed while maintaining a safe social distance… 😉

  10. Literary Feline

    A chain after my own heart! Donna Leon, Peter Lovesey and Jane Austen . . . Love it. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome! My partner is working his way through Peter Lovesey’s backlist, revisiting Bath in the ’90s which is when we moved here. Lovesey’s very good at describing the town, apparently, so it’s bringing back lots of memories for him.

  11. buriedinprint

    Iain Banks is a gap in my reading experience; I’ve always had in mind to read The Wasp Factory, but The Crow Road sounds like it might be an even better place to begin. Or, is it simply your favourite, but perhaps not the best beginning for a novice? (I see there’s a single circulating copy at the library, if/when it opens.)

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