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.
This month we’re starting with Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain which follows the eponymous Shuggie over a decade from the age of five, devoted to his alcoholic mother and ceaselessly bullied for his fastidious ways. Given its themes, you might think this is a story of unremitting misery but Stuart leavens the pathos with a great deal of sharp, dry wit. I was thrilled when it won last year’s Booker Prize.
Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda is my all-time favourite Booker Prize winner. Gawky, misfit Oscar Hopkins meets fellow gambler Lucinda Leplastrier – equally the misfit and unexpectedly in possession of a large fortune – on board a ship sailing to Australia where both wager their futures on the construction of a fantastical glass church.
Gail Jones’ The Death of Noah Glass follows an art historian’s children trying to cope with their estranged father’s death. His son takes off for Sicily where Noah had spent three months shortly before his death, ostensibly to investigate the implication of Noah’s involvement in an art theft but desperate to try to understand the man he feels he hardly knew.
Which leads me to Peter Robb’s Midnight in Sicily, an exploration of art history, politics and culture intertwined with the influence of the Mafia in all areas of public life.
Tobias Jones’ fascinating Dark Heart of Italy draws on his four years living in the country, pulling no punches about Italian corruption. I remember a bookseller in the sleepy Dorset town of Sherborne telling me about the armed security detail accompanying Jones at an event in the shop thanks his book’s revelations.
I also remember that happening when Salman Rushdie, author of the notorious The Satanic Verses, did a short signing at my branch of Waterstones.
Very few of those protesting against The Satanic Verses had read even a page of it which led me to check books readers claim to have read but often haven’t. Much to my surprise, quite a few lists feature George Orwell’s 1984.
This month’s Six Degrees has taken me from last year’s poignant, funny Booker Prize winner about a son and his beloved alcoholic mother to a dystopian classic. 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.