Tag Archives: Mrs Hemingway

Six Degrees of Separation – from It to Mrs Hemingway #6Degrees

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 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.

This month we’re starting with Stephen King’s It which I haven’t read and have absolutely no intention of doing so. Far too cowardly!

I know very little about King’s novel but the blurb tells me it’s set in Maine which gives me the opportunity to scuttle quickly back into my comfort zone. J. Courtenay Sullivan’s novel Maine has a New England summer home setting and family secrets to reveal, both favorites for me.

Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum is one of the best family secrets novels I’ve read. A multitude of clues are spilled finally revealing what’s been puzzling Ruby Lennox for much of her life. Atkinson’s beautiful structured, often very funny novel won her the Whitbread Book of the Year award back in 1995 before it became the Costa.

The eponymous Cathy from Anna Stothard’s The Museum of Cathy is also keeping secrets, this time from her fiancé. The arrival of a package with no name or note attached threatens to unravel her new life in this nicely taut novel which has some gorgeous descriptions of the natural world.

The Museum of Cathy is set in Berlin leading me to Gail Jones’ A Guide to Berlin in which six people – all Nabokov aficionados, all visitors to the city – gather together to discuss the work of their literary hero but begin by telling their own stories.

Jones is also the author of Sixty Lights about a woman’s fascination with the newly emerging photographic technology which leads me to William Boyd’s Sweet Caress, an homage to woman photographers. It follows the life of Amory Clay from snapping socialites to documenting war in a career spanning much of the twentieth century. You could think of it as the female equivalent to Any Human Heart if you’re a Boyd fan.

In his novel’s acknowledgements Boyd mentions the war photographer Martha Gellhorn, one of the three wives of Ernest Hemingway whose stories were fictionalised in Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway. I put off reading Wood’s novel for some time owing to my Hemingway antipathy but enjoyed it very much.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from a fraught New England summer holiday to the South of France in the 1920s, equally fraught at times. 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.

Books Read (But Not Reviewed) in September 2015

By BloodI’m quite a fan of bloggers’ monthly reading recaps so thought I might try it myself. As ever, I’ll only include books I feel are worth recommending so should this become a regular feature they’re unlikely to be long posts.

I almost gave up Ellen Ullman’s By Blood, mainly because it has a curiously antiquated style – perhaps over-stylised might be a better way to describe it. It’s about a lecturer, currently on an enforced sabbatical because of his obsessive behaviour towards his students, who overhears a therapist and her client wrestling with the effects of her adoption on her life. He takes it upon himself to intervene, playing detective and tracking down the client’s birth mother. Somewhat improbable yet compelling, it’s well worth a read.

Bret Anthony Johnston’s Remember Me Like This follows a family whose older son has gone missing but four years later is found alive, having been abducted and abused. It’s told with a great deal of compassion from the point of view of each member of the family, all of whom have been changed irrevocably. A difficult subject well handled, although a tad too long for my taste.

Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway is one of those books much tweeted about last year. The Hemingway husband in question is Ernest but as you can tell from the title it’s really about his four wives. Ernest is much as you would expect but what’s really interesting is the novel’s portrayal of the relationships between the four wives, three of whom forge enduring friendships with each other – comrades in arms, perhaps.

The last title is Tim Spector’s The Diet Myth, way outside my usual literary beat but Cover imageabsolutely fascinating. Spector has been involved in a long-term study of microbes that live in our gut – friendly bacteria as those probiotic yoghurt adverts like to call them. He argues that these microbes, which differ from person to person, are essential for our health. Their elimination – often because of lack of diversity in our diets thanks to processed food – may well help to explain the seemingly inexorable march of obesity. He counters the many myths peddled by the media about the effect of what we eat on our health and made me think carefully about my own diet, proudly free of most processed food as it is. Very clever jacket, too.

That’s September’s roundup. Maybe there’ll be another one for October.