Tag Archives: Netherland

Six Degrees of Separation – from Sanditon to The Corrections

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 Jane Austen’s Sanditon, recently televised in the UK which must have been something of a challenge given that the novel’s unfinished.

John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman has three different endings making it well nigh unfilmable, you’d think, but Harold Pinter did an excellent job with the screenplay for the 1981 movie starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep.

The title of Fowles’ book leads me to French Exit, Patrick deWitt’s caustic caricature of the wealthy upper classes, which takes its readers from New York City to Paris in the company of Frances Price, her son Malcolm and Small Frank, their ancient cat – once met never forgotten.

Small Frank would no doubt have sneered at the hairless therapy cat supposedly helping Jay get over what he sees as his mother’s desertion when he was a child in Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Harmless Like You.

Nathan Hill’s The Nix explores American politics through the relationship between another mother and the son she left when he was eleven years old, reunited when she finds herself in the spotlight over two decades later

The Nix sounds very much like the name of a famous New York basketball team although it’s spelt Knicks. I know next to nothing about sport but I did enjoy Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland which sees a Dutchman take up cricket in New York City. When President Obama declared his love for the book, sales must have spiked way beyond O’Neill’s wildest dreams.

Not quite in Obama’s league, although it was once rumoured that she might stand for president, an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey must have been the stuff of dreams for authors when she was in her heyday. Not for Jonathan Franzen, though, who refused to have anything to do with her book club rather snottily declaring his novel, The Corrections, to be high art and therefore, presumably not for the Winfrey-watching hoi polloi.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from an unfinished nineteenth century novel to the story of a supremely dysfunctional family by a rather pleased-with-himself author. 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.

Paperbacks to Look Out For in April 2015: Part 2

Cover imageMy second April paperback selection begins with a book whose jacket which will either charm you or make you feel as if you’ve stumbled into a Barbie nightmare. You might also be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing new or original to say about the Kennedy assassination but having already read and enjoyed Nicole Mary Kelby’s The Pink Suit in its more restrained hardback incarnation, I’m happy to recommend it. By telling her fictionalised story of the infamous suit through Kate, a back room girl at Chez Ninon, Kelby niftily avoids the well-trodden Kennedy path with its apparently endless power to fascinate.

Louise Levene’s The Following Girls is a satire on  schoolgirl life in the 1970s, stuffed full of pitch-perfect period detail. It’s a novel which will have women of a certain age and education both squirming and cackling in recognition. Levene’s sharpest skill is her ability to signal the pain beneath her narrator’s witty rejoinders.  I’m already looking forward to rereading this one.

Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists was one of those novels that caught the affections of many readers including me. His second, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, begins in a Welsh bookshop run by Tooly Zylberberg who finds a message on her Facebook page – her father is in trouble, can she come and help? As far as Tooly’s concerned she hasn’t seen her father since she was eleven, abducted in Bangkok by a women called Sarah who promptly disappeared leaving her with Humphrey, the Russian chess-playing bibliophile who brought her up – and it’s Humphrey who’s in trouble. Rachman’s second novel is as absorbing and entertaining as his first.Cover image

Joseph O’Neill made a similar splash with his first novel, Netherland. HarperCollins must have hardly believed their luck when Barack Obama announced he was taking it on holiday with him. The Dog didn’t meet with quite the same brouhaha but I still plan to read it. Needing a fresh start, a New York attorney accepts his old friend’s offer of a job in Dubai but begins to wonder if it’s quite the gift horse he’d thought.

Edan Lepucki’s California also had a little celebrity stardust sprinkled on it when US comedian Stephen Colbert suggested his viewers buy it from their local indie during the Hatchette/Amazon debacle. Set in the near future, it’s one of those post-apocalyptic novels that have sprung up since 2008 in which Cal and Frida have fled a ruined Los Angeles when they find that Frida is pregnant. They’re faced with a choice – fend for themselves or seek out the help of a paranoid community which may not be worthy of their trust. I’m not usually a fan of this kind of novel but there’s something about the synopsis that attracts me.

Cover imageI’ve been looking forward to Tim Winton’s Eyrie for some time. I first came across Winton through Cloudstreet, an odd, vaguely mystical novel about a family living in a ramshackle house in the ’30s – hard to characterise but this Time Out quote may give you an idea: ‘Imagine Neighbours being taken over by the writing team of John Steinbeck and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and you’ll be close to the heart of Winton’s impressive tale’. In Eyrie, Tom Keely, living in self-imposed isolation in a high-rise, allows his solitude to be penetrated by a woman he once knew leading him into a dangerous, destructive world

That’s it for April paperbacks. If you missed the first part but would like to catch up here it is, and if you’d like to check out my hardback choices they’re here.