Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 4, 2016

Six Degrees of Separation, from Flowers in the Attic to…

I quite enjoyed the last #6Degrees so I was a tad disappointed to see that the starter this time was the bestseller Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.  I’d never heard of it, and since Kate at Books are My Favourite and Best says it’s a diabolical book, I’m not about to bother chasing it up.   That got me thinking about other famous books I haven’t read…

Patrick White a Life, by David MarrOne of the biggest chunksters on my TBR is the bio of Patrick White, A Life by David Marr.  It’s 728 pages long.  People say that it’s brilliant, and I have been meaning to read it for ages.  It won a swag of awards including the 1992 NSW and Victorian Premiers’ Awards for non-fiction, and The Age Book of the Year for 1992.  Perhaps 2016 will be the year that I get to it at last.

Poor Fellow My CountryTalking of chunksters, this year I read the longest book I’ve ever read, Poor Fellow My Country by Xavier Herbert. (See my review). It is 1463 pages long and it took me four weeks to read it.  Was it worth it?  Well, it’s an odd book, and there are sections of it that demand some stoicism from the reader.  But yes, it’s an important book, and I don’t regret investing all that time in it.

ulysses2But that’s not as long as my most recent reading of James Joyce’s UlyssesUlysses has the distinction of being the only book on this blog that I have ‘reviewed’ chapter by chapter, each month for a year, starting in June 2009 and finishing on Bloomsday 2010.  It was my fourth reading of the book and my original Penguin fell apart during the reading and I had to buy a new one.  But the posts are not reviews, they are my shambolic thoughts about the book, comprising a series I’ve called Disordered Thoughts of an Amateur which you can find in the tag cloud.  Unsurprisingly, since naïve university students study this book as a key text in the development of modernism, the series gets a lot of hits.  No doubt they are disappointed when their essays come back covered in red ink!

Jasper JonesOn the subject of reviews popular with would-be plagiarists,  my thoughts about Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey produced one of the most spirited conversations ANZLL has ever hosted.  To this day I remain mystified as to why this book was nominated for the Miles Franklin but I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion about it.  (2010 was a bad year for the MF: in the end the prize went to another genre title, leaving authors of literary fiction bereft of its opportunities and wondering what Miles Franklin would have made of her bequest being cheapened in that way).

Stella Miles FranklinI don’t know what the qualifications are for judges of literary prizes, but if I had my way I would make all the Miles Franklin judges read Jill Roe’s biography, Stella Miles Franklin. (See my review).  So much rubbish is talked these days about what Miles Franklin thought, and her name is bandied about in one cause or another, by people who obviously know nothing about her or her writing.  Roe’s biography has shaped the way I view both the woman and the prize, and I wish that judges would put more thought into honouring her wishes.

Black Rock White CityBut while there have been a few duds over the past few years, I think they got it right this year.  A.S. Patric’s Black Rock White City (see my review) is exactly the kind of writing that the Miles Franklin is meant to support.  I think she would also have liked the fact that it was published not by a global conglomerate, but by Transit Lounge, a small local publisher devoted to publishing stories that do indeed reflect Australian life in all its phases.

So there you are… I’ve managed to complete #6Degrees even though by rights I should be disqualified this time round!



  1. You’ve read Ulysses four times! Golly. I havent even managed once yet…
    I wa also a bit disappointed to see Flowers in the Attic start the chain. I read it when I was a teenager just because all my mates were reading it but didn’t rate it much.


    • Ah well, I had to read it for university, so I read it over the summer holidays, and then read it again when we were actually studying it, and then I read it again when my son read it so that we could talk about it together. This fourth time was a ReadAlong and I enjoyed it most of all, because it was ok to spread out the reading and really make sense of it in my own way. I’d read it again if shipwrecked on a desert island, no problem!


  2. Your six degrees took us on an interesting wander and I’ve just lost half an hour following up all the Jasper Jones debates, I’m half inclined to read it (as long as I don’t have to pay!). If I ever wanted a really big challenge I would re-read Marr’s Patrick White and read the novels at the same time as Marr is discussing them.


    • *chuckle* Kim from Reading Matters is the same, I warn her off a book and she wants to read it to see if it’s as bad as I’ve said it is!
      You’ve read the Marr bio, is it as good as they say?


    • I read Marr and Roe 10 years apart but I have the impression Marr is more structured around White’s writing than Roe is around MF’s.


      • Gosh, I remember being quite overwhelmed by the number of books MF had written (though mostly not published or even publishable) and Roe seemed to have read them all. But given what she said about MF’s lack of education hampering her development as a writer, I didn’t find myself wanting to read them. I’ve never wanted to re-read My Brilliant Career either, though I have read it twice.


        • I have no criticism of Roe! She’s read everything of MF’s including vast numbers of letters to come up with the two volume My Congenials.


          • She must have *lived* MF for years and years, a real labour of love.


  3. Haha, Lisa, I enjoyed your take on this 6 Degrees. I must do one one day.

    I have heard of VC Andrews Flowers in the attic, but “heard” is the operative word because that’s all I know about it.

    Your comment re your Ulysses notes and students reading them that “No doubt they are disappointed when their essays come back covered in red ink!” made me laugh. I have certain posts hit regularly at certain times of the year and I can only think that’s because they are set texts. I often squirm about that.

    As for Jasper Jones, I enjoyed it more than you, but I must say that I am fascinated by its longevity – which perhaps suggests that the MF judges got it right? Yes, you could argue chicken and egg here – did that shortlisting give it recognition that has then built? Except that there are many shortlisted novels that don’t last even as long as this I think. So, I remain intrigued by this one.


    • LOL yes I’m getting lots of hits for Amma Darko’s Faceless and Amadi’s The Concubine, it must be on a college course somewhere in the US, I think.
      Mmm, I don’t want to start a JJ discussion all over again, but heh, IMO there are plenty of badly written YA novels that have longevity but that doesn’t make them good.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never read Flowers in the Attic either. It’s a very popular book that spawned either a film or a series (which I haven’t seen either). No interest.

    I’m reading many positive review of Black Rock White City although to be honest I’m going to pass on it–at least for now.


    • That’s good that it’s getting the recognition it deserves… but I understand completely, it’s just not possible to read everything …


  5. Great list! I think Flower of the Attic is one of those books which if you didn’t read it as a teenager, don’t bother to read it.


    • Hi Maria, That sounds like good advice! Thanks:)


  6. Such a terrific chain Lisa! And so many thoughts….

    Firstly, don’t bother with Flowers – as Maria-Helena said, if you didn’t do it in the eighties, you don’t need to now (although that said, I did reread it a year ago to see just how bad it was, so I can say with 100% confidence DON’T BOTHER!).

    Secondly, as there are no rules for this meme, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the book – I’ve done whole chains of books I haven’t read!

    I’m impressed by your multiple readings of Ulysses (I haven’t read it once). I still haven’t read War & Peace and that’s been in my TBR stack forever. I plan to read it in sections at some stage, so the whole thing is less daunting and less heavy.

    Your comments about book reviews suddenly having a lot of hits made me laugh. My review of Jasper Jones (it wasn’t controversial but I did say that I didn’t love it like others seem to) regularly gets lots of hits – basically, you know when it’s being studied as a class text. Funnily enough, I have a friend who is an English teacher who told me that one of his students lifted a whole chunk of my review for their essay – my friend recognised what I had written – BUSTED! We did have a laugh about it (seriously what are the chances?!).


    • Ha ha, that is hilarious!
      Seriously, kids must be really dim if they plagiarise from blogs: quite a few of my reviews (including JJ) are on recommended reading lists at various schools and universities (I track them back from ‘referrers’ in the stats) so teachers are obviously well aware of what’s out there.
      OTOH, in a way I feel sorry for kids. The rules about plagiarism are that the work must be their own original ideas. But really, what are the chances that a teenager can have a truly original response to JJ or anything like it? If they trawl through all the reviews at Goodreads or Google, someone who thinks the same as they do is bound to turn up. So what seemed like an original response to the kid turns out to be just the same as Reader X, what to do about that?


      • Yes, I’ve found mine on lists too via referrers. I find it quite fascinating.

        But re plagiarism. This has always been the case, except I do understand that it’s now easier to find more people’s views. If they read someone else’s view they must cite it. If they end up with a similar opinion to someone else’s which they haven’t read, which is not unlikely as you say, then their way of saying it will probably not be the same way as someone else’s. They would be arguing the case in their own words and with their own examples. A good teacher will usually be able to tell that it’s their thoughts and words I’d say?


        • Hopefully! There is software that they use to scan the student’s work, which is a bit sad IMO…


          • Yes, I’m aware that there’s software they use. It is a bit sad, I agree – but it’s also sad that there are students who plagiarise and don’t see anything wrong with it?


            • Oh yes indeed, I agree. I used to get kids doing it with projects and also with our annual writing competition, and that was even though I laid down the law very strictly and also taught a whole unit of work on copyright, exploring the feelings of people who’d had their work stolen and also the broader impact of it. It’s forgiveable (sort-of) with primary school kids, but with university students it’s not. But I saw something the other day that argues that if *anyone else* had the same idea, whether you knew about it or not and regardless that you wrote about the idea entirely in your own words, it was plagiarism, and as I say, it’s not unlikely that other people have had the same idea.
              If plagiarism is defined as strictly as that, if you read, say, Pride and Prejudice, and you’ve only read the set texts about it, and you come up with an interpretation, which just happens to be the same as someone else’s interpretation that you haven’t read and that you know nothing about, too bad, that’s plagiarism. AT PHD level, ok, because there’s an expectation that you will have researched absolutely everything because PhDs are supposed to be totally original. But at undergraduate level writing about very well known texts that have been LitCritted to death and there really isn’t much left to say that’s original? I think it’s a bit tough.


  7. I read Flowers in the Attic aged 14. My best friend’s mother had a copy; she was a nurse who worked night shifts and read a lot of “light” stuff that invariably made its way to her daughter and then to me. FITA got passed around our entire class, I think, cos it was such a raunchy book (incest between who siblings) and was nothing like anything we’d read before. There were several follow ups and a Hollywood movie (yes, I’ve seen that too), but as pointed out above, it’s the kind of book that if you haven’t read as a teenager then it’s not worth reading.


    • LOL Flowers in the Attic sounds like a girl-version of passing around Playboy mags!


  8. I didn’t read (and don’t want to read) Flowers in the Attic either, Lisa – and was completely stumped by it. Very clever of you to connect to another book you haven’t read – and to construct a brilliant chain. Kudos!


    • LOL I reckon I could do a whole blog about books I haven’t read!


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