Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 5, 2016

Six Degrees of Separation, from Never Let Me Go , to….

never-let-me-go#6Degrees is back again already!  Hosted by Kate at Books are My Favourite and Best this month’s starter book is Never Let Me Go by Kasuo Ishiguro, and yay, this time I have read it!

cloud-atlasI’ll be honest, though I loved The Remains of the Day (see my review) I wasn’t very enthusiastic about Never Let Me Go.  Dystopias are not my usual reading fare, and I found the narration tedious.  But there are dystopias that I have enjoyed, and one that springs immediately to mind is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I read this back in 2005, and I liked it so much I rated it 5 stars at Goodreads.  (I am stingy with 5 stars and reserve them only for works of pure genius: this rating puts Cloud Atlas on a par with my Desert Island Book, Ulysses by James Joyce).  But I have to admit that Cloud Atlas isn’t appealing to everyone. It’s got a very strange structure, and while I find that interesting and intriguing, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people with good taste in books not to like that kind of experimental stuff.

Mud-mapHow can I mention experimental stuff and not segue to Mud Map, Australian Women’s Experimental Writing?  This was one of the most interesting and transformative collections I’d ever read.  It was difficult to negotiate at first, and I had to invest some time in it, but then it made me think differently about all kinds of things.  I love having my brain stretched in this way.  If that’s something you like to do too, check it out – it’s still free to read online and freely available in a special issue of Text Journal.

griffith-review-54That mention of a journal brings me straight to Earthly Delights – The Novella Project IV (Griffith REVIEW), the launch of which tempted me out of my library and into town so that I could meet one of my favourite authors Stephen Orr, over from Adelaide for the occasion. His novella (which I’ve started reading) is called Datsunland, but there are other beaut novellas of course, including one by the late Cory Taylor so this edition is a bit of a treasure in more ways than one.

The HandsThis leads me (though I don’t need an excuse) to link to Stephen’s wonderful novel The Hands: An Australian Pastoral(See my review). Don’t take my word for it, it has international fans and was reviewed enthusiastically by Kim at Reading Matters and by Emma at Book Around the Corner.  Yes, I am going to keep badgering you about this book because I think it is brilliant and that Stephen Orr is one of our finest writers. I want him to be read around the world.

seven-poor-men-of-sydneyAnother Aussie author (and there are many) that I want to be read around the world is Christina Stead.  Australia was slow to recognise this author’s genius, but if you have not yet made her acquaintance then maybe you might participate in Christina Stead Week (Nov 14-20).  There are lots of her titles to choose from, but I’m reading The Seven Poor Men of Sydney.  It’s such an evocative title, so much at odds with the image of Sydney that we have these days…

damned-whores-and-gods-policeEvocative titles?  You may have noticed that amongst my ‘reviews coming soon’ Damned Whores and God’s Police by Anne Summers has been there for a while. This new edition of a seminal book first published in 1975 is a very long book, nearly 800 pages, but it is brilliant.  Its subtitle is ‘The Colonisation of Women in Australia’ and it is one of the most important feminist texts I know of.  I heard Anne Summers talk at the Bendigo Writers’ Festival and she is inspirational.  Get hold of a copy if you can.

So there you are… I’ve managed to complete #6Degrees once again!



  1. Thanks for the link, Lisa

  2. Will follow through your suggestions on reading matters and on the same page when it comes to the amazing Christina. I never miss an opportunity to promote her writing. Unfortunately it’s quite a challenge when the resistance too often comes from those who are supposedly the gatekeepers of our literary heritage. But it doesn’t dissuade me from what has become an obsession.

    • Yes, I find it quite strange that there was no Stead on my university reading lists…

  3. I don’t think of The Remains of the Day as a dystopia. Never Let Me Go by the same author is one. When I led a discussion of it with a reading group, I advocated for its morality, but the group members hated the book.

    • Hi Nancy,
      Oh no, nor do I, I’ve given you the wrong impression about The Remains of the Day there. Definitely not dystopian!

      • I see now that I misunderstood which book you were talking about. Yes, the narrator of Never Let Me Go is somewhat tedious. I think the author is trying to achieve believability by having the narrator be literal and unimaginative, consistent with her upbringing and purpose in life. This is a dangerous strategy because he risks boring the reader.

        • Yes, I think so too… and it’s so interesting that this has come up in the wake of my reading of Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus. Because in that, he has a fussy, pedantic narrator who tells the story like an old schoolmaster would – very risky – and yet it works. But IMO the narrator being the way she is in Never Let Me Go was profoundly irritating. I don’t know if you’ve seen a UK TV series called Humans, but I’m like the wife who can’t stand the clone that the husband brings home to do the housework. That literalness, and the programmatic politeness and the flat monotone of her voice is just like the narrator in NLMG!

  4. It’s a great concept, this “6 degrees of separation”
    Thanks for mentioning my billet about The Hands. How was it, meeting with Stephen Orr? I envy you!

    • He’s such a nice man:) There was only time for a brief chat because of course everybody wanted to talk to him and get their books autographed, but I told him about you and Kim, and how we all follow each other’s blogs around the world. It was lovely!

  5. I have The Salzburg Tales to read for your #CSreadingweek – I wanted to start at the beginning & short stories seemed like a very do-able option!

    I want to read Summers book, but the 800 pages are putting me off at the moment. And I seem to be reading nothing but female writers this year, but I will tuck the Orr book into the back of mind for later.

    Thanks for the comments about the difficulty you have commenting on blogger (on Kate’s post).
    I will think about changing to WordPress but I will time to do it properly (& calmly!) I do like that WP allows for live links in comments and the pingbacks seem to be effective too. I use WP at work and for the Aust Women Writer’s page. Do you know if there are any problems have multiple blogs running off the same account with different settings for each?

    • The Salzburg Tales should be good, if The Little Hotel is anything to go by.
      Re the blogs: all running off this ANZLitLovers account, I have a travel blog and my professional blog, and three collaborative blogs, about Balzac, Zola and Maupassant. (Links, so that you can see how different they all are, are in the RH sidebar menu under Lisa’s Other Life, and Collaborative Blogs). Only this one has its own domain, and they all have different settings for discussion etc. (My professional blog, for example, has comments shut down because I’ve retired now and I don’t want to chat about school stuff anymore!)

      • Thanks I’ll check them out.

        • Spur of the moment, lazy Sunday afternoon doodling…and I’ve just changed my photographic blog over to WP!

          Would you mind checking the link for me please to make sure it works okay?

          Many thanks

  6. I would love to get started with Christina Stead. As is usually the case with Australian Lit, my local libraries don’t have much. Here’s what is available:
    House of All Nations (1938)
    The Man Who Loved Children (1940)
    The Little Hotel (1973)
    Miss Herbert (The Suburban Wife) (1976)

    Which one should I start with?

    • Hello Martha, *chuckle* that depends!
      House of All Nations is 800+ pages, while The Little Hotel (which I loved (and reviewed here is under 200 pages. The Man Who Loved Children is 500+ pages, and while I admired it, I didn’t quite love it (my review is at But I don’t know anything at all about Miss Herbert – Goodreads doesn’t even list how many pages it has – so of course that is the one I would be most interested in hearing about!

      • Hee, hee I didn’t think to check the pagination. 800 pages sounds a bit daunting.
        According to the library record Miss Herbert has 308 pages (this is the 1976 Random House 1st edition).
        I’m placing holds on the Little Hotel and Miss Herbert. I’ll start with whichever one arrives first.

        • Wonderful! Looking forward to seeing what you think of it:)

  7. Love your link to Mud Map – I need to look at it more closely (and I also need to think outside the square next month as I’ve seen lots of very clever links this round, inspired by all sorts of things).

    I’ve had The Man Who Loved Children in my TBR stack for ages but so far, haven’t read any Stead – a big hole in my reading history I think!

    Thanks again for joining in and hope you return for next month’s book, Revolutionary Road.

    • Hi Kate, I will… I’ve read Revolutionary Road… but I won’t think about that now or I’ll start writing the post already!

  8. I loved Cloud Atlas too, once I’d got over my initial reaction that it was hard to follow. I put Remains of the Day as the first book in my chain – I love that book. I haven’t read any of the other books in your chain

    • It was a crazy-brave book, but as you say, once a reader gets over that puzzlement, it’s a very rewarding experience. I liked the film of Remains of the Day too, I saw it first, before reading the book, and really enjoyed it.

  9. I’m not a big fan of dystopian fiction but these titles are on the list.

    • Somebody (not me) should write a blog post called ‘Dystopian Fiction for People who Don’t Like Dystopian Fiction’….

  10. Very much enjoying all the 6 degrees posts. I don;t think I have come across anyone who has linked to the same book, you’ve all taken such different directions!

    • LOL You could add 30+ books to the TBR in the blink of an eye!

      • Very dangerous! :D

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