Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 7, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: A Gentleman in Moscow, to …

This month’s #6Degrees starts with a book I really enjoyed: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. (See my review here).  One of the reasons I liked this book so much was that it offered a different perspective to most of the Soviet era literature I’d read — it shows a member of the privileged classes adapting to the privations of the new Soviet reality rather than being oppressed by them, as in Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn.  I like being surprised by my reading, and having my assumptions challenged.

Another book which offered a surprising perspective on Soviet Russia was Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina, translated by Lisa C Hayden. (See my review here).  I never imagined that anyone could find any positives about being deported to Siberia, but Yakhina’s book was based on the real life experience and reflections of her Tartar grandmother, so it just shows you how very differently men and women experience life-changing events.

It was not until 2016 when I read Melbourne author Anna Rosner Blay’s Sister, Sister (see my review here) that I realised that in all my reading about the Holocaust, I’d never read anything from a woman’s perspective. Blay’s memoir retells the experiences of her mother and her aunt, two sisters who survived the Holocaust, Hela through the mercy of Oskar Schindler, and Janka just barely alive at the end of a death march from Auschwitz.

The mention of Oskar Schindler reminds me (of course!) of Thomas Keneally’s best-known and Booker-prize-winning Schindler’s Ark (1982) and the subsequent film Schindler’s List, and how he as an author has tackled so many historical issues that some people tag him as Australia’s Balzac.

The fact that the Booker win triggered the film makes an interesting contrast with his two Miles Franklin wins for Bring Larks and Heroes (1967, see my review here) and Three Cheers for the Paraclete (1968, see my review here), neither of which to the best of my knowledge have been made into films.  (BTW I have counted these two books as one link rather than two).

I think this says as much about the status of the MF back in those days as it does about the books themselves. The Miles Franklin award had been running for less than a decade at that time, and it’s only in recent years that it has acquired publicists and marketers to generate the interest that it has today (and even now, it rarely makes the TV or radio news).  But the Booker was and still is different and has always had an international profile (in the Anglosphere) as The book prize, and American authors chafed at being excluded from it until the Brits finally caved in and let them enter.  Filmmakers weren’t interested in making any of Keneally’s books into film until The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972, see my review here) was shortlisted for the Booker.  Is that the cultural cringe that went away for a while and has come back again?

Whatever, perhaps someone who pays more attention to the film industry than I do can correct me, but I find it a bit depressing that I can only think of one recent Australian book that’s been made into a film, and that was the three-hankie The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman.  See my review here and note that I predicted its future in film!

So that’s my #6Degrees: from a book about overturning assumptions to another that plays right to all the tropes about motherhood.

Next month’s book is a complete mystery to me.  It’s called Three Women, it’s by Lisa Taddeo, and it’s *yawn* about the sex lives of three American women.  Will I read it?  Not a chance…

Thanks to Kate at Books are my Favourite and Best for hosting:)


Responses

  1. The Dressmaker? Although the film is recent but perhaps the book is older than what you were considering as recent.
    Schindler’s Ark was the first Thomas Kenneally I read and of course I greatly appreciated the film.
    The Light Between Oceans remains a favourite book of mine. A pretty good adaptation too.
    Is that what next month’s book is about? I can’t imagine any topic I’d like less.

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    • Ah yes, of course, and I should have remembered that because I recently bought and watched the DVD (after I heard Rosalie Ham talking about her new book, The Year of the Farmer). Great book, great film!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Liane Moriarty gets filmed I think, it’s probably what she writes for. And The Rosie Effect?

    Does Anne Frank give a view of the Holocaust, or are you only thinking of the camps? Hetty Verolme was in Belsen and, though she doesn’t say so directly, saw Anne Frank’s group when they arrived late in the war (The Children’s House of Belsen)

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    • Yes, Anne Frank was in the camp and died there, but her diary ceases when she was captured. I was thinking of women who had survived and could witness it, but as far as I know of what’s available in English or in translation, there are few published written testimonies by women though there may be more that are unpublished. I was also thinking of Sarah Helm’s This is a Woman (an allusion to Primo Levi’s If This is a Man) which is about Ravensbruck, the only purpose-built camp for women which was designed to provide slave labour. Its history remained untold until the Fall of the Berlin Wall, because the Soviets wouldn’t grant access to its archives.

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      • What I was trying to say was that Hetty Verolme was a woman (a girl at the time), an Australian, and wrote a very readable account of her imprisonment in Belsen.

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        • Sorry, I didn’t realise you were talking about a book. I’ve now looked it up at Goodreads, it was published by Fremantle Press in 2000. So obviously it is an example of a book written by a woman. (It doesn’t pre-date Blay’s book which was written in 1998).

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lisa, you were the first person who introduced me to A Man In Gentleman. I only finished it last week. It is popular at my library. Also next week, guess what we are discussing Russian authors..

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    • Wonderful, I do love it when readers come back to say that they’ve enjoyed a book, thank you!
      Your next week should be interesting! Are you discussing the Russian Greats like Tolstoy, or contemporary authors?

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  4. I read ‘Three Women’ last month, but haven’t yet written a review. I will: it was actually a better read than I expected it to be.

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    • I’ll look forward to seeing that… what prompted you to read it?
      (I mean, Kate says everyone is ‘talking about this book’ but I must have had my head in the sand that day…)

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      • Good question. It’s not my usual fare and I’d misread the blurb. I thought it was fiction until I started reading it. Hmm. That was my day of not paying attention to detail. 😉

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  5. Interesting chain! I loved A Gentleman in Moscow too and it’s fascinating seeing where all the different chains go from it!

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  6. A very different chain Lisa … The women in black is another Aussie book recently made into a film (though the book itself is 25 years old). Does that count? Quite a few have been made into miniseries, more than movies, which I think is a more sensible option. Movies are better for short stories.

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    • LOL Of course it counts… as you will have noted, I was careful to say that I was only referring to ‘the only book I could think of’ because I am well aware that I don’t pay much attention to film.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha Lisa, yes I know you don’t watch a lot movies, but I wondered how recent you meant for recent. Poor old Bruce B hoped to make the film while St John was alive.

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  7. I enjoyed A Gentleman too. Such a delightful protagonist. And Russian literature is so engaging but the time to immerse in it is a challenge. The Three Women is receiving a mixed reaction it seems but I may explore. Loved The Dressmaker film but have not read the book another prod for summer reading hopefully.
    I have just attended a lovely seminar on the wonderful Jessica Anderson’s Tirra Lirra and it evoked so much of my earlier life when Australian women’s writing connected me to this place when I often felt alienated and homesick. As you dear Lisa still offer with your reviews.

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    • Ah Fay, it’s always such a pleasure to see your comments here.
      That seminar sounds interesting: where was it, and is there any chance there will be a podcast?

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  8. I like the sound of Zuleika a lot. One for the wishlist.

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    • Don’t be put off by the length of it. It is easy to read:)

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  9. Great chain! I agree, that it is great when a book manages to change some of your assumptions. The perspective in A Gentleman in Moscow certainly provides a different angle to the post-revolution period, although the life in the luxury hotel is obviously miles away from the life of the ‘normal’ citizens.

    My chain: https://stargazer-online.com/2019/09/07/six-degrees-of-separation-from-moscow-to-cape-town/

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    • Yes, that’s certainly true that his privations were not as severe as others’ were. But what I found interesting was how the book showed him developing relationships with people he would formerly only have regarded as wallpaper in his life of luxury. It’s a long since I read Solzhenitsyn but I don’t remember his writing showing that, and from what I remember of Pasternak, he painted a vivid picture of losing his home to incomers and the overcrowding, but he didn’t really recognise the humanity of his interlopers, only their nuisance value.
      I’d be the first to acknowledge that I might be wrong about that because I read Zhivago more than a decade ago, and I wasn’t looking for examples of the bourgeois coming to terms with the workers, but rather on the effect of the reforms on the middle classes. With that caveat, I would say that was the take-home message of Dr Z, but the take-home message of AGIM is more about the transformation of the Gentleman…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed, I read it very much as a story about the challenges of a human being and the inner travel of the count, who is confined to one spot in the outer world.

        From the background provided about the count, I thought he was a candidate for a person who might be able to adapt. For instance, his best friend was from a completely different class. But all through the novel, I couldn’t help thinking, that the count didn’t feel very Russian, based on my experience with Russian people. I know that is a very arrogant / prejudice thing to say, because all Russians are different, but nevertheless it regularly popped into my mind. So in short, I loved the story, but I don’t know how realistic it is.

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        • My experience with Russian people here in Australia is very different to Russian people in Russia. SO yes, one can’t generalise (and a good thing too.)

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Australian books made into movies. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Australian_novels_adapted_into_films

    Happy viewing? 🤠🐧

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  11. Films based on books by Hannah Kent, Alice Pung, Peter Goldsworthy, Tara Winkler, Dervla McTiernan, Tim Winston and Chris Hammer are all in various stages of development for film.

    A thoughtful chain as always, thanks for sharing.

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    • I’ve just finished Peter Goldsworthy’s new book Minotaur (am supposed to be writing the review but keep getting distracted by Insiders on iView!) – I can see how that one could make a very good film!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. At the Brisbane Writer’s Festival for the weekend Lisa an indulgence amidst the visits to family in Sydney and the Gold Coast. It has been very interesting but the logistics of food and traversing to venues is the hard part. The ageing body alas.

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    • Is the BWF one where you are guaranteed a seat if you buy a ticket? I have given up ambitions to attend litfests in hot and humid places if there’s no guarantee of a seat in a building with aircon…

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  13. Now you’ve got me thinking about the Holocaust from a female perspective…

    Australian books to movies – Ladies in Black came to mind, as did Tim Winton’s Breath. Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies was made into a tv series. There must be more than that and I’m sure I’ll think of them at 2am…

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    • Ah yes, inspiration in the wee small hours of the night, I know it well!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Schindler’s List made my list this month, too, but for different reasons. I like your thinking on your chain. My Six Degrees

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    • (I’m sorry, I always have trouble commenting on BlogSpot blogs, so I’ll leave my comment here): I liked yours too, a very classy set of books. I like Ann Pachett!

      Like


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