Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 1, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: from Fleishman is in Trouble, to …

This month’s #6Degrees starts with another book I’ve never heard of:  Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner.  (I’m not doing too well with these lately!)

So I thought I’d go completely off-piste, and just choose a book by another author with a hyphenated surname.  I looked for the first one in my list of authors and came up with A Girl Made of Dust, by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi.  This is a semi-autobiographical novel by an author who, like some of the characters in her story, moved to the safety of England in 1983 when Israel invaded Lebanon.  She has written the novel from the perspective of an eight-year-old, but overcame my resistance to child narrators with a vivid story.  This point-of-view enables the portrayal of the baffled dismay that many of us naïvely feel about religious hatreds, and, sadly, it also shows us how children adapt to living in war zones, and have no concept of living in peace.

From there, it was a no-brainer to revisit one of the best Australian books of recent times, Dustfall, by Michelle Johnston. Johnston’s story is framed around two narratives, both featuring doctors who have made mistakes.  As Michelle Johnston says in this interview with Amanda Curtin, there’s a world of difference between the way that medical errors and corporate errors are judged and yet the consequences can be equally fatal for individuals.  It is just coincidence but Jennifer from Tasmanian Bibliophile at Large has just posted a review of Asbestos in Australia, which is a non-fiction expose of the asbestos problem and its cover-up as explored in Johnston’s novel.

The topic of medical negligence reminded me of Carl Shuker’s novel A Mistake which has just been longlisted for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Books Awards.  As I said in my review, it’s a confronting novel, one that makes the reader think deeply about human fallibility and the impulse to blame.  I wonder why it is that social media has become so perverted as to foster such virulent forms of blaming… not much of this makes its way into my carefully curated Twitter feed, but there’s one today about bloggers tagging authors when they write a review.  What kind of people can get so judgemental about this innocuous practice?? I mean, we all did this blaming business when we were young children, but we learned to harness that impulse as we matured.  But now it is out of the box, in very nasty forms indeed, and we have to actively control what we see and hear if we don’t want to be exposed to it.

The title of Shuker’s book led me to Life in Seven Mistakes by Susan Johnson. I really loved that book, which was a delicious black comedy, woven around the phenomenon inflicted on the offspring of parents who have retired to the so-called Sunshine State: the Dreaded Family Christmas at Surfers Paradise.  Am I right in thinking that The Landing (2015) was Johnson’s most recent novel?  Is it unreasonable of me to tap my foot and pout because it’s been too long since this author has provided me with another book to read?  I admit it, I do get impatient when my favourite authors keep me waiting too long…

Talking of authors who take a long time to write, it is so sad to think that there will never be any more from Shirley Hazzard, who died in 2016.  There were twenty-three years between The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire, two of the best novels I’ve ever read.  Alas, though I’ve reviewed three of her books, you won’t find reviews of these two great novels even though I’ve read both of them twice, because I read them before starting the blog.

As discussed in comments at Whispering Gums’ post about Australian series, there are too many of these great Australian novels that I read a long time ago that are not reviewed here.  That post was a trigger for me to make my one and only New Year’s Resolution, only 31 days late, that I will read the rest of Rodney’s Hall’s Yandilli Trilogy this year.  I’ve already read and reviewed The Second Bridegroom (1991), Hall’s sixth novel and first in the Yandilli Trilogy, though it was written after Captivity Captive (1988) which is No #3 in the trilogy.  Both of the novels were shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award but it was No #2 in the trilogy, The Grisly Wife, published last of all in 1993, which won Hall his second Miles Franklin. I don’t care what else comes along in the way of shiny new books (and yes, there they are, the new releases waving at me from their special shelf, I am going to read this trilogy in 2020!  (Feel free to remind me about this if the year plods along and I still haven’t done it.)

So that’s my #6Degrees: from a novel I haven’t read, to one I am determined to read at last because I know it will be great!

Next month’s book is Lucy Treloar’s beaut new novel Wolfe Island.  And yes, I’ve read it!!

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



  1. I daren;t remind you Lisa because I’m hopeless at reading what I plan to read.

    BTW I think you are more idealistic than I. I have no problem understanding the virulent blaming on social media. I don’t think that social media has become so perverted. Rather I think that the potential was there the minute social media platforms were invented, because it’s what humans (not all of course) do. Social media just provides yet another place to do it. I’m not surprised, BUT I am disgusted as I always am at any lack of consideration, of civility and of empathy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I’m not really an idealist, but it does surprise me, because what we really learn at school is not to do things in public that will bring trouble down upon us. So even though we might say nasty spiteful things in private, we don’t do it in the public sphere because we fear retaliation or punishment. And you can’t get any more public than social media!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You sure can’t – I guess what it’s showing is that not enough people learn what they should at school or that what school is teaching them is not being backed up at home.

        However, I think this lack of self-control has always been there – wherever people feel irritated. We see it in road rage, in shops, at public events, and so on. Social media has just exponentially expanded the options for such nasty behaviour. I occasionally read the comments on the Conversation but when I discovered that even there, too many people were insulting rather than courteous, analytical and rational, I decided to ignore the comments.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Am I right in thinking that the ABC has stopped having comments on its opinion pages?


          • I haven’t looked for quite a long time at comments on any of the news sites, for the reasons above – but I wouldn’t be surprised.

            (I did catch a bad comment recently, more by accident as I was looking for something else, on some site – can’t remember what or where now, just the occasion. I shared it with my daughter, and she said “you don’t look at comments do you!”)


            • *wink* Book blogs are the only safe place to find comments worth reading!

              Liked by 2 people

  2. Very interesting turns in this chain! Thanks!


  3. Yes, I’ll be reading next month’s, for sure. I don’t rightly know why it’s taken me this long!
    That Twitter thread…I usually keep on scrolling but that one really got my goat and I’ve weighed in, which possibly contributed to it being in your Twitter feed. The blame game is bothering me on a couple of fronts at present, causing all sorts of thoughts to percolate in my mind. I’m seeing some very entitled things being blurted out by people of late, particularly on what we should and shouldn’t be reading. It’s a bit much, sometimes.


    • Yes, I’ve seen that too, people making judgements about reading choices is ridiculous. Reading is a private hobby, and what you read is a matter of personal choice. And what you read doesn’t say anything about you at all: how you respond to it, might, and even then, you might choose to share only some aspects of how you feel about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Susan Johnson has a book coming out this year I believe. I occasionally swap DMs with her on Twitter and Instagram. She’s moved to Greece with her mother and is working on the edits. 😊


    • Greece! That’s where I want to go for my next Big Birthday. I thought I had it all worked out, taking a ‘small’ cruise ship around the islands. But closer inspection revealed that the ship takes 900+ passengers. How on earth do they manage 900 people getting on and off a ship and off to see the Parthenon all at the same time??
      Anyway, looking forward to her next book:)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed your chain Lisa, and there were books I hadn’t heard of betore. Whilst I haven’t done this month’s chain yet, I already know what my first step will be in next month’s chain!


    • Yes, I do too, though given the state of my ageing brain, I may have forgotten it by the time it comes around…


  6. Started to think about stories I’ve read that examine medical negligence but my mind kept returning to the fictional negligence in that very odd book by Wayne Macauley, Some Tests!


    • Yes, I’ve thought of that book many times since the medicalisation of my retirement…


  7. I’m in the U.S., and I love reading posts like this from those of you who live elsewhere, especially those of you who live where New Year’s Day is a summer holiday. I learn about so many books that I otherwise haven’t even heard of. Thanks!


    • Lovely to hear from you Mary, and I hope you’ll spread the word about the Aussie books you enjoy:)


  8. A very thoughtful chain as always. Like you I’m increasingly dismayed at the level of unneeded outrage about the innocuous (the author tagging debate a case in point). I’m adding A Mistake to my TBR,


    • Thanks:)
      I hope you like the book!


  9. There’s hardly a day passes when I don’t see evidence of how nasty people can get on social media. I take Sue’s point that social media platforms make it easy to express the anger, frustration etc that was always there. But I’m also wondering if it also encourages people to go further than they would normally – they see what other people say and think it’s ok for them to say similar things. A vicious circle ….

    Your chains are always enjoyable and clever but this one is particularly good. I want to read ALL the books you feature….


    • LOL There’s probably PhD candidates beavering away on the topic of social media cruelty as we speak….
      I hope you can find copies of the books. Some of them were published quite a while ago.


      • I suspect you’re right. Someone is probably also busy on their book on the subject

        Liked by 1 person

  10. […] Six Degrees of Separation: from Fleishman is in Trouble, to … […]


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