Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 4, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: from What I Loved, to….

This month’s #6Degrees starts with Sri Hustvedt’s What I Loved, winner and nominee of multiple awards and included in 1001 Books You Must Read.  I read it in 2007 just before I started this blog and noted in my reading journal that Kim from Reading Matters loved it.  (Update: See comments below). But although I thought it started out well, by the last 100 pages I was bored by it.

The obvious link would be to use another title over which Kim (Update: the one from Reading Matters!) and I have crossed virtual swords, but I’d rather remember her generous gift of John McGahern’s The Barracks which she gave to me when we met up for the first time in London in 2010.  I wrote a sketchy review of it as we were en route from Bilbao to Salamanca, but the book is still firmly in my memory and I’ve got two more novels by McGahern on my wishlist.

Which brings me to other bloggers who have impacted significantly on my TBR.  Top of the list is Stu from Winston’s Dad and blogger of translated fiction with a worldwide following.  I have no idea how many books I’ve bought because of Stu’s reviews, but one of them was Javier Marías’s A Heart So White which I am going to read later this month for Stu’s Spanish Lit Week.

Another book that I read for Stu’s 2017 Spanish Lit Week was Mercè Rodoreda’s Selected Stories translated by Martha Tennent (see my review). I’m not a keen reader of short stories but the collection was a good introduction to Rodoreda’s work, and I was very impressed by her novel of the Spanish Civil War and its impact on women: In Diamond Square, translated by Peter Bush. I have her Death in Spring on the TBR too.

Another novel that resonates with the experience of war at the domestic level is She Would Be King, the debut novel of Wayétu Moore.  The novel is a good example of historical fiction being used to rewrite the history that has been written by colonisers: it tells the story of the founding of Liberia as a safe haven from slavery from a different angle.  The central character Gbessa is the only one who can salvage the tense relationship between the settlers and the indigenous tribes, but it was the depiction of her childhood flight through the forest that was so memorable, no doubt because it derived from Moore’s own childhood experience.

And that brings me to the book I’ve just read: Travellers by Nigerian author Helon Habila.  (See my review). This powerful novel about the migrant experience has the ring of authenticity because it derives from Habila’s twelve month’s residency in Berlin, where he had an epiphany about how his experience as an expat had the same potential for impermanence as had the refugees that he saw all around him.

So that’s my #6Degrees: from a long nostalgic meditation on the friendship between two American families, to a book that — like all the books I’ve chosen this month — speaks to the diversity of authors I read and share with my readers.

You will have noticed, of course, that there are no Australian authors in this month’s choices but that’s because Indigenous Literature Week starts tomorrow, and — starting with Ambelin Kwaymullina’s Catching Teller Crow — I have a feast of reading from Indigenous Australian and Maori authors to share with you!

Next month’s book is How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell.  I have no idea why anybody would want to do nothing, so I won’t be reading it!

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


  1. Interesting chain here. Thanks for turning me on to Stu at that blog! I really want to read more translated books.


    • Stu is just the best. He’s a prolific reader, reading from all over the world (as you can see from his categories in the side bar) and he’s is so knowledgeable about literature, I have learned heaps from him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating chain Lisa … some books for the TBR (if I were adding to it, which I’m desperately trying not to!)


  3. Seems I’ll have to follow Stu immediately :-)

    Perhaps I should have included the subtitle of next months starting book, which is ‘Resisting the Attention Economy’ – I think it’s actually the perfect book for people who love reading because it’s all about focus. I do plan on reading it before next month, although I have lacked focus lately…


    • Ah…
      *thoughtful pause*
      Maybe I’ve dismissed this book too readily…
      I don’t think that I need a book that tells me to ignore the Attention Economy, and I’m pretty sure that I am already focussed on what makes me feel contented (reading) but I see plenty in the world around me who look as if they do.
      I’ve put a hold on it at the library, I think there’s only one person ahead of me…


  4. How weird… I have no recollection of reading Siri Hustvedt’s novel and haven’t reviewed it on my blog…but so pleased you have mention McGahern because I ADORE him and wish more people would give his work a try…


    • Ah! Ah ha! It was another Kim… Kim Dwyer, a dear friend of mine who passed away from breast cancer, see on my About page to ANZ LitLovers Yahoo group history because she was the catalyst for this blog:

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Lisa, I was beginning to wonder if I might have lost my marbles and read the book but forgotten I’d read it. Which has happened before. Lol. I’ve just read your About page and clicked on the link to read the article by Jane Sullivan. I had no idea I was mentioned in that piece too. 🤪


  5. Excellent links Lisa – Stu’s blog is great and highlights books I might otherwise miss.


    • He is *The* champion for translated Lit, and he’s been doing it for 11 years. (Just had his blogoversary this week).


  6. Very nice chain – Stu really is a bad influence (as are so many bloggers…)


    • True. There’s more than a couple I owe to your influence too. But *chuckle* he is the “worst”, I think his recommendations on my shelves run into the hundreds.
      Which is amazing when you think about it. A bloke starts up a blog, just because he likes reading, and he becomes a person who has influenced people all over the world to experiment, and come to love the kind of books he tells us about. There are university lecturers and schoolteachers and book marketers who never have that kind of influence, and he has done it just by being himself.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great chain! And I look forward to reading your reviews of books by Indigenous Australian authors.


  8. A thoughtful chain as always, thanks for sharing!


  9. I like your chain and I am also a big fan of historical fiction that describes war at the domestic level. I am not much of a TV person but there was a show I loved about 15 years ago called Homefront. I was very sorry when it went off the air. A couple of the actors went on to big things (John Slattery was in Mad Men and Kyle Chandler in a number of movies) so I get nostalgic if I come across them.

    And I guess I need to check out Stu!


    • Hello Con, and welcome:)
      I hardly ever watch TV except for Masterchef, (and at the moment, the obligatory COVID-19 briefing at midday) but one of the best TV series I ever saw was a BBC series called A Family at War. It follows a family from the time one of the sons goes off to fight in the Spanish Civil War right through to the end of WW2. I recently re-watched it with a neighbour who grew up in America, and had no idea of the privations ordinary British people had to deal with, but the best part about it was the way it showed how values and behaviours changed.


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: