Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 5, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Bass Rock, to….

This month’s #6Degrees starts with The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld.  Not an author who interests me at all, so I made a quick search at Goodreads where I have eight books with the word ‘rock’ in the title.  Some of these (though not Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay) are reviewed here on the blog (Black Rock White City by favourite author A.S. Patric;  Rocks in the Belly, by Jon Bauer; and the dizzyingly brilliant Siddon Rock by Glenda Guest.

Siddon Rock won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers prize for the Best First Book,  and was long-listed for the Miles Franklin (which was won that year by, of all things, a crime novel).  I loved the quirkiness of Siddon Rock, and was not surprised when it won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book Overall (2010).

I liked the old Commonwealth Writers Prize: it introduced me to writers from around the world that I would never otherwise have encountered.  The year that it was awarded here in Melbourne and somehow in those pre-blog days I got an invitation to attend, I read the finalists and loved them all: Deafening by Frances Itani from Canada; The Good Doctor by Damien Galgut from South Africa; A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips from the UK; and The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser.  She lived right here in Melbourne and I was thrilled to meet her.  Michelle autographed my first edition hardback of The Hamilton Case, neither of us having any idea in 2003 that she was to go on to become an award-winning and internationally famous author.

Unlike minimalists, I have a house full of framed photos all over the house, and one of my favourites is a snap taken of me having my copy of Cloud Atlas autographed by another internationally famous author, David Mitchell in 2004. I loved that brilliant book and it was all I could do not to gush.  (He was a remarkably handsome young man too, so my heart was fluttering as well.)

A book that has some similarities in structure to Cloud Atlas is Storyland by Catherine McKinnon.  Also written as an unfurling narrative of interlinking stories from past to future and back again, Storyland is narrated through time stretching from 1796 to 2717.  In telling stories linked by place, memory and special objects Storyland transcends time, connecting our Australian past, present and future.  It’s a very special book.

Thinking of imaginary lands created by books, I am reminded of two gorgeous books on my reference shelf: Literary Wonderlands edited by Laura Miller and The Writer’s Map by Huw Lewis-Jones (which is a book I’ve only browsed so it’s not reviewed here.  What I love about books like this is that they can recreate the feeling of being within the covers of the book, travelling beside Frodo, down in the rabbit-hole, fleeing Paris with Irene Nemirovsky.

Which brings me to the book I am reading at the moment (and am impatient to get back to).  It’s called The Walls Came Tumbling Down, and it’s by Dutch Resistance fighter Henriëtte Roosenburg, writing about the immediate aftermath of their release from prison by Russian liberators.  Originally published in 1957, it’s a re-release by Scribe Publications and it’s riveting reading.  More about it soon.

Next month’s starter book is another book I haven’t read:  Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.

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


Responses

  1. Well, we are going to have to agree to disagree about Cloud Atlas, which I thought was pretentious. I liked his Black Swan Green book much better, but I know this puts me in a rare camp, because that novel did not get very good reviews at all!

    But lovely to see Storyland mentioned here. Sue at Whispering Gums also has it in her chain, and it’s such a nice reminder of what a brilliant book it is. It’s one that flew under the radar and only ever got published in Australia, which is such a shame because its themes, particularly in this time of climate change and environmental destruction, are universal.

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    • Oh, say it isn’t so!
      Truly, I loved Cloud Atlas.
      I liked Black Swan Green, but it’s not reviewed here because I read it before starting the blog. I just looked my journal and I see that I’ve written a passable review which I might one day when I get time, do as a Review from the Archive.
      It’s probably a book that suffers from expectations, I note in my journal that as a successor to Cloud Atlas it’s a disappointment, but on its own terms it’s a gentle coming-of-age story which I liked.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Black Swan Green does deserve more attention–it’s great! Though in some ways it does feel quite apart from Mitchell’s other novels (except maybe Slade House?), but the thing I love most about his writing is that they all intersect somehow, so that’s a treat.

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  2. PS. Forgot to mention Eats, Shoots & Leaves is hilarious – as a former sub-editor, I absolutely loved it!

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  3. Great links Lisa, and as I said on my blog, I’m glad you also linked to storyland.

    Also, I second kimbofo, Eats shoots and leaves is a great read for anyone interested in language and writing.

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    • You might be right, but every book I read between now and next month, apart from books I’ve committed to review, will be by Indigenous writers for #IndigLitWeek.

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  4. Well… two chains that get Storyland… I guess I’d better check it out! Thanks.

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  5. I loved Cloud Atlas too. I felt that Storyland was just a bit TOO close to it in structure, although I did enjoy it. It was a strong field for the Commonwealth Writers Prize that you describe – I’ve really enjoyed Caryl Phillips’ work.

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    • Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by a Commonwealth Writers Prize winner, even their first book awards have been really good.

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  6. I enjoyed your author-meets as links. I have never thought to get a pic while I’m getting a book signed – putting it on the to-do list when we’re allowed to have real live literary festivals again.

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    • It’s hard to do if, like me, you mostly go to these events solo. (I do *not* do selfies.) The Spouse took one of me with Paul Keating when I got his autograph and he was also with me for some reason when I had Cloud Atlas done.
      Mostly he takes such terrible photos of me I don’t let him anywhere near my camera…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I adore all of David Mitchell’s books and when I met him two years ago when he came to read at HomePlace, I had a very similar reaction to you!

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    • And such a lovely, humble person. I mean, when he was here in Melbourne he was being feted around the world for Cloud Atlas but he talked about the mistakes he made, and how he was still fixing them when the deadline came along.

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      • He really is. He didn’t want a fee for reading with us and instead asked that we make a donation to an Autism charity. Plus he sat and drank tea and chatted to everyone after. Lovely man

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        • Do you think it affects how we read a book, if we know the author and really like him or her?

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  8. Before I say anything else, I must get past some very severe envy: signed copies of both The Hamilton Case AND Cloud Atlas! I read Hamilton many years ago, a great book that made me a de Kretser’s fan. I haven’t kept up well with her subsequent work but I still think she’s enormously talented. As for Cloud Atlas — it’s one of my all time favorites. Mitchell started losing me somewhat with his science fiction followups (thought Bone Clocks was a little mediocre and haven’t read his latest) but Clould Atlas was a fabulous book.
    I’ll have to check out Siddon Rock, Story Land and Literary Wonderlands, all of which look very, very interesting.
    Obviously I enjoyed your post very much!

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    • Thank you:)
      (My apologies for the bragging!)

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  9. The Walls Came Tumbling Down sounds a good read. Actually, all your choices do. Thanks for an interesting chain.

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    • Hi Margaret, The Walls Came Tumbling Down is *excellent*. I’ve finished it, and written my enthusiastic review but it was embargoed till June 10th. But I’ve just received permission to release it so I’m publishing it now:)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. That Literary Wonderlands is such a lovely book to browse. I’ve borrowed it a couple of times from the library and happily browsed until I couldn’t renew any longer. LOL

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    • Yes… it’s not really a book for reading all in one go, it’s one to browse on and off.

      Like


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