Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 5, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: from Ethan Frome to….

This month’s #6Degrees starts with Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. You can see my review here, where I mention that the book is included in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. (Mine is the 2006 edition.)  And although there are only 142 books from that canon reviewed here on this blog, I’ve read 380 of them and that gives me heaps of scope for a link!

How to start? Let’s go with L’Assommoir by Émile Zola, because I have just received a brand new translation of it by my favourite translator, Brian Nelson, Emeritus Professor of French at Monash University.  Published by Oxford World’s Classics, it has the same Introduction by Robert Lethbridge as the 1995 Margaret Mauldon translation, but (of course) the Notes on the Translation are new, referring to the difficulty of translating C19th French slang and to a change of approach.  Where Mauldon writes that she aimed for an English equivalent not of recent vintage to convey the vigour of the original, Nelson asserts the importance of writing for a contemporary audience, aiming to use vigorously colloquial contemporary language.  So I am looking forward to see how these differences are manifested in the new translation.

From a recent translation of an 19th century novel, let’s go to a more recent one.  First published in 2016 and in English in 2019, I am God by Giacomo Sartori, translated by Frederika Randall is an irreverent satire, starring God as a lovelorn narrator who’s fallen in love with a human.  This book also gets my nomination for the best cover of the year, with the glitter alluding so perfectly to the creator of the stars in the universe.  (Or so he says.)  You can see my review here.

That irreverence reminds me immediately of Cain, the last novel by José Saramago, (1922-2010) the great Portuguese winner of the Nobel Prize in 1998.  (Cain isn’t listed in 1001 Books, but there are three that are, including The Double, which I’ve reviewed here).  There are a surprising number of novels with Biblical settings, and I’ve read six of which my absolute favourite is Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary, (see my review here).  But the one I want to remind you of today is a feminist tale, also derived from the New Testament.

It’s The Book of Rachael (2011) by Leslie Cannold. It’s an imagined life of the sister of Jesus, and as I said in my reviewNothing is known of her, not even her name, and to right this wrong that insults all women, Cannold has created a rich and turbulent life, almost as messianic as Jesus’ own.  As far as I know, Cannold hasn’t written any further fiction, but I’d be delighted to be corrected on that because The Book of Rachael was a really beaut book.

“The Book of…” is a common title, and there’s half a dozen books that use it reviewed here on the blog.  Let’s go to The Book of Fame (2016) by NZ author Lloyd Jones, which was about a rugby tour in 1905.  Winner of the Tasmania Prize and the Deutz Medal for fiction, the novel (as I said in my review) is a meditation on celebrity, and how the ordinary blokes from a football team learned their strange new place in a world remote from everything they knew.  This was one of a number of books which overcame my lack of interest in sport because it was really about something else, as was The Family Men by Catherine Harris. In my review, I wrote that Harris is interested in how people misbehave, especially in the workplace compared to the home — and, given recent reports of unparliamentary behaviour by some very prominent people, what fertile ground there is for more fiction on that issue!

The workplace Harris exposes is the world of football.  While The Book of Fame is to some extent more about the naïveté of the amateur sportsmen in the novel, The Family Men, is about the ugly celebrity culture of professional sport.  It explores misbehaviour on a grand scale and offers an intense study of internal moral conflict.  The novel was published in 2014, and I do hope there will be a new novel from this author before long.

So there we are, that’s my #6Degrees for this month!

Next month’s starter book is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.  And I’ve read it!

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


Responses

  1. Great chain as usual Lisa. Loved seeing Cannold’s book here, because it’s one l remember too and wonder about the author. And enjoyed your rare foray into sport!

    PS I don’t think Rules of civility is a classic novella? A duplicate post from last month issue? (If so just delete this sentence from my comment!)

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    • Oops, yes, that’s what happens when I use ‘copy a post’ and don’t check the text carefully! I’ve fixed it.

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      • Yep – done it myself once or twice (says she hoping you’ll believe it’s only that.) I’ve too many times not fixed the title!! Terrible!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t know why I do it really, the only things that are the same are the tags and categories and the bit at the bottom…

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  2. I enjoyed your comments re the Book of Fame. Ethan Frome was such a good book. It is one I have often thought of rereading.

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    • I love Edith Wharton, I can’t understand how it took me so long to discover her!

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  3. The Book of Fame is a great book…as you say, it’s about so much more than just rugby (a sport I particularly hate). I hadn’t heard of the Catherine Harris novel. It sounds right up my street so will add it to my wishlist.

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    • It’s an excellent book. I hope you can find it, it was published a while ago now.

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      • I think it might be out of print 😫 There’s an eBook version from Dymocks but I had such a bad experience buying an ebook from them earlier in the year that I swore I would never do it again. I will check the library but unfortunately our brand new library shut before I could visit because of a fire hydrant leak! It’s been shut since 22 Nov and not sure when it will reopen 🤷🏻‍♀️

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        • Oh, what a disappointment about the library! You’ve been waiting so long!!

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          • I know! I feel for the staff. They were so excited about the new digs and the opening… there was supposed to be a celebratory street party today for the new civic centre (Walyalup Koort) but that’s been put off until next weekend.

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            • Fingers crossed the books weren’t damaged…

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              • Books are fine. Found out today they will reopen on Wednesday 👍🏻

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                • Excellent! (We can put up with a lot, but libraries should be sacrosanct.)

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s right- now I remember. You loved the Book of Rachael and I really disliked it. Other than that, I haven’t read a single other book among your six!

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    • LOL Maybe you don’t trust my recommendations now!

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  5. Quite an unexpected set of links this month, not always the obvious choice. Reminds me that I need to read Saramago – big gap for me.

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    • He’s wonderful, one of my all time favourite authors.

      Liked by 1 person

    • BTW, you know how I said I’d read one of my Russians for your Russians in the Snow? Quite by chance, I’m reading Cold Coast by Robyn Mundy, an Australian writer who likes wild places and spent time in the frozen wastes of Norway, which is where this novel is set. Not Russian, but certainly in the snow!!.

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      • Yes, I was going to include some Scandinavians as well, but now it’s only if I have time, since there are so many Russians on my shelf… (bedside table, actually).

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        • Ha ha, there is never enough time!

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  6. Interesting chain… by the way, the spelling Rachael is very unusual. That’s how my Mother-in-Law spelled her name. Sounds like an interesting book too (but… I’m not really into Christian fiction so… maybe).

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    • Oh no, it’s not ‘Christian Fiction’ if by that you mean stories used to teach Christian story religious beliefs such as the Narnia books. Leslie Cannold is a prominent ethicist and intellectual and she just uses the story of Jesus to show how women’s lives were constrained in that era. The book is a secular novel, no miracles, no claims to be the Don of God, no virgin birth. It’s just set in that Biblical era, that’s all.

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      • Isn’t the Rachael spelling the Hebrew (transliterated I guess) spelling? That’s the way I first knew it, and it took me quite a while in my adult life to remember that most of the Rachels I know are spelt Rachel!

        And yes, what Lisa says – not a “Christian” book in my definition of the term.

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        • I’ve known quite a few Rachels and Rachaels and even a Kath-and-Kim Raichell…

          Liked by 1 person

      • Ah… hm… thanks for that. I’ll think about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Your approach to this challenge is exceptional, as you really try to find serious connections, not just trivial title similarity between the books.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    • Thank you, Mae, that’s very kind of you!

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