Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 5, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation: from The End of the Affair, to….

This month’s #6Degrees starts with the modern classic, The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.  A beautiful book, one of the best of a very great writer.

This month, I thought I’d tweak #6Degrees from my usual memories of what I’ve read, to what’s lurking on the TBR, linking either by author or words in the title…

I do have some Greenes on my TBR, but no, I’m going to riff off the title.  Waiting patiently on the TBR is a book I came across via a review in The Asian Review of Books.  It’s a novel called Red Affairs, White Affairs, and it’s by Felicia Nay, a German author who has worked in China and Hong Kong. I bought it in 2020 during the unrest in Hong Kong because I was keen to find out more about a place I’ve not yet visited.  The only other books I’ve read set in Hong Kong are The Expatriates, by Janice Y.K. Lee and Deep Night, by Caroline Petit.

From the word ‘red’ I go to The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O’Brien, an author I so belatedly discovered through her brilliant novel GirlIt’s on the TBR because I read Kim’s review at Reading Matters. The title, as Kim says, refers to the 11,541 red chairs that were put out on the Serajevo high street to mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the Siege of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb forces. The chairs represented the number of people killed during the siege, which lasted almost four years.

Little Britain by Washington Irving has been on my TBR since 2010, and it’s one of numerous forgotten titles on my Kindle.  I think I acquired it in preparation for my 2010 trip to the UK, Ireland, Bordeaux and Spain, to avoid the panic that I’ll run out of books to read in non-English speaking countries.  There’s a generous review of it by Miles Smith at Goodreads but I’m still not rushing to retrieve it to read.

There are a zillion books from Britain if I search my Excel file, so I gave up on that and found another book by searching Irving instead. It turns out that I’ve got quite a few by Washington Irving, including Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  They’re almost all Kindle freebies, but I’ve also got a real book by him.  It’s A History of New York and I bought it in Barcelona, at the Casa del Libro (House of Books) on the Rambla in 2010.  In the Alhambra in Granada I had seen a little plaque commemorating Irving’s stay there in 1828, which is probably why the bookshop stocked it. I think it will be interesting (one day) to read ‘a history’ of New York written 200 years ago… (And isn’t that a brilliant cover in my Penguin Edition?!)

What next? It would have been too easy to search for ‘history’ in the NF TBR file, but it turns up a surprising number of times in the Fiction TBR.  True History of the Kelly Gang has been on my TBR since 2008 when I lashed out and bought a first edition for my Booker Prize collection.  I had previously bought a first American edition, but I was determined to get The Real Thing and when an affordable copy came up, I bought it.  So now I have two copies and #blush haven’t read either of them!

From there I could also list (a-hem) a number of other TBR Carey novels I haven’t read yet (and I don’t know why that is, because I’ve really liked his most recent fiction).  But instead I searched ‘Peter’ and found a New Zealand title called Fox Boy, The Story of an Abducted Child by Peter Walker. I read his Some Here Among Us in 2014 and really admired it, but Fox Boy has been on the TBR since 2011, so I should tackle it before too much longer.

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

Next month’s starter book is what Kate says is a hot favourite to make the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield.

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


Responses

  1. Hi Lisa

    Like you I am a huge Graham Greene fan and like you, I think that The End of the Affair is one of his best, up there with Brighton Rock and The Power and the Glory. I also greatly enjoyed The Little Red Chairs, perhaps not one of Edna O’Brien’s greatest but still very well worth reading.

    For what its worth, my six degrees of separation from The End of the Affair would crash at The Affair by CP Snow, #8 on his Strangers and Brothers series… not sure where to go next with only “The” to work with!
    Cheers
    Chris

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    • Ah, interesting to see you mention C P Snow… last time The Offspring was here he was scouring my shelves for C P Snow and made off with The New Men (which I read on my father’s recommendation years ago) and I’ve bought him The Two Cultures for his birthday. I haven’t heard anyone talking about him for ages!

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  2. Thanks for the link. I love Greene and really ought to read more by him. Used to love going to “Greene country” when I lived in London – it was a 45minute train trip from Olympia to Berkhampsted, where we would walk by the canal and visit numerous pubs along the way. Bliss.

    Thanks for the link to the O’Brien… I have memories of reading that book in a single day, lying on a hotel bed in the King’s Canyon because it was too damn hot to leave the air-conditioned room!

    For a Hong Kong book, I recommend Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester… I read it before I went to Hong Kong myself and found it very enlightening as well as entertaining. I will put Red Affairs, White Affairs on my wishlist as I’m always keen to read more stories set in this part of the world. I was only in HK for 3 days but it remains one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been to… it felt like New York in the tropics!

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    • I would so love to visit HK. We planned to do it during those few years when we didn’t want to be too many flying hours from home because of aged parents, and then, well, first of all the protests, and then Covid, and who knows whether we’ll ever get there now…

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      • Yep, I know what you mean. I remember thinking when I repatriated that it would be so much easier to now visit places like Vietnam & Japan, which had been on my wishlist for quite a while… I would go back to HK in a heartbeat, I really loved it. It felt very familiar (the British influence is so obvious) and yet strangely alien at the same time. At least with novels, we can go to places in our imagination if we can’t physically get there ourselves.

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        • Agreed, that’s what’s kept us sane during the pandemic!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I daren’t even peep at the TBR pile. I wonder if after writing this chain, any of the books you mentioned made it further up the pile? E-books are a bit of a trap- I keep buying them ‘just in case’.

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    • If I were well-organised, they’d make it up the pile. But I’m too ad hoc, for that. I just read the next thing that appeals.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. An interesting twist to the chain, to delve into those awaiting to be read, but I’m with you on the reading the next thing that appeals, even when I’m about to open a new book I’ll choose three and leave the decision to the very last second, how moods van change on a whim!

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    • Yup. Reading is for pleasure… and having a nice big TBR is like looking in the window at all the goodies in the patisserie and trying to choose:)

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  5. Fascinating chain, as always… and I don’t know any of these books.

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  6. This made me laugh Lisa … love your approach. I know about things “lost” on the Kindle. I look there every now and then and find all sorts of treasures. I love the sound of the Edna O’Brien as I’ve only read her a long time ago and would really like to read more. And, I agree about Carey. I’ve read quite a few, but I have a few on the TBR too.

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    • I could be wrong, but I think he’s slowing down, less prolific than he was? For a while there he seemed to have a new book out every 2-3 years and I couldn’t keep up. But his last one now was in 2017…
      Perhaps he’s writing other things.

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  7. The Sleepy Hollow inspired the film of the same name. The film is better.

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    • Thanks Nanacathy, your comment made me look this up at Wikipedia, and what I noticed was the marvellous paintings this story has inspired. There’s even a stamp!

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  8. I love all those chains, yours is very interesting. I have only read the book about the Kelly gang but the others all sound tempting, as well.

    My Six Degrees of Separation ended with a popular book from the last couple of years, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

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    • Thanks, Marianne, I like the way you included NF in your chain too…

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      • Thanks, Lisa. I’m glad you said you liked it, I never see books as just novels or just NF, I just love reading and learning through it. And the one I included reads like a novel, a great guy who has travelled to all sorts of interesting countries where most of us wouldn’t be able to go. His latest book is in Saudi Arabia, I’m just reading it.

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        • I love travel writing when it’s well done…

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          • This one is so much more than travel writing. The guy lives with people from the country, it’s amazing.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the way you’ve approached the chain this month Lisa, very well done!

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    • Thanks, Cathy./ Though I did wonder as I wrote it, how an author might react if they saw it and felt a bit aggrieved that I’d had their book all this time and never read it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Like you, The True History of the Kelly Gang has been on my shelves and TBR list for ages. What is it that prevents me picking it up?

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    • For me, it’s partly the sense that I know it all, already.
      Plus, I don’t go along with making a hero out of Ned Kelly and demonising police.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What an inspired way of creating a chain. I’ve given up on 6degrees because my brain just wouldn’t make the necessary imaginative leaps and connections. So I saw your approach and that Ah! maybe i can make this work. Well I got 5 books into the chain but came to a complete block after The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott – nothing in my TBR on any of those words (beyond ‘the’) which seemed a large cheat…

    Anyway, End of the Affair is one of my favourite Greene’s too though it’s edged out of the top spot by Heart of the Matter.
    Little Red Chairs is definitely worth reading. I tried to persuade our book club to read Girl but once one member said it was a hard book, the others all caved in. So frustrating.

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    • Oh, what a shame. That’s so annoying that one person’s opinion holds so much sway.

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      • She’s very opinionated. Even tries to manipulate our voting system to get the book she wants to read.

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        • Hmm. That would be really annoying…

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  12. I like the idea of not limiting yourself to books that you have read. otherwise there is a danger of keeping on using the same books over and over. I took a cheat’s way this month and focussed on the word Green

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    • I know what you mean, I think I’ve repeated a few over the months I’ve been doing this…

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      • Once you girls get to my ripe old age, you might repeat some great books but not often. LOL

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  13. Speaking of Hong Kong, do you know about Nathan Law’s Freedom? I heard him at an online event a few weeks ago and he was very thoughtful and engaging and quietly inspiring.

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    • No, I hadn’t heard of that. I’ll see what i can find…

      Like


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