Six Degrees of Separation: How to Be Both

Hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest,  Six Degrees of Separation picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps. Links in titles will take you to my reviews. So without further ado, our starting book this month is …

How to Be Both by Ali Smith

I have a confession to make, I’ve not read any books by Ali Smith, which is silly really as I own a handful, but true. I will aim to rectify that, but for now, I do know that art plays a big part in this novel which leads me to my first link.

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

I enjoyed this novel hugely. A tale about a father and son, both artists: the father, ‘Bear’, an artist of big renown with an even bigger personality, the son possibly a better artist but under-appreciated by his father. Rachman’s novel is hilarious, thrilling and moving by turns as Pinch plans to make his father notice him. Brilliant fun. I will use the word ‘teacher‘ in the title for my next link…

Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

I recently re-read this for Book Group, and was reminded by what a fine novel it is. The affair between a naive art teacher and a fifteen-year-old pupil is a tough subject, given that Heller makes her protagonist quite sympathetic in a way, but the real villain of the novel is Barbara Covett, an embittered old spinster who covets Sheba, and manipulates the whole situation to reach her target. I re-watched the film too, which makes Barbara an even worse woman, and Judi Dench plays her with obvious relish, enjoying playing a villain for once. I will link this time to another Zoe

Folk by Zoe Gilbert

This debut novel has been longlisted for the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize, and by the time this post goes live, we’ll know whether it made the shortlist. Gilbert has woven myth and folktale into her stories of the folk who live on the remote island of Neverness. It’s really a short story cycle, with each chapter letting different characters take the lead. It is full of nature and mystery, sensuously told, and builds up into a magical portrait of island life. I enjoy short story cycles, where tales intertwine, and liked this one a lot. I will take a bird on the cover as my link to, and no guesses here…

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I really enjoyed Tartt’s third novel, even if I do have problems with her not leaving enough to the reader’s imagination. Her prose is exquisite (if over-detailed), but It was easy to devour all 784 pages and I loved the two characters, Hobie and Boris, that she created to accompany Theo through his growing up. My link is through the number of pages, and the book I subsequently read with more than 784 pages is:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

I’m a big fan of Auster: my favourite ever book is his debut, The New York Trilogy. 4 3 2 1 has 880 pages, and follows the lives of four versions of the same character, Archie Ferguson who is born in 1947. We follow the life of Archie from a child to a young man four times. Auster gives us four possible roads (less) travelled, (yes, Frost’s poem does get an early mention on p120), for Archie and they’re completely different, yet there are many similarities. It’s very cleverly done, and I loved it! My last link is to another book with just numerals in the title (and it’s not 1984)!

11.22.63 by Stephen King

Numerals yes, but in date form – the day that JFK was assassinated. King’s 752 page chunkster is on my shelves – I love novels about this period and am fascinated by the Kennedys. In 11.22.63, King’s protagonist travels back in time to 1958 where he meets troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald and falls for librarian Sadie…. can Jake prevent JFK being assassinated? I don’t know yet, so don’t spoil it for me.


Where will your six degrees take you?

10 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: How to Be Both

  1. Margaret says:

    Such an interesting chain – the only one of these books I’ve read is The Goldfinch, which I agree is over-detailed! Stephen King’s book tempts me – always like his books – and The Italian Teacher as I don’t often read hilarious books and I like art.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thanks Margaret. Tartt has to describe everything, doesn’t she? I love Stephen King, he’s a better writer than he is often given credit for. The Rachman is brilliant – but it’s not all hilarious, some sad balancing moments.

  2. Liz says:

    A fabulously juicy chain Anna! I too loved The Goldfinch and 11.22.63 is absolutely brilliant – you are in for a treat. The Italian Teacher sounds great and reminds me of another ‘hilarious art book’, namely Michael Frayn’s Headlong, which I highly recommend. 🙂

  3. MarinaSofia says:

    Notes on a Scandal is so good, isn’t it, although I was initially sceptical because of all the buzz around it. I haven’t liked Paul Auster as much lately (like you, I loved the New York trilogy), but was thinking of reading 4321 if it’s a return to form.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      4321 is the best he’s done for a while. I found it very rewarding, and it’s readable in chunks – there are natural breaks.

Leave a Reply