Six Degrees of Separation: Redhead by the Side of the Road

My favourite monthly tag, 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 the titles will take you to my reviews where they exist. This month our starting point is Anne Tyler’s latest, which I’ve yet to read, but will I’m sure as I enjoy her novels a lot. I desperately wanted to do a chain comprised purely of literary redheads, or hair colours in titles but couldn’t do it with books I’ve read, unless I did all the Weasleys from Harry Potter which would be cheating! Inspiration for anything more creative did’t strike me this month, so I’ve gone for a straightforward title led chain after the first link which stays with the hair colour theme. So Redhead by the Side of the Road leads to:

The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly

I’ve got out of the habit of reading Michael Connelly’s books. Somewhere around The Lincoln Lawyer in which he introduced a new lead character, I stopped buying them automatically when they came out. 1995’s The Concrete Blonde, which I read pre-blog was his third book featuring the wonderful LA detective Harry ‘Hieronymous’ Bosch. It’s really good! Bosch had caught a serial killer known as the ‘Dollmaker’, who killed prostitutes painting their faces with make-up. When he gets a note from the Dollmaker, it leads Bosch to a copycat killer – but this time he’s encasing his victims in … you guessed it, Concrete, which goes to:

Concrete Island by JG Ballard

This 1973 novella is Ballard’s take on Robinson Crusoe. After crashing through the barriers on his way home after seeing his mistress, a driver finds himself marooned in an island surrounded by motorways and a high-walled scrapyard. Concrete Island is a controlled and concise exercise in isolation, alienation and survival. He’s injured and hungry, and finds evidence of someone else living there – Friday? This island leads to:

Bad Island by Stanley Donwood

Bad Island is a cautionary tale, an allegory for the story of the Earth, told through the life of one island in 80 wordless frames, beautifully crafted in linocut. It begins with us homing in on the island from afar, with dramatic clouds and a roiling sea. Donwood paints a bleak picture as the bogeymen speed up nature’s cycles by imposing their own on the island, making it go bad. The message is clear. This is a bold story that doesn’t need any words. The most striking book I’ve ‘read’ for ages, and Bad takes me to:

Bad News by Edward St Aubyn

Bad News is my favourite of the five Patrick Melrose novels. It’s the second in the sequence, but you could begin with this one as the TV adaptation did (the first has troubling scenes of child abuse). In this book, Patrick has to go to New York to collect his father’s ashes, but he needs a fix. St Aubyn’s descriptions of the junkie’s life are detailed and graphic – not for the faint-hearted, yet they are always backed by Patrick’s sardonic humour and fearlessness about the drugs, and getting them. Despite Patrick’s privilege, we remain on his side, partially due to our knowledge that these novels are full of detail from St Aubyn’s own life, but also the sheer wit on the page, this is the funniest of the series.  This time, news will lead to:

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

One of my favourite novels, The Shipping News is Proulx’s second novel, published in her late fifties. The story of misfit Quoyle, who moves to the home of his ancestors in Newfoundland with his Aunt Agnis after being a failure in New York state is a gentle one. It is full of wonderful characters and evocative descriptions, supported by the quotations from a book of knots that inspired the novel. Will Quoyle find himself? Well, yes and I enjoyed every page of this Pulitzer winner. Shipping takes me to my final pick:

Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly

Another book I read pre-blog. Connelly is a bit like an English Bill Bryson, writing quirky and humorous non-fiction books full of information. In this one from 2004, his sixth book, (and first one not about football), he looks at and visits all the areas of the Shipping Forecast as broadcast thrice daily on BBC Radio 4. First broadcast in the 1920s, we find out all about the history of the iconic names of the areas, and what’s there now. He talks to the weather presenters and forecasters about its relevance today (it’s a good backup), and generally spends a year having an interesting time.

My six degrees have taken me from LA to New York to Newfoundland, and the confines of islands: between roads, allegorical and the one where I live. Where will your six degrees take you?

20 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: Redhead by the Side of the Road

  1. kimbofo says:

    As ever, your links are always five star! I particularly like the sound of the Ballard! I read The Shipping News when it first came out, roughly at the same time I became a reporter on a rural newspaper and a lot of it resonated. I ought to read it again at some point.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      As I said to Lisa, The Shipping News did re-read well! I’ve not read a Ballard I didn’t enjoy yet, and Concrete Island was a really good one.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thank you. I do have Close Range on the shelf – I have to be in the right frame of mind for short stories.

  2. A Life in Books says:

    Always so beautifuly done, Annabel. I particularly like that first sideways step from redhead to blonde. I tend to prefer old style travel writing to the comedic Bill Bryson variety but I loved Attention All Shipping.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thank you. I was trying to build all different hair colours at first, but couldn’t manage any shades of brown, so diverted. I don’t think I ever read any travel writing until I discovered Bryson with his first couple of books, and I’ll admit, I’ve not read an awful lot more (although probably more than I can recall off the top of my head.)

  3. Margaret says:

    I see The Shipping News is popular. I loved it too. I fancied using Baltimore as my link, but I’ve only read two more in the books I’ve read. I know the chain doesn’t have to be made of books you’ve read but I like to use them when I can, so I followed another route for my chain this week.

  4. MarinaSofia says:

    Lovely links here – I always find Ballard interesting, if not always enjoyable. And, like you, I used to love Connelly but have lost touch a little with him lately.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I really do get series fatigue, but it’s years now since I read him. I still have a few unread on the shelves.

  5. Rebecca Foster says:

    I didn’t know The Shipping News was one of your favourites! I have a copy but have never managed to read it (or any Proulx). I agree Bad News is the best of the Melroses.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thanks for visiting. 🙂 I should return to the Bosch books. I’ve enjoyed the TV series though too.

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