Six Degrees of Separation: Sorrow and Bliss

First Saturday of the month, and it’s time for the super monthly tag Six Degrees of Separation, which is hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest,  Six Degrees of Separation #6degrees picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps. Links to my reviews are in the titles of the books. Our starting book this month is:

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

I bought this when it was published last summer, but haven’t got around to reading it yet, but am aiming to make it one of my #20BooksofSummer22. I have heard good things, but will go with word pairs as my links this month – they make such good book titles.

Fear and Trembling by Amélie Nothomb

My first choice has a very apt title – but satirical in nature. The phrase used to refer to how you were meant to look upon the Japanese Emperor, but Belgian author Nothumb subverts it into her satire on Japanese office politics in the 1990s in which a young woman goes to work in Japan for a year, and has a hard time with their hierarchical system dominated by alpha males.

Crimson and Bone by Marina Fiorato

I don’t read much historical fiction, but I love Marina Fiorato’s books. More often than not, they are set in Italy, and although this Victorian period novel ends up there, it begins on Waterloo Bridge with young Annie, a pregnant prostitute, contemplating jumping. She is rescued by an artist, who oddly had painted Annie’s friend Mary Jane, now dead. Annie becomes the artist’s new muse – but there is something wrong with him. A fabulous twisty Victorian thriller.

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

One of my favourite graphic artists, this is a collection of six short stories about everyday life, the gardener who gets obsessed by making a sculpture; a case of mistaken identity; a bad relationship between a young woman and an older man; a soldier who burgles between tours; a wistful return home to California from Japan; and the title one, in which a teenaged daughter takes to the mike to try her hand at stand-up and later improv as a way to increase her self-esteem, going to expensive stand-up classes where she’s told she’s way funnier than she actually is as she discovers too late. There is humour, but as we go through the book, the stories become more emotional and heart-breaking.

Love and Theft by Stan Parish

I’m a big fan of heist thrillers, and Parish’s one combines the heist with the ‘one last job’ trope with great effect, adding a romance between that makes you question whether the woman involved is too good to be true. This style requires the author to have built up the would-be ex-thief to such an extent that we are on his side – and we are, all the way. Tautly told, with glamorous locations in the USA, Mexico and Spain, plus meticulous planning for the near-impossible heist to pull off – it certainly lives up to its title.

Faith and Beauty by Jane Thynne

Thynne’s Clara Vine books are wonderful – clever angle on living in the Third Reich concentrates on telling the story of the build up to WWII in Germany through those close to power, but not the military. It’s the Nazi wives and girlfriends that present a different perspective that really catches our attention. This is the fourth in the series, this time set in the elite finishing school for girls aged 17-21 run by the BDM (Bund Deutsche Mädel – The League of German Girls). Vine is half-English, half-German – an actress in pre-war Berlin, accepted by the Germans because of her father’s political affiliations which she doesn’t subscribe to, instead she spies for the British. This series is so fab, you should go back to the beginning in Black Roses though.

Hearts and Minds by Rosy Thornton

The British campus novel is generally a cosy thing (unless there’s a murder involved). Often they can be rather claustrophobic, peopled with backbiting dons, scheming students, and inscrutable college servants, which give opportunities for creating high comedy – naturally I’m thinking David Lodge here, or Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe. This makes Rosy Thornton’s second novel Hearts and Minds a rarity being more of a drama in the Joanna Trollope mould. While it has both cosy and comedic elements, it is also a mature and serious novel primarily about juggling relationships – between academic and administrative staff, between the dons themselves and their families, between students, and students and staff, and, importantly to the plot, old friends who might become benefactors … You can find them all here under the umbrella of St Radegund’s – a women only Cambridge college in need of some money.

My six degrees have gone from Japan through the USA to Mexico and thence to Europe with Third Reich Germany and Victorian London, ending in Cambridge. Where will your six degrees take you?

9 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: Sorrow and Bliss

  1. margaret21 says:

    I know not a single one of these authors – awful confession – but I think I might hunt down the Amélie Nothomb first. It looks interesting.

  2. Davida Chazan says:

    Excellent! I might have done an “and” chain, but I haven’t read nearly enough books with titles that have two words connected with the word and!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Once I thought of the idea, I found I’d read quite a lot of them. In fact I’ve separated out all the ‘Name’ and ‘Name’ books to write a separate fun post about!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      There’s a couple I haven’t read yet for me. Wonder why she seems to have stopped writing.

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