Six Degrees of Separation: Stasiland

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 – the starting book is:

Stasiland by Anna Funder

A modern classic book of reportage from the Australian journalist investigating life in what was East Berlin before the wall came down. Although a fascinating subject, I wasn’t overwhelmed by this book at the time. I think I’d appreciate it more now, as I read a lot more non-fiction. However the most striking thing I remember about reading it is how grey Berlin was, leading to…

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

A fabulous dystopian novel from the author of the Thursday Next series novels. A departure for Fforde, this standalone, has a unique society in which your social standing is determined by the colours you can see, leading to class war and plenty of small town politics, which is a driving force in…

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

Rowling’s first adult novel is a sprawling account of life in a small country town, thrust into turmoil when the leader of one faction on the Parish Council drops dead at the Golf Club and his rival sees a big opportunity. The town is full of dysfunctional families that between them cover all the stereotypes you would expect to find, rich vs poor, educated vs self-made etc. It took far too long to get going and there were too many characters covering all the classes, which isn’t what happens in…

Middle England by Jonathan Coe

Coe’s Costa winning novel stays strictly in the middle, adding a post-millennial pre-Brexit third chapter in the lives of characters he first wrote about in The Rotter’s Club and The Closed Circle. A state of the nation gentle satire that paints such an accurate picture of Middle England. I will stay with England for my next link to…

England Made Me by Graham Greene

Greene’s sixth novel was published in 1935. A pre-war morality tale, it involves a pair of twins, brother and sister – Anthony and Kate, in a dark tale about a corrupt Swedish businessman, Krogh, who is Kate’s lover. None of the characters are likeable, although Minty, the newspaperman who is pursuing Krogh does have public interest at heart. Greene was recruited into working for MI6, as was…

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John Le Carré

Le Carré worked for both MI6 and MI5, and this book, my favourite of his, was reputedly given to new recruits to read up on the spycraft in its pages, Le Carré insists it’s all made up! Anyway, it is set after the building of the Berlin Wall and agent Leamas is set up to as a disgraced former spy in a complex plot to catch a German spymaster. One of my favourite books ever. So we’re back to Berlin, but there’s one more link to go…

Acts of Omission by Terry Stiastny

Former BBC News reporter Stiastny worked in Berlin in the late 1990s and her first novel is based upon a true story. Mark Lucas, a former television producer, is now a charismatic young minister in the Foreign Office. His office has come into possession of a disk containing the names of British informants to the East German Stasi. The Germans are putting pressure on him to give it to them, but the British diplomatic service would rather not.

So the final link to the Stasi brings us back round to where we started. My circular tour went from Berlin to England and back via Sweden. Where will your six degrees take you?

17 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: Stasiland

  1. kimbofo says:

    A great list, Annabel, and very reflective of your reading tastes. It’s a good reminder I need to read more Coe. I like the sound of the Greene, too. In my experience he never really writes likeable characters, but his stories are always amazing.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      What a super observation Kim. This list does cover nearly all my favourite reading themes, and Greene and Coe are favourite authors too. Thank you.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’d definitely re-read Stasiland if I still had my copy. I haven’t read Fforde for ages, but he did write another standalone in recent years which I have a copy of, rather than his series.

  2. Kate W says:

    Love the basis for your first link 🙂

    I had Middle England on loan from my library before COVID lockdowns. I knew I didn’t have time to read it before the due date so returned it… only to discover that days later the library shut and told us that there would be no late fines, to hold onto books until they were open again – I would have had oodles of time to read it! 😀

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thanks Kate. Grey was the word that stood out from my review of Stasiland and led me on my journey with this one. Such a shame you took the Coe back to the library, it’s very good and quite thought-provoking in its middle class satiric way.

  3. hopewellslibraryoflife says:

    Excellent chain! I liked Casual Vacancy, but I get your point on all the classes etc now that I stop and consider it. I just found it fun to see how that level of government worked in the UK–I’ve only ever studied Parliament. John Le C–love the Spy. Great, great book.

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