My favourite monthly tag, 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:
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld
I’ve not read Wyld’s third novel, but Rebecca loved it (read her Shiny review here) – it has a rather interesting opening scene, and explores male brutality towards women over centuries. It goes onto my wishlist.
The novel’s title refers to a rocky island in the middle of the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Initially, as ‘bass’ is the lowest singing voice, I was going that way, but it didn’t work. Then, I remembered that one of our years at school are onto their rocks and soils topic in science, and this month’s journey was set, which leads to…
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
Alan Garner’s 1960 children’s classic also has a particularly strong sense of place, being set around Alderley Edge in Cheshire. The ‘stone’ of the title is a jewel which originated in the caves deep inside the Edge, and as Susan and Colin discover is the subject of not just myth and legends, but actual sleeping knights and horses who must rise again to rid the Edge of the evil Nasrond. One of my favourite ever children’s books.
Our topics is rocks and soils, and clay is a particular time of soil containing ground up rocks/stones/minerals, which takes me to…
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2001 brick of a novel about the history of American comics told through the fictional publications of Josef and Sam, Josef having escaped from Prague with the golem in 1939. Josef is an accomplished artist, Sam is a story man – and together they come up with an idea for a comic superhero – The Escapist. Sam’s boss is persuaded to finance the fledging comic – and soon Superman and Batman have a rival. Too long, but some wonderful writing and great set pieces.
Clay is just one type of earth, so I’ve picked…
Cold Earth by Sarah Moss
Sarah Moss has gone on to become a fabulous and feted author, but her debut, a novel of archaeology, food, pandemics and ghosts was also pretty good too. An archaeological team is marooned on Greenland when a virus hits the rest of the world, and they realise that no-one is coming to get them. Rather prescient!
Another component of many soils, and also now taking us towards the coast is sand…
The Sandman by ETA Hoffmann
Hoffmann’s story from 1815 is truly nasty – a complete opposite to the sandman portrayed by the Chordettes who helps children to sleep, which came from Hans Christian Andersen. The boy Nathanael is traumatised as a child when his nurse tells him about the Sandman who throws sand in the eyes of children who won’t sleep and this makes their eyes fall out which the Sandman collects to take to the moon as food for his children who have beaks and peck at them. Anyone who has seen Coppélia or The Tales of Hoffman, will be familiar with the second half of this story which features in both. So a terrified Nathanael equates Dr Coppelius, who animates an automaton he becomes obsessed with, with the Sandman.
But before we get to the sand on the coast, more often than not you must walk over the shingle first…
Shingle Street by Blake Morrison
Better known for his novels and memoirs, Blake Morrison’s 2015 book of poetry spoke volumes to me, and the title poem ‘The Ballad of Shingle Street‘ was full of rhythm and rhyme as you’d expect from a ballad form – I could imagine it getting the ‘Wellerman’ sea shanty treatment.
‘A cul-de-sac, a dead-end track,
A sandbanked strand to sink a fleet,
A bay, a bar, a strip, a trap,
A wrecking ground, that’s Shingle Street.’
And finally, what is shingle?
The Pebbles on the Beach: A Spotter’s Guide by Clarence Ellis
I was torn between ending with this book, or with On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. The word ‘pebbles’ in the title won out as more in keeping with my overall theme – that and the gorgeous cover in the montage above.
As an inveterate pebble fondler every time I go to a beach, this book is on my shelves, but I haven’t managed to read it yet.
It was, however, first published in 1954, and reprinted with a new introduction by Robert MacFarlane a couple of years ago.
This month, my six degrees have followed a geological path from Scotland via Alderley Edge, New York and Greenland to a beach near you. Where will yours take you?