Six Degrees of Separation: 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, my links are all on a single theme, which I’ll tell you at the end of the post, just in case you didn’t work it out. Our starting book this month is:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

One of the grimmest of all dystopian novels, I loved it! The book is written in short bursts, each giving a glimpse of what living in this awful new world is like. We don’t find out much at all about what happened – it’s nearly all about the ‘now’ for father and son – what point is there dwelling on a past that can never be recovered. A few pages in you stop being irritated by the bitty style and start engaging in your own journey with them – there’s a rhythm to the daily grind which makes it a strangely beautiful read. It’s relentlessly grim, and incredibly sad and moving, and a very scary vision of a possible future that we mustn’t let happen. 

Learning to Drive by William Norwich

This is an out and out mad comedy about a 37 year old taking driving lessons in New York and getting an instructor to drive to his test who causes him to have a very bad day indeed. It does have a touching heart though, it’s punchy, funny and melancholy in just the right measure.  Highly recommended.

Photo by  Birgit Vermeulen  on  Scopio

Too Close to the Edge by Pascal Garnier

A widow goes shopping and prangs her car on the way home to her little country cottage. A good Samaritan stops to help her – but who is he? Should she accept a lift from a stranger? This is one of Garnier’s creepiest best.

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton

The story of George and the object of his obsession Netta, this novel set in 1938 is subtitled ‘A story of darkest Earls Court’, and it’s certainly that, billed as a black comedy, and I suppose it is in a way. The laughs, however are never at George’s expense. When they come, it is Netta and her friends we laugh at, over their outrageously bad behaviour that makes them targets for our scorn. Hamilton’s prose is beautiful, incendiary, moving, clinical, full of ennui – everything it needs to be to tell George’s story. I nearly cried for George, wishing he hadn’t spotted her across a crowded room that day. I loved this book so much.

Swann’s Way (the graphic novel) by Marcel Proust, adapted by Stéphane Heuet

Can the graphic novel treatment can bring to life Proust’s rambling, multi-claused, long-sentenced style, in which speech is often reported rather than said directly? Heuet has naturally transposed Proust’s reported speech into direct speech in speech bubbles as you’d expect in a comic. I have to admit that I was disappointed by this version of Proust’s classic. Given that a graphic novel lives or dies by its visual impact, I wasn’t totally won over. It’s a good try, though, and those less critical than I may enjoy this book. One thing I do know, I think reading the full Proust would bore me with all those long sentences (longer than Anthony Powell’s even), so I won’t lose any sleep over it!   

Gloucester Crescent by William Miller

Miller is the son of the late Jonathan Miller, and his memoir of growing up in one of the most famed London Roads amongst artists, writers, actors is fascinating. Miller writes with wit and affection but lingering over the book is the sense that he and his siblings still struggle to live up to their father’s high expectations. The book is subtitled ‘Me, My Father and Other Grown-Ups’ and it is William’s father who is the dominant character, I never got much of a sense of his mother Rachel – she was just there. This memoir with its all-star cast of London literati and plenty of evocative photos, however, was a joy to read.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Photo by  Deni Yanatchkova  on  Scopio

Pulley’s novel is set in the early 1880s, is a superb blend of history, science and adventure with a little fantasy and some steamclockworkpunk. Keita Mori, a Japanese gentleman descended from Samurai lives quietly making watches and other clockwork devices. When Thaniel Steepleton and Grace Carrow come into Mori’s zone, things start to happen! Mori’s expertise with technology combined with Grace’s science does give a nod towards Victorian science fiction. But there’s also a subtle fantasy, or rather fantastic, element to the story that is reminiscent of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – not magic per se, just something in the ether that feels natural and unnatural simultaneously. Despite the vestiges of steampunk fantasy, at its heart The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a thriller, a remarkably effective one that draws you into its world from the beginning. It’s hard to believe that this novel is a debut. and I’m currently reading the sequel, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, which takes us to Japan a few years later. 

So from a Road to a Drive, a Close to a Square, via a Way to a Crescent and a Street, I’ve driven around the whole estate this month.

Where will your six degrees take you?

20 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: The Road

      • Davida Chazan says:

        Well, I’ve only read one – The Ghost of Madison Avenue by Nancy Bilyeau, and I’ll be reading The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis very soon.

  1. A Life in Books says:

    Such an interesting chain, Annabel. My mind will be boggling for some time over a graphic novel of Swann’s Way. Talk about setting yourself a challenge!

  2. Café Society says:

    I haven’t come across the Miller but I have to say that I’m tempted by it. I imagine it would be very much my era and full of tales of the sort of people I’m interested in.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It was rather good indeed. He’s hard on while still loving his father, but what a time and place to grow up in.

  3. kimbofo says:

    Very clever! I was trying to figure out the link… I figured it was something to do with street names in the titles but that didn’t seem quite correct.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      To call it a Victorian adventure thriller with a steampunky feel is to do it a disservice – it’s tremendous (as it its sequel which I’ve just read) She’s such an excellent and imaginative writer.

  4. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I drafted two chains before I posted the third, one of them was similar to yours using road, street, place, map etc but I stalled on one link. Great job on completing yours, thanks for sharing.

  5. Kate W says:

    Hangover Square has been added to my reading list (the other that I’ve added to my list this month is, coincidentally, Bellevue Square, which I saw on Reading Matters #6degrees chain).

  6. Literary Feline says:

    I loved The Road as well. I have The Watchmaker of Filigree Street on my TBR shelf. I hope you are enjoying the sequel! Thank you for sharing!

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