Six Degrees of Separation: Wildcard

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.

This month it’s a wild card – either the book you ended up with last time, or the last book you read. I’ll do the former, so we begin with…

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

Death at La Fenice is the first book in Leon’s long-running Commissario Brunetti series (there are now 31 volumes!). I always get the feeling that life in Italy’s cities is full of bureaucracy and petty battles between all involved in government. You either embrace it or try to ignore it – Leon’s detective Inspector Brunetti does the latter and it is his ambivalence and refusal to join in office politics rather than kicking against the system that makes him a more refreshing kind of maverick detective!

The Mind’s Eye by Håkan Nesser

Swedish author Nesser’s Inspector Van Veeteren is less maverick perhaps, but is definitely grumpy, with baggage and threatening retirement if he doesn’t solve the case within his self-imposed timescale. His style and method definitely owe a nod to Maigret, and the relationship between him and his younger colleague Münster is very much like that between Maigret and Lucas. However, I’m not going to link to Maigret, yet – instead I shall stay with another Swedish author

The Helios Disaster by Linda Boström Knausgård

I always enjoy reading modern retellings and reimaginings of old myths and The Helios Disaster is a challenging and thought-provoking example. In Greek myth, Athena is born of no mother. Zeus has a headache and asks Hephaestus to split his head open and out she pops already in her armour. However, this is modern-day Sweden and the ground is covered with snow. When a twelve-year-old girl leaves Conrad’s house – the neighbours take charge, not believing that Conrad is her father. ‘Conrad is bit different, after all.’  This is a strange story. Naturally it requires a suspension of belief to believe that was how Anna is born, but the intensity of the telling is such that you’re readily absorbed into it. Another novel influenced by Greek myth is

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

This was my first exposure to Levy, and it’s fair to say that I wasn’t wowed by Hot Milk at first – but it grew on me so much. She’s now one of my favourite authors. This novel is the story of the toxic relationship between a mother and daughter.The whole novel abounds with imagery, allegory and metaphor relating to Medusa, especially the modern feminist interpretation of her as full of anger (see Wikipedia here). The daughter Sofia appears to represent a human embodiment of Medusa in this novel, and you can see people looking at her sideways or observing from a distance rather than straight on. I’m looking forward to reading Natalie Hayne’s forthcoming novel Stone Blind about Medusa coming soon. Although this book is primarily set in Spain, Sofia’s father is Greek, and she escapes to Athens at one point, so Greece is my link to…

The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

This chunky thriller is largely set on the Greek island of Patmos, where destitute Ian goes for help to his best friend Charlie who is running a yacht charter business there; the business is a front for other things as it turns out. It’s a good enough thriller, with hints of Highsmith’s Ripley, but the action is never quite taken to the next level. The yachts will take me now finally to Maigret…

The Carter of La Providence by Georges Simenon

A woman’s body is discovered in the stables near a canal-side café at Lock 14. Only accessible by boat, this should be a ‘locked’ room mystery as the lock keeper can detail who went through the lock. But when a yacht arrives (yes a canal-going yacht), owned by an English aristo and his guests, and he says the woman is his wife, the case gets very complicated! This Maigret is notable for the venerable detective being forced to cycle km after km up and down the towpath in the drizzle and fog – very evocative indeed. Simenon was Belgian, so for my last link we shall stay there …

Marie by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

This wonderful novella, published in 1943, tells the story of a bored Parisian housewife denied a career beyond a little tutoring, who embarks upon an affair when her husband goes away on business. Affairs are never straight-forward but Marie is able to put up a perfect front. Everyone else thinks she’s happy with Jean but her mood goes up and down. Throughout, Marie dreams, remembers and then comes back to reality when she realises her lot as a housewife of the 1930s. This novel may be existentialist in its outlook, but it’s not fatalistic; suffused with longing and desire, Marie pleasantly surprised me. The story manages to achieve balance without melodrama, but plenty of passion as we are exposed to Marie’s inner mind. Charming and thoughtful, and a perfect one-session read.

My six degrees have travelled around Europe this time, from Italy to Sweden, on to Greece and then Belgium ending in France. Where will your six degrees take you?

16 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: Wildcard

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I find doing the six degrees such fun, it has much the same function as resorting to a comfort read. I’ll watch out for yours perhaps? 🙂

  1. A Life in Books says:

    Very enjoyable chain, Annabel, and visually quite spectacular with that central Donna Leon image! I’ve been disconcerted several times by The Helios Disaster cover on Twitter.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thank you. Re the Helios Disaster, I know – it’s very disconcerting, I had to keep it face down in between reading sessions.

  2. Davida Chazan says:

    I’ve not heard of any of these books, but I’ve heard of Deborah Levy, but never read anything by her. That’s what I love about these chains… we get to find out about books we don’t know (and some we do)!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Indeed! I’d particularly recommend Levy’s three volumes of ‘living autobiography’ as she calls them – memoir snapshots that are suffused with ideas, references to books and authors, and while supremely eloquent are so full of her life.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      This tag is a really good way of highlighting plenty of authors. Of the Swedish pair – Nesser was a great start to a new series for me, but the Helios Disaster was strange…

  3. margaret21 says:

    I’m very much a Brunetti fan, so seeing that you start your chain with him, I now feel obliged to put all your other choices, nome of which I’ve read, on my TBR!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thanks Margaret! The Helios Disaster is strange, and The Destroyers is not quite a top-notch thriller, but the rest in my chain this month are briliant.

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