Six Degrees of Separation: July

I had so much fun last month, so I’m taking a few moments off from filling up boxes to think about book titles (always better than wasting time on Instagram or Pinterest, right?). The meme is hosted by Kate from Booksaremyfavouriteandbest and picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps.

866451-HangingRockThis month’s pick is Picnic at Hanging Rock, a Joan Lindsay novel set in Australia, in a stifling all girls’ boarding school. (Unless last month’s novel which I didn’t know at all) I read the novel and saw the movie waaay too early as a teenager, and it was very striking and memorable to my young self. I remember the frilly dresses (completely inappropriate for the rocky wilderness) and the heated atmosphere. I have a thing for novels set in boarding school and so I thought of…

76817-LittlePrincess1. Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the first novel I read about boarding school. The Japanese anime series was totally addictive when I was a kid, and I reread many times the book. Another gloomy view of boarding school that marked me as a teenager was of course…

10210-JaneEyre2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, that starts with some memorable chapters set in Lowood charity school. Jane’s indomitable character, both unflinching and idealist, made me think of another girl on the cusp of adulthood, but seen this time from a cynical, satirical point of view:

581559-CharlotteSimmons3. Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe. Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch, but Charlotte Simmons is portrayed as a naive, idealist, pure girl from a small-town highschool entering an elite university, and I can’t help but think that Jane Eyre, if not for her Victorian moral backbone, could easily have turned out into a Charlotte Simmons. At any case, that was exactly what Jane was determined not to become.

9844-Prep4. Another outsider thrown into a cut-throat school environment is Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld. I read it a few years ago, back to back with Charlotte Simmons, and I must confess my memory is a bit hazy. It’s set in a boarding school so we definitely stay in the same setting. Still I remember loving more…

6185835-AmericanWife5. American Wife, by the same author Curtis Sittenfeld, on a banal, bookish, rather conventional Midwestern middle-class girl who ends up marrying the future President of the United States (not Trump, obviously, but a fictional Bush). I remember liking this soft-spoken main character who teaches elementary school and works as a school librarian a lot. The presidential train of thought was a tough one to follow, so the best association for this book would be…

11806495-SummerWithoutMen6- A Summer without Men, by Siri Hustvedt, for the recurrent setting in the Midwest. Many books by Hustvedt reference her native Minnesota, but I chose this one because, well, an all-female cast of characters was a nice allusion to Hanging Rocks’ school, and the main character in this novel also teaches girls during the summer.

From Australia, to London, to Yorkshire, to New York and the Midwest, hopping from one girls school to the next, I have somehow come full circle, haven’t I?

Six Degrees of Separation

I first heard of the Six Degrees of Separation meme through Marina Sofia of Finding Time to Write. And then I noticed that Elle played too ! It seemed so much fun that I had to try. The meme is hosted by Kate from Booksaremyfavouriteandbest and picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps.

This month’s pick is Shopgirl by Steve Martin, a title I had absolutely no clue about. All I knew about it was Marina Sofia’s short description, about a satire of life in Los Angeles. But it was enough to let my bookish imagination run wild as I immediately thought of…

 

1- Bret Easton Ellis’ Letters from L.A. It’s a short story / novella that I read years ago (like 10 years!) but memorable, because I don’t usually read about L.A. and I don’t really enjoy satire, which I often mistake for grotesque tragedy (oh, wait, maybe that’s what it is about?). Letters from L.A. is one story from the collection The Informers. Of course this is not his best-known book nor is it the most shoking one…

2- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis was a book that shocked me as I read it in my early 20s. I didn’t read graphic violence or porn or gore, or anything in the horror genre, and it was physically hard for me to read on. I was sure it was going to be an important book, although maybe for the wrong reasons.

3- Which led me to The American Pastoral by Philip Roth, another title claiming to be the “Great American Novel”. Especially as a non-American, these titles always seem daunting and I waited way too long before starting this novel which proved engrossing and sensitive. But after one Roth I couldn’t stop, so I had to pick…

4- Philip Roth’s Plot against America, an alternate history novel that imagines what would have happened if anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh had won the US elections over Roosevelt, stopping the US from entering the war against Nazi Germany. Of course, it made me think of another alternate history bestseller…

5- 11/22/63 by Stephen King, that left me breathless and reeling after 30 hours on audiobook last year! To a French person of my generation, the series of numbers of the title doesn’t automatically mean J.F.K., but once my mind was set on the 1960s and the Kennedys, I thought of another one…

6- Black Waters, by Joyce Carol Oates, is the retelling of a famous deadly event of the late 1960s, in which a girlfriend of Ted Kennedy’s drowned in a car accident on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts near Martha’s Vineyard.

In 6 steps, I moved from the West Coast to the East Coast, and from light satire to dark psychological terror! It was so much fun, I might want to try taking another detour… What about you, what are your 6 degrees?