How To Be a Good Wife author Emma Chapman emailed me last week to invite me to join in a new meme she has begun with her friend, author Annabel Smith. The new series on their blog is called Six Degrees of Separation, based on Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy’s 1929 short story ‘Chains’ in which he coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. Each month, they’ll choose a book to start with and invite other writers and bloggers to join in by linking that book to five other books. It’s school holidays and I was so busy I missed the first one, which started with Hannah Kent’s novel Burial Rites. This week the starting book is Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.
It’s exploration of female pain makes me think of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899), where a woman drowns in the sea. Another fin de siecle novel, Thomas Hardy’s Tess, also depicts the cultural reflection of the era and a readiness for change. I adore the landscape in Hardy’s novel – much as I do in Rohan Wilson’s brutal and poetic landscapes in The Roving Party, which I just read again. The hunt through Tasmanian wilderness in the 1830s reminds me of another recent read, Alex Miller’s Coal Creek. Alex was at a recent writers festival I attended in Beaconsfield. He said he was particularly interested in hearing Rohan speak, and I wonder if he read The Roving Party while he was writing Coal Creek. Different novels, and both very original, but both a study of survival. Where to go from Coal Creek? Prichard’s Coonardoo is the first novel that pops into my head, for the tragic love story between a white man and an aboriginal woman. Two tragedies: two novels to break your heart.