Six Degrees of Separation – from Wild Swans to A Room With a View

It’s time for #6degrees. Join in and thrill us with your clever links!

This month the chain begins with Wild Swans by Jung Chang.  I go through reading binges and Wild Swans was part of an extended ‘China’ phase.

After my China phase, I moved to the Middle East and of the books I read, Khaled Hosseini’s wonderful A Thousand Splendid Suns was the most memorable.

My Middle Eastern phase came to an end with a book group selection, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. I loathed it and in fact never finished it (notable because I almost ALWAYS finish books).

Another book group selection that I never finished was This Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt. It was so full of itself and I only made it a quarter of the way through before giving up.

By rights, This Blazing World should have appeared on my art-lit list. Oh well. One that did make the list was Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.

Instead of reviewing Tell the Wolves, I did a literary mixtape. Same for Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Enchanted April.

The Enchanted April is a story about British women holidaying in Italy, as is E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View (one of my favourite books and my all-time favourite movie).

From China and the Middle East to art, music and ladies on the Continent, that’s #6degrees for another month. I wonder where other chains will lead? Link up below (or add your link in the Comments section).

Next month (October 7, 2017), we’ll begin with a book that people may not have discovered, were it not for the hugely popular movie version – Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.

40 responses

  1. I hated Reading Lolita in Tehran too though I did finish it. The problem I had was that it couldn’t seem to make up its mind whether to be a book of lit criticism or about the female experience in Tehran. So ended up being neither. I also failed to get into This Blazing World

    • I totally agree about the faults of Reading Lolita. If I hadn’t read a bunch of similar (better) books at the time, I probably would have pushed through to the end but as it was, I distinctly recall saying to my book group “I’m done with the Middle East” (which, out of context sounds TERRIBLE!).

  2. I actually remember really liking Reading Lolita in Tehran. My husband was deployed in Iraq at the time and it helped inform me about the culture of the middle east. Awful, actually, how repressive it was (is) for women. I’ll put together a 6-degrees list but give me a few hours. I have to think.

    • I rarely abandon books but I think, having read it after Splendid Suns and the Kite Runner and a bunch of others, it somehow didn’t measure up. I imagine you would have read through a very different lens given the circumstances for you at the time.
      I’ll look forward to your chain 🙂

  3. LOL we must be twins separated at birth, I loathed Reading Lolita too and I think it only got published because of its political agenda, so dull, so pretentious!
    And Siri Hustvedt, yes me too. What was the name of that over-hyped nonsense that everybody read and pretended to like?
    Will be back with the link to my #6Degrees if I can find the time to do it. Things are a bit frantic chez moi!

    • I do remember thinking that the author of Reading Lolita started her reading project with the aim of writing a book. Of course, we’ll never know that but there was something about it that seemed contrived. Anyway, given that I didn’t finish it, I’m in no position to judge!
      Now the Hustvedt nonsense you speak of is I think the book of hers that I enjoyed 😀 What I Loved – also an art-lit book like Blazing World but far more consumable. I also read her novel, My Summer Without Men (??) which was interesting but again, there were bits about philosophy and poetry that just sounded like Hustvedt was either lecturing or showing off.

      Hope your weekend settles down to a slower pace 🙂

      • I’ve only read one Siri & it was What I Loved & I loved it. I can see how people might have problems with it though – I was in the mood for a New York story about art & loss thanks to the other books I read around the same time.

  4. I saw your 6 Degrees image and thought that Reading Lolita in Tehran was a book I should add to my reading list, especially as I have a growing number of friends from Iran … not so sure now! Do you have any books about Iran or Iraq that you would recommend?

  5. Any chain that finishes with A Room With a View is fine by me 😊

    I read A Thousand Splendid Suns on a holiday in Bali a few years ago – although it’s not the one I used for my Bali link this month.

    I regularly abandon books now – life’s too short (& there are too many other choices) to read a book you’re not enjoying.

    I loved the movie Like Water For Chocolate – can’t wait for Oct!!

  6. I think A Thousand Splendid Suns is one of the most memorable books I’ve read too. It’s a shame about This Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt as It’s sitting on my TBR shelves (actually it’s been there quite a while now as I’ve not been tempted to read it since I bought it) and I was hoping I’d like it as much as I did What I Loved.

    Am I alone in not having heard about Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate before?

    • Like Water for Chocolate movie was released in the early 90s I think. The movie was gorgeous – it’s a story about food (and Mexico) so everything about it was lush. The book has an interesting structure, the story told in vignettes if I remember correctly, and includes recipes. One in particular has stuck with me (a wedding cake that includes in the ingredients tears!).

    • There were a few in my book group who thought I was way too hard on Lolita but it didn’t feel genuine to me – other books I read at the same time were fictional but felt more emotionally legitimate (I know, big call from little old me sitting in Melbourne!).

  7. Although I love her husband Paul Auster’s books, I do feel a bit intimidated by Siri Hustvedt – I keep buying her books, but they stay on the shelf at the moment. I shall investigate your Art Lit link too.

    • Honestly, I find her work uneven. What I Loved was very ‘readable’ (almost a beach read if I recall – I was certainly engrossed). Blazing World was so pretentious it was mind-numbing and Summer Without Men (?) had flashes of pretentiousness but enough of a plot that I pushed through. I reckon start with What I Loved and if you get no further, you won’t have missed much!

  8. Here’s my link Kate …

    And, I have read Like water for chocolate, but I don’t have my copy anymore because I lent it to my boss at the time, and never got it back! I lent her another book, years before that when I was her boss (I went overseas, had kids, went to part-time work while she just kept on working). I never got it back too. I learnt my lesson after the second one!

    • Argh! The book ‘borrower’ who never returns books. I have had a similar experience – too bad that these experiences change your book habits – I only lend books to a very small group of people (who I know will return them) and then beyond that, the only books I lend out are ones I don’t want back (so I usually say to the person to just pass it on).

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  10. I have not read Enchanted April, but it is on my list, since I loved her book “Elisabeth and Her German Garden”. I loved the film “A Room With a View” but have not yet read the book. Forster was actually working as a tutor to the children of Elisabeth von Arnhim at some point.

  11. This post made me realise that I’ve never seen Room with a View, nor read the book. Scandalous. I quite liked This Blazing World although I can see how it might seem pretentious. I like What I Loved better. Glad to see the meme is still going strong.

    • Yes thanks, meme still going strong!

      You really must read and see Room with a View – unquestionably my favourite movie, partly because it is PERFECTLY cast. Every single character is perfect.

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  13. I was away on a writing retreat and without internet, so I’m taking part in this a few days late. I loved Wild Swans when I read it as a teenager, so I felt I had to take part. I love both Enchanted April and A Room with a View – such life-affirming books!

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