Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation: From Atonement to Mrs. Osmond

Have you seen the Six Degrees of Separation meme? It's hosted by Kate @Books Are My Favourite and Best and has been around for a while. I frequently read the posts, but have never played along... until now.

Kate explains how #6degrees works:
On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. 
Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.
Simply put, "Start at the same place as other wonderful readers, add six books, and see where you end up!"

I like to think of this as a bookish free association exercise!



We begin with Atonement by Ian McEwan. I read this with an online book group many years ago (anyone remember Yahoo's Book Group List?) This is the book that introduced me to Ian McEwan, an author people seem to either love or hate. I've gone on to read quite a few of his novels and, although Atonement was not one of my favorites, I identify with the "love him" group.




This reminds me of another "gateway" book...  Wish You Were here by Stewart O'Nan. One year after the death of her husband, Emily Maxwell gathers her family on Lake Chautauqua in western New York for what will be a last vacation at their summer cottage. I remember reading this book over a rainy Labor Day weekend and enjoying it immensely. I went on to read several other novels by O'Nan including...



Emily, Alone which further chronicles the life of Emily Maxwell. It was a favorite the year I read it (2011) and I recall thinking how unusual and refreshing it was to read a book with an older female protagonist.




Since that time, it seems there have been more and more books featuring women "of a certain age." A few months ago I read  Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes. Three American women in the midst of upheavals in the personal lives bond and decide to rent a house in Italy for a year. The year, of course, is transforming. The book is positively sumptuous... the Italian countryside, the food, the art. It was the next best thing to being there!




Another book that transported me to Italy was The Enchanted April by Elizabeth van Arnim. This time a group of English women rent a castle in Portofino for a month. I remember it being dreary and cold here, but the book was like my own Italian vacation. Originally published in 1922, it is one of my favorite classic novels.




I do enjoy classics and am currently working on my second list for The Classics Club. The last one I read was The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. A favorite nearly twenty years ago, James seemed a little more long-winded this time around. (Perhaps I'm growing impatient with age?) The audio version, narrated by Juliet Stevenson, helped pull me through.




I reread James because I wanted the story fresh in my mind before tackling Mrs. Ormond by John Banville.  In this novel, a sequel of sorts to The Portrait of a Lady, Banville takes on a Jamesian tone as he imagines Isabel Archer's life after her marriage to Gilbert Osmond. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but honestly don't know why anyone unfamiliar with James' novel would want to read it!


So there you have it... my first #6degrees from Atonement by Ian McEwan to Mrs. Osmond by John Banville. Have you read any of these books?

Click over to Kate's post for links to more #6degrees.


24 comments:

  1. JoAnn - you did very well here and enjoyed this a lot! And I remember the Yahoo Book Group List or I think I do. It was a group, right and we commented on the books? I think I participated in the late '90's, early '00's. The only one of the books you listed that I've read is Portrait of a Lady and I didn't like it. Actually, the only James book I do like is the ghost story, The Turn of the Screw. I did desire to read Wish You Were Here at one point and kind of forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me!

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    1. Thanks, Kay... this was fun. I'll probably try it again next month. The Book Group List on Yahoo read 2 books per month and used to be avery active group. I participated in the early 00's before starting my blog. I think I've read The Turn of the Screw two or three times and always seem to have a different idea about that actually happened.

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  2. My book club is reading Women in Sunlight this month so I'm glad to see you enjoyed the book. I think I'll actually be able to attend this month.

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    1. Kathy - Women in Sunlight was almost as good as taking a vacation... the audio version was especially good. My book club was going to read it for July, but there weren't enough copies in our library system. It's very popular this summer!

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  3. Wait, Juliet Stevenson narrated an Portrait of a Lady? I might actually try Henry James again -- I would listen to her reading a grocery list (she also narrated five of Jane Austen's works. Which are all wonderful, naturally)

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    1. Karen K. - YES!!! And she is wonderful... as always.I became very impatient with Henry James while reading, but it was a pleasure to listen to Juliet Stevenson.

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  4. Interesting concept, you did a great job!

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    1. Thanks, Vicki... this was a lot of fun :)

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  5. I've been meaning to join in this meme for ages, and this week is my week! I've not written it yet but have jotted down the titles - and amused that we both found our way to The Enchanted April :)

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    1. Simon - That's so funny. Can't wait to see how you arrived at The Enchanted April!

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  6. i loved Women In Sunlight...And I’ve read some Stewart O’Nan books, too. I don’t think I could connect books the way you did!

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    1. Patty - I wanted to live in Women in Sunlight... it was wonderful! I haven't read any Stewart O'Nan in 2 or 3 years. Might be time to get back to him.

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  7. I've loved the Stewart O'Nan's I've read, but haven't read these two. (mentally adds to list).

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    1. Annabel - Another O'Nan favorite is Last Night at the Lobster. I'll have to see if he has anything new on the way...

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  8. Welcome to your first #6degrees JoAnn!

    I really must reread The Enchanted April one day. Not so sure if I want to reread A Portrait of a Lady though - once was enough there I think. Even though I have enjoyed many of James' books over the years, I prefer Edith Wharton.

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    1. Brona - It's surprising how much more effort Portrait of a Lady required this time. I prefer Wharton, too!

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  9. Superb chain featuring some of my favourites :-) (Enchanted April and Portrait of a Lady). Hadn't heard of Emily Alone of Women in Sunlight but both sound like books I'd like. Have been meaning to read the Banville for ages... thanks for the reminder! (Although perhaps a reread of Portrait first??).

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    1. Kate - I consider The Enchanted April and Portrait of a Lady favorites, too! Think I appreciated Mrs. Osmond more having the story fresh in my mind, too.

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  10. Atonement is my favorite of all the McEwan books I've read. I know a lot of readers hated it, but it's on my lifetime favorites' list and one that I plan to read again in the not too distant future. I sure hope it lives up to the memory I have of it!

    Emily, Alone is another favorite, which Nan recommended and one that I hope to read again soon.

    I gave up on Women in Sunlight (on audio), but will give it another chance in print. I've been in a bit of an audiobook slump and couldn't get interested in the story, but I have a feeling it's a winner. I just need to be in the right mood for it, I suppose.

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    1. Les - I liked Atonement, and have kept the hardcover on my shelf all these years with plans of rereading. After having read so many other McEwan novels, I have a feeling I'd appreciate it even more.

      Emily, Alone was a favorite the year I read it... and I remember relying on Nan's recommendation, too.

      My mother recently gave up on Women in Sunlight in print. I remember it took a little while for me to get into it, but I ended up loving it (especially the audio version)... maybe it's not the right book for you right now.

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  11. Great links! The Portrait of a Lady is on my classics club list too, and I want to pick up Mrs. Osmond once I've read it.

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    1. Jessie - The Portrait of a Lady and Mrs. Osmond make great companion reads. At times I thought Banville's writing in the Jamesian style was even better than James himself!

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  12. Interestingly, Atonement was the only McEwan book I've actually enjoyed. I almost threw On Chesil Beach out of the car window. Clearly I'm not in the love him category!

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    1. Lisa - Seems like there isn't much middle ground when it comes to McEwan. He's been a little uneven for me, but I'm willing to try anything he writes.

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