Six degrees of separation: from ‘Passages’ to.. a swamp

First Saturday of the Month, so Six Degrees of Separation day again. This meme is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best where she chooses a starting book and then you link six titles to her starting book. You can find further details here. As usual, I hadn’t read the starting book which this month is Gail Sheehy’s Passages (in fact, I had never heard of it). From a quick Google, it seems that it is about the various chronological stages of adult life, and their challenges. Twenties, thirties, forties, fifties….

The idea of stages of life brought to mind Georgia Blain’s Births Deaths Marriages: True Tales. This memoir is crafted as a series of autobiographical essays, many of which had been published in literary journals.

We all move through life, but what if you got stuck, dying over and over? This is the conceit behind Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. I’m a sucker for time-travel books even though they do my head in, and I usually love Kate Atkinson’s work, but I was a bit disappointed in this one.

But what if you didn’t die when you really did? In Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford takes the real-life death of 168 people who died in the New Cross Road branch of Woolworths in November 1944 in a V-2 attack on a Saturday lunchtime, with the shop crowded with shoppers. Fifteen of those 168 were aged under 11. He drops the bomb in the first pages, then jumps forward as if the five children were not killed. In fact, they were not even in the store. Instead, they lived lives untouched by that November 1944 attack.

Or what if you couldn’t die? In Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife Henry travels back and forth through time, and his love for Clare, who would become his wife. The structure is confusing at first, with the chronology jumping back and forward, with Henry at varying ages as Clare plods through her allotted life span as Henry appears, disappears and reappears again. Actually, I didn’t think much of this book, either the first or second time I read it.

The mention of ‘time’ took me to Julia Blackburn’s beautifully written Time Song. It’s about Dogger Bank, the last remnant hint of Doggerland, which existed in the North Sea and English Channel 18,000 years ago, making what we now know as the United Kingdom a contiguous part of Europe. It was submerged by the rising North Sea as part of the climatic changes over time.

The opposite of an island being submerged is a lake being filled in, and this is what has happened with Dave Sornig’s Blue Lake: Finding Dudley Flats and the West Melbourne Swamp. What had been a swamp covered in blue flowers became a wetland and then a windswept no-mans-land which still exists despite the construction of quays and high-rises. It’s an area that seems to resist taming.

So, somehow or other I have gone through the passages of an adult life through to a swamp. I’m sure that has a deeper meaning somewhere.

7 responses to “Six degrees of separation: from ‘Passages’ to.. a swamp

  1. LOL Life as a swamp!

  2. Somehow I found I’d read – and enjoyed – all the earlier books in your chain, until I got to Time Song. This really appeals to me,and I’ll look it out, as well as hunting for the last book in your chain. I really enjoyed this post.

  3. Interesting. I dislike time travel books, but I liked The Time Traveler’s Wife, actually. Wonderful chain!

  4. A little self-help might come in handy in the swamp! I must look out the Blackburn – I enjoyed her novel, The Leper’s Companions, and also her autobiography, disturbing though it is.

  5. I was also disappointed in Life After Life. In fact, although I think I have read them all eagerly her non-mysteries just don’t work for me as much as her Jackson Brodie books.

    I do also like time travel but there is a lot that is not well done.

    Here is my 6 Degrees:

  6. Good links RJ. I particularly like your first one (which I’ve read). I too quite enjoy time-travel books though I don’t seek them out. I did like The time-traveller’s wife. I’ve had Light perpetual recommended to me in the past but it had completely dropped off my radar. It does sound interesting.

  7. Oh your chain is brilliant! I love it. I have never heard of Life Perpetual, but I am very interested now.

    Have a lovely March!

    Elza Reads

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