Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate at Books are My Favourite and Best. The idea, inspired by Frigyes Karinthy’s 1929 short story, Chains, is that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by just six links. Here, we bring the idea into the world of books.
This month we start with Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef. I’ve not read this but know it’s a classic – a cookbook that ‘reads like a biography’ of a person who’s life is shaped and driven by good food. The focus on food draws my mind to a particular scene in a recent read of mine – The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak – where teenage Ada’s Aunt Meryem helps her reconnect to her Cypriot roots through food.
‘Food is the heart of a culture. You don’t know your ancestors’ cuisine, you don’t know who you are.’
A central theme in The Island of Missing Trees is grief, set as it is after the death of Ada’s mother. I link this to Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter – an imaginative novella exploring the aftermath of another mother’s death on the young family she leaves behind.
Both the slightly whimsical elements of this novella (a crow coming to protect and counsel the grieving family) and the imagery of feathers make me think of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton – a whimsical, magical novel about a girl who is born with wings.
I’m linking this to The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, another book that marries fairy-tale elements and child-like wonder with some much darker themes.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is deceptive, in that its child characters and perspectives could imply a lighter read, but in fact I found it as close to the horror genre as I tend to pick up! With that in mind, I link it to iconic scary story, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
The way horror elements in Frankenstein are given such a human flavour and the way the world is so immersive and finely sculpted reminds me very much of the beautifully dark fairy stories in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.
So we started with food, passed by grief, whimsy and horror and finally arrived at subversive and sensual fairy-tale. Somehow seems appropriate for a cosy, cold, dark and somehow magical month. Where did your November chains take you?