This month’s 6 Degrees sees me forced to shamefully admit, for the first time since joining in with this feature, that I haven’t read the starter book. I actually hadn’t even heard of it when Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best, the host of 6 Degrees, mentioned it last month. I am a bad reader.
Anyway, as Amazon tells me, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is about a man slapping someone else’s child at a barbecue, so my first link is to another book which features an early act of violence: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, in which the first chapter sees Jane’s horrible cousin, John, throw a book at her head.
Jane Eyre famously includes ‘the madwoman in the attic,’ Bertha Mason, and my second link is attic-based. Colson Whitehead‘s excellent The Underground Railroad shows Cora, one of its slavery-escapees, hiding in an attic in a safe-house as she ponders her next move.
Whitehead reimagines the underground railroad as a literal railway, so trains take me to my next link: Mischling by Affinity Konar. This was the first book I read in 2017 and I don’t think I’ve read a more traumatic one since; it’s the story of twin sisters taken to a Nazi concentration camp and subjected to awful experiments as well as separation. It’s a brilliant book, but a deeply upsetting one.
The theme of sisters takes me to my next link, in which there are multiple sister relationships across a selection of short stories. In Difficult Women, Roxane Gay repeatedly shows the strength of the bond between sisters, from shared traumas to magical realism. It’s a brilliant collection.
One story in Difficult Women, Requiem for a Glass Heart, is another magical realism narrative, in which a man describes his relationship with a woman who is made of glass. It reminded me of a very peculiar novel I read a few years ago, called The Girl with the Glass Feet, by Ali Shaw, in which a woman slowly turns into glass. I can’t remember too much about it, but I know I enjoyed its weirdness.
Ali Shaw also wrote The Trees, a 2016 novel in which Britain is suddenly overwhelmed by trees sprouting through houses, roads and every aspect of civilisation. It was very odd. Trees take me to my last link, which is Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, in which the eponymous character “speaks for the trees,” disputing the Once-ler’s right to destroy the forest to make thneeds. I love this book; the part with the note that says “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not” is something I think of often. It’s my joint favourite Seuss (with Oh! The Places You’ll Go, obviously).
So that’s my 6 Degrees for May. Have you read any of these books? If you’ve joined in with 6 Degrees, please leave your link in the comments.