Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘The Bass Rock’ to ‘Breath’

Six degrees of separation logo for memeI honestly can’t believe it is June already. I know it’s a cliché to say it, but where does the time go?

Anyway, it’s the first Saturday of the month, which means it’s time to participate in Six Degrees of Separation (check out Kate’s blog to find out the “rules” and how to participate).

This month, the starting book is…

The Bass Rock’ by Evie Wyld (2020)
I haven’t read this novel, which won this year’s Stella Prize, though it has been lingering in my digital TBR for quite some time. I know that an element of it is historical fiction set in Scotland, which brings to mind another book with a similar background…

Elemental by Amanda Curtin

‘Elemental’ by Amanda Curtin (2016)
In this richly evocative novel by Western Australian writer Amanda Curtin, we meet Meggie Tulloch, a woman born in the late 19th century to a traditional fishing family on the north-east coast of Scotland. Spanning 1891 to 1932, Maggie shares her life story, including her time as a “herring girl” and her later marriage and emigration to the other side of the world. This brings to mind…

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

‘The Other Side of the World’ by Stephanie Bishop (2015)
This is a deeply melancholy novel about emigration, marriage and motherhood. It tells the story of an English woman who, together with her Anglo-Indian husband and two young children, becomes a “£10 POM” and emigrates in the early 1960s to begin a new life in Western Australia. But things don’t go according to plan and Charlotte struggles with the homesickness and dislocation that every emigrant feels. This brings to mind…

‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín (2009)
One of my favourite novels, Brooklyn captures the emigrant’s sense of dislocation so beautifully it made me cry. Set in the 1950s, it tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irishwoman from Co. Wexford, who leaves behind her mother and devoted older sister, Rose, to immigrate to Brooklyn, USA, in search of a better life. This brings to mind…

‘Road Ends’ by Mary Lawson (2014)
Set in Canada in the 1960s, this book charts the slow disintegration of a large, dysfunctional family when the eldest daughter decides to leave home to pursue her dream of living abroad. There are three different threads to the tale, but the most evocative one (in my opinion) is that of Megan Cartwright, who moves to London and finds her dream job (after many ups and downs) running a small boutique hotel. This brings to mind…

‘Hotel Iris’ by Yoko Ogawa (2011)
In this strangely beautiful Japanese novel, we meet 17-year-old Mari, who helps run a hotel on the coast with her overbearing mother. Late one evening two hotel guests, a screaming woman and her male companion, are ejected from the premises. Later, Mari, who is alarmingly young and naive, strikes up a friendship with the man — more than 50 years her senior — that morphs into a rather deviant sexual affair. This brings to mind…

‘Breath’ by Tim Winton (2009)
This gentle, occasionally heart-breaking, story is about a boy growing up on the Western Australian coast in the 1970s. Bruce Pike, better known as “Pikelet”, is a bit of an outsider, but he develops a bond with “Loonie”, the town’s wild child, and everything changes. The pair fall in with an older surfer, Sando, who challenges them to try surfing in often dangerous and remote locations, but it’s the clandestine (and deviant sexual) relationship that Pikelet has with the Sando’s American girlfriend that takes him into deadly territory…

So that’s this month’s #6Degrees: from a story about three generations of women in Scotland to a tale of teenage boys growing up in Western Australia, via four stories about emigration and a Japanese novel focused on a strange romance between an older man and a teenage girl.

Have you read any of these books? 

Please note, you can see all my other Six Degrees of Separation contributions here.

23 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘The Bass Rock’ to ‘Breath’

  1. Great links kimbofo. I have read Breath, and seen Brooklyn. What I love best though is that I’ve heard of all but one of the books/authors. I really want to read Ogawa – wish it could be sooner rather than later. I love that so many of them deal with emigration. I love good writing on that topic. It’s so ripe for good stories.

    I don’t know Mary Lawson at all.

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    • Oh, you must read Ogawa, Sue, I think you’d really like her. I have read four of her books, all reviewed here: https://readingmattersblog.com/category/author/yoko-ogawa/

      Mary Lawson is a critically acclaimed Canadian writer, in same vein as Anne Tyler, and this particular book is part of a trilogy. I keep meaning to read the other ones, but she’s difficult to track down on this side of the world unless you place a special order.

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      • I’m sure I would kimbofo. She’s been on my radar forever! Thanks so much for telling me about Mary Lawson. I’m clearly woefully behind in my knowledge of Canadian writers.

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          • Ah, of course, those sorts of experience are great for introducing you to different writers aren’t they. I loved my year on the Man Asian shadow prize though I only did it once because I couldn’t keep up.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely to see Elemental listed here, I really really loved that book and still feel shivery thinking about those women processing the fish!
    And Brooklyn, yes me too. Strange how the film failed to move me much whereas the book still make me feel melancholy.

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    • Well, you’re the one who introduced me to Elemental, Lisa 🙂

      I’m surprised you didn’t find the film adaptation of Brooklyn moving… I think it’s a rare example of a film being as good as the book. I spent the whole film in tears. Mnd you, that book helped me resolve a few issues I had been grappling with for years and years – ie. that there is no wrong decision about whether to stay or go, only a different decision, if that makes sense. It’s funny how certain books can speak to you like that, almost as if they had been written just for you.

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  3. Nice set of links. I’ve read and enjoyed the Toibin (no surprise there!), Winton and Bishop and will add Hotel Iris to my list. At first glance I thought you were linking by book cover – all that sea and sky!

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    • Ah yes, there’s some nice covers in this lot! Hotel Iris was the first Ogawa I’d read – I really like her hypnotic prose and her sometimes dark subject matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello!
    Some of those books sounds pretty interesting! There’s a lot about emigration and trying to find a sense of place in a new location – so there is a little bit of a theme going there.
    Also, a lot of books about Western Australia! I really want to go there but with COVID going on I’m not so sure about going interstate at the moment! (I’m in NSW now)

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    • I like reading novels about emigration having done it myself (to the UK) but even now, having repatriated after two decades living abroad, it’s like emigrating in reverse! I am now based in WA, a state I’ve never lived in before, so everything is new and strange. (I grew up in Victoria, but have lived in Queensland, too.)

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  5. That was a clever link to “other side of the world”. I enjoyed Brooklyn though not as much as Nora Webster. Winton is an Australian author I’ve yet to explore – would this be a good book to begin or is there an even better one you would recommend?

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    • Thanks 😊 I struggled with Nora Webster, but I have always meant to go back and re-read it after I heard him interviewed and confess that Nora was his mother and he was trying to work out why she had abandoned him and his brother when they were younger… Sebastian Barry’s novel Annie Dunne is about something similar — Barry lived with his Aunt as a child and Annie Dunne is supposedly based on that experience. In fact, he is the little boy in the story.

      As for Winton, this is probably a good place to start. I do like his novels but I am a latecomer to his work.

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  6. Nice selection, Kim! I’ve either read or have copies of all of these except the Ogawa. The Bass Rock is one a bit like A Line Made by Walking (I just commented on your review of that) in that I barely remember it despite reading it relatively recently; I enjoyed both Brooklyn and Breath, though Breath isn’t my favourite of Tim Winton’s novels (I’d rank it alongside ones like The Shepherd’s Hut or Dirt Music rather than in the top tier of Cloudstreet, The Riders or The Turning); and of course I love Mary Lawson – I read her new one A Town Like Solace a couple of months ago and it’s another lovely one.

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