Six degrees of separation

Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘The Snow Child’ to ‘Border Districts: A Fiction’

Six degrees of separation logo for memeI missed November’s Six Degrees of Separation but have remembered to do it this time around thanks to a calendar reminder! Honestly, where has the year gone?

This monthly meme is hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest. It works like this: Kate suggests a starter book and the idea is to then create a chain of six more books, linking each one as you see fit.

Here are the six books I have chosen for my chain. As ever, click the title to read my full review of each book.

This month the starting book is…

‘The Snow Child’ by Eowyn Ivey (2012)

Partly based on a Russian fairytale, this novel is about a childless couple who build a snowman designed to look like a little girl, which later comes to life but is only ever seen living in the forest in winter. It’s too slight a tale to sustain 400-plus pages, but as a story about heartbreak and hope with a strong fairy-tale element to it, it is a lovely and evocative read.

‘Touch’ by Alexi Zentner (2011)

Another book set in an icy wilderness with a hint of the fairytale about it is Alexi Zentner’s debut novel, which was longlisted for the Giller Prize in 2011. Set in  Canada in the early 20th century, it’s an atmospheric tale ripe with adventure, hardship, tragedy, murder, romance — and a teensy bit of cannibalism. Now you’re intrigued, right?

‘The Girl with Glass Feet’ by Ali Shaw (2009)

Sticking with the fairytale theme, this debut novel is set on a fictional wind-swept island, where strange and unusual events take place. When the central character’s feet turn into glass, she returns to the island to seek a cure. She meets an enigmatic young man, with whom she falls in love, but with the glass slowly taking over her body, it becomes a race against time to find a cure for her condition.

‘The Living Sea of Waking Dreams’ by Richard Flanagan (2020)

Here’s another story about body parts doing weird things. In this novel by Booker Prize-winning novelist Richard Flanagan, people begin to “lose” body parts. At first, it might just be a finger that turns invisible, but later it might become a knee or an entire limb. This is a metaphor for emotional loss (the story is largely about how we deal with aging parents), but it also acts as a metaphor for environmental loss as there is a twin storyline about the hunt for the rare and elusive night parrot, which is on the verge of extinction.

‘The Memory Police’ by Yoko Ogawa (1994)

Lots of things disappear in Yoko Ogawa’s dystopian tale. It’s set on an island, where residents are collectively forced to forget certain objects, including ribbons, roses, maps and calendars as if they never existed. This forgetting is enforced by a mysterious and draconian force called the Memory Police. Those who disobey, or who are unable to forget, are rounded up and “disappeared”.

‘The Wilderness’ by Samantha Harvey (2009)

Forgetting things is at the hub of this deeply affecting and brilliantly structured novel which is about Jake, a 60-something widower, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Through a clever repetition of motifs and family tales, the reader begins to see how Jake’s memories are slowly deteriorating as his disease takes hold. Stories shift and change and turn into something else, blurring the line between what is real and what is not.

Border Districts

‘Border Districts: A Fiction’ by Gerald Murnane (2018)

This novel is labeled “A Fiction” probably because it doesn’t comply with the normal conventions of the literary novel and blurs the line between fiction, non-fiction and reportage. Written stream-of-consciousness style and employing some of the devices of meta-fiction, Border Districts is an “experimental” novel, one that explores memory or, more accurately, the landscape of the mind.

So that’s this month’s #6Degrees: from a fairytale in the snow to an experimental novel that explores memory, via novels that focus on fairytales, loss and forgetting.

Have you read any of these books? 

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

15 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘The Snow Child’ to ‘Border Districts: A Fiction’”

    1. The Snow Child was a book group read back in the day. At the time the book had a huge marketing push behind it and on the whole, while it’s a nice story, it didn’t live up to the hype. The Zentner, however, is brilliant… read it back when I shadowed the Giller so it does remind me of dear old Kevin. (I do miss being able to email him about my career… I got a massive promotion this week and I know he’d be thrilled that this ex-journo has found a great gig outside of the media industry!)

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  1. Interesting list … and I haven’t read any of yours either, but I do have two, the Flanagan and Murnane, and I have given the Ogawa as a gift (and would love to read it myself too).

    Fascinating similarity in colour in the covers of The snow child and The girl with glass feet.

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    1. Thanks, Davida. It can be hard to connect books and I reckon I’ve included the Flanagan and Ogawa in numerous chains even though I always try to include books I’ve not included before.

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