Six Degrees of Separation – From Tsiolkas to…

Chain links…

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best. The idea is to start with the book that Kate gives us and then create a chain of six books, each suggested by the one before…

This month’s starting book is The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I haven’t read it but the blurb tells me…

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.
This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the slap.

I know a lot of people liked this one but I have to admit I think it sounds dreadful and it’s one of those fairly rare books that has an almost equal number of 1-stars and 5-stars on Goodreads, so I won’t ever be reading it. Of course, that started me looking for other books I’ve read that have as many 1s as 5s on Goodreads, which led me to…

Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma – a hideous abomination based on the Austen classic. Unsurprisingly I gave it 1 star, but only because Goodreads doesn’t have a Yeuch! rating. From my review…

Should I mention the nude Harriet scene and the lesbian overtones? Nope, can’t bring myself to. But Mr Elton does provide an opportunity for McCall Smith to make what is clearly his favourite joke, that he drives a BMW Something-Something. I say favourite joke, because he repeats it an amazing nine times. Mind you, he repeats the joke about the English language students asking the way to the railway station an astonishing 22 times…

This was part of the Austen Project. I struggled through three of them before deciding that book burning is indeed sometimes justified. Here’s another, also 1-star…

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope – the book that introduced me to the word “amazeballs” and the idea of Willoughby being a “shagbandit”…

‘One hundred parties in the last year!’ Mrs Jennings said. ‘Incredible. That’s one party every three nights that wouldn’t have happened without him!’
‘Too silly,’ Lucy said, looking straight at Elinor. ‘Brainless. My poor Ed must be cringing.’
‘Amaze,’ Nancy said from the sofa. ‘Amazeballs.’
Elinor took a step back.
‘Well, I suppose it’s good to be good at something.’

Ugh! Well, after that detour into the horrific depths of faux literature, how about a little real Austen? The one I re-read most recently was…

Persuasion by Jane Austen. Ah, what bliss to return to the fine storytelling, beautiful language and gentle wit of the wonderful Jane!

Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn – that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness – that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.

Of course, I can’t possibly think of Ms Austen without also thinking of Mr Darcy, with whom I’ve always wanted to dance the cotillion.

Which reminds me of…

Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. I love Heyer’s Regency romances – they’re my idea of literary chicken soup, to be guzzled whenever the world seems grey. This one is my favourite by miles – I must have read it twenty times at least and suddenly have an urgent desire to read it again. The Hon Freddy Standen is like a cross between two of my favourite men – Darcy and Bertie Wooster…

‘You think I’ve got brains?’ he said, awed. ‘Not confusing me with Charlie?’
‘Charlie?’ uttered Miss Charing contemptuously. ‘I daresay he has book-learning, but you have—you have address, Freddy!’
‘Well, by Jove!’ said Mr Standen, dazzled by this new vision of himself.

Talking of Bertie Wooster reminds me of

…the wonderful Right Ho, Jeeves, in which Tuppy Glossop must decide between his little Angela or Anatole’s steak pie. Here Tuppy recounts a conversation between the aforesaid Angela and her mother, Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia…

“You’ve no idea,” she said, “how Mr Glossop loves food. He just lives for it. He always eats six or seven meals a day and then starts in again after bedtime. I think it’s rather wonderful.” Your aunt seemed interested, and said it reminded her of a boa constrictor. Angela said, didn’t she mean a python? And then they argued as to which of the two it was…And the pie lying there on the table, and me unable to touch it. You begin to understand why I said I had been through hell.

I frequently call my little cat Tuppy, although her formal name is Tuppence. She and her brother, Tommy, are called after Agatha Christie’s less well-known detective duo, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. (Therefore those in the know will be aware that Tuppence’s super-formal name, the one I use when she’s been really naughty, is Prudence…)

So that reminded me of…

Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie. This is the collection of short stories which follows after The Secret Adversary, the full length novel in which Tommy and Tuppence are first introduced. They appear again in three later novels and, unlike Christie’s other ‘tecs, Tommy and Tuppence age in real time, so that they go from being youngsters on their first appearance to being fairly elderly in their last outing. It’s their devotion to each other and the wit of their dialogue that make the books such a pleasure to read. Here, Tuppence is complaining that she’s discovering that a comfortable life can be somewhat boring…

“Shall I neglect you a little?” suggested Tommy. “Take other women about to night clubs. That sort of thing.”
“Useless,” said Tuppence. “You would only meet me there with other men. And I should know perfectly well that you didn’t care for the other women, whereas you would never be quite sure that I didn’t care for the other men. Women are so much more thorough.”
“It’s only in modesty that men score top marks,” murmured her husband.

James Warwick and the delightful Francesca Annis as Tommy and Tuppence in the ITV adaptation

 * * * * *

So Tsiolkas to Christie, via 1-star reviews, the Austen Project,
Jane Austen, Darcy, Bertie Wooster and my cat’s nickname!

Hope you enjoyed the journey. 😀

76 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Tsiolkas to…

  1. Yuck, those Jane Austen modernisations sound absolutely horrid! While Georgette Heyer is the perfect lighter side of Austen, I agree. I can imagine your cat slinking off with a guilty look when you address her as ‘Prrrru-dence!’ in a forbidding tone, bless her little paws.

    • They really were! The third one I read was Val McDermid’s Northanger Abbey and it was quite fun, though, probably because the original is lighter anyway. Haha! I fear little Prudence seems to have been born without the guilt gene – she merely whisks her tail superciliously and turns her back on me in a marked manner…

  2. Ohh finally someone else who loves Tommy & Tuppence as much as me!! They are my very favourite Christie’s (I also like the stand-alone books that have no particular detective at work) at least, they were. I haven’t reread any Christie books since my 20’s….

    Wow, you made it through 3 of those Austen abominations! You are one brave, persistent & forgiving woman!

    One of best bookish friends is also a Georgette Heyer fan and has been trying to convince me for years about their power as a comfort read. Now I have your literary chicken soup tag, just when I’m recovering from a nasty cold…

    Great #6degree chain 🙂

    • I adore Tommy and Tuppence! Oh, I need to re-read at least a couple of Agatha Christie’s every year or I get withdrawal symptoms. These days I’m listening to a lot of them on audiobooks and enjoying all the different narrators who’ve done them.

      Hahaha! I know! I’m a book martyr! The third one I read was Val McDermid’s Northanger Abbey and it was actually quite fun, though – maybe because the original is so much lighter anyway. But I couldn’t bear the though of P&P…

      Definitely Heyer as a cold treatment! As soon as I start sniffling, I start thinking about which one I should take to bed with me. Hot chocolate, hot water bottle and a Georgette Heyer – so much better than paracetemol… 😉

  3. Haha this is brilliant! The Austen parodies/whatever sound hideous. If a writer is going to pinch characters and stories from another writer, they should at least make damn sure their version is of a similar quality to the original. These strike me as lazy and unfunny to everyone but the writer, who no doubt thinks they are comic geniuses. I am actually quite angry about it. So it’s good news you soon wandered into far happier territory! Of course, you know my love for Christie and Wodehouse so I won’t bang on about it. The best bit is surely the gorgeous picture of little Tuppence! I can’t believe she is ever so naughty that you have to use her full name… 😉

    • The Austen Project was as bad as Ms Hannah’s Poirot – no, worse!! I really didn’t think anything could be worse than Trollope’s S&S till I read McCall Smith’s Emma. The perfect definition of travesty!

      Haha! I nearly captioned that sweet little picture to say “She’s not sleeping, she’s scheming!” It’s only her cuteness that allows her to get away with being so mean… 😉

      • The ‘classics’ should be left well alone, I reckon. It just isn’t big or clever to butcher such fine literary works. Such people should be spanked until their bottom turns purple!
        Well, she is very cute so perhaps that is nature’s way of ensuring that dastardly schemes get hatched!

        • When I rule the world (soon, I expect, the way things are going) there will be a law against it! Haha! Then nature has done her work well! Though she’s gradually getting sweeter as she ages – not enough energy to torture me these days… 😉

          • I think we could do a lot worse than having you rule the world, quite frankly. Lorne sausage for all! I have to say, I know how she feels – I feel about 100 today and barely have the energy to torture anyone… 😉

            • If it comes down to a choice of me, Jezza or Comrade Trump, I reckon I’d be brilliant! And then I could go for ‘summits’ with Macron and Trudeau…

              Hahaha! I’ve found recently that the cats and I seem to be competing to see who can nap most…

            • I’d vote for you!! I’d like to put myself forward as a special adviser to those summits… world politics has suddenly become much more pleasing to the eye… 😉
              Napping is the best 🙂 If I can fall asleep on the sofa in the middle of the day whilst watching Sharpe, I consider it a triumphant day! 😀

            • Haha! Of course! You can be Special Adviser on Parties and Wine. It’s tragic to think that when I was a young’un, I had a kind of thing about young M. Trudeau’s dad… 😉

  4. I can tell you right now, FictionFan, that you’ve just spared me reading those Austen stories (except, of course, the ones written by Ms. Austen herself!). And the sad thing is, I’m such a fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s other work. Very clever chain, too! Oh, that ‘photo of Tuppence is lovely. She looks so… innocent. 😉

    • Haha! Yes, I don’t think the Austen Project will be putting me on commission! 😉 I know – Joanna Trollope has written some good books too. I don’t know why successful authors allow themselves to be sucked into these things. Ha! She may look innocent but don’t be fooled… who knows what she’s plotting?!

    • Thank you! It’s so much fun to do, and I love reading everyone else’s chains too – we all head off in such different directions! Ha – don’t be fooled! Beneath that sweet little exterior lurks a wicked little mind… 😉

  5. None of the Austen Project books interested me. And The Slap’s description was enough to make me want to avoid it. So glad to see your thoughts turn toward Persuasion–my favorite of Jane Austen’s books. 🙂

    How nice to see Tuppence. 🙂 I always think of Partners in Crime when you talk about your cats.

    • I can never resist these reworkings even though they’re nearly always awful, but these two must be the worst ever! The Slap sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? I love Persuasion, but of course I love P&P more. Captain Wentworth could never compete with my Darcy… 😉

      She looks so sweet there… just proves the camera can lie after all!

  6. The only Austen Project book I’ve read is Val McDermid’s which had its faults and failed to convince me to try any more – thank goodness, because reading your comments they sound so dire. Good to see Agatha Christie, although the last Tommy & Tuppence is not up to the earlier books, which I loved. I’ve only read a few of Georgette Heyer’s books and it is one of her non-Regency books, Detection Unlimited that appealed to me. I must try Cotillion soon!

    • You’re very wise because, believe me, the Val McDermid was a literary great in comparison to these two! 😉 I always wish Agatha Christie had stopped writing ten years or so before she did, because her later books are so much weaker than the rest. But I do love By the Pricking of My Thumbs – one of the creepiest of her books, I think. Cotillion is great fun – there’s nothing to it really, but so enjoyable anyway. I’ve only read one of her detective novels, many years ago – I keep meaning to read more…

  7. I’ve never thought to look to see how evenly balanced the star ratings are at Goodreads. I’m going to have to go check that! But I completely agree….we need a Yeuch! rating!

    • I only ever notice if I’m posting a one-star review – usually because I’m so amazed that other people have liked it! But definitely some books don’t even deserve that one-star… 😉

  8. I tried reading The Slap when it first came out, and I thought it was awful. I didn’t get very far, so maybe it gets better… but I doubt it.
    I’ve never done one of these before, but it’s fun to see the completely different paths everyone ends up on!

    • Haha! I spent a while reading the 1-star reviews when I was doing this post, and I very much doubt that it gets better too! I love doing this post – I never have a clue where I’m going till I get there, and then everyone else goes somewhere different entirely. Go on… 😉

  9. I’d rather get The Slap upside the head than read any of those first three choices! I’m amazeballs that stuff gets published! Tuppence looks delightfully content, but where is her partner in crime, Tommy? Maybe I’ll give Cotillion a try…

    • Hahaha! I don’t seem to have sold the Austen Project books too well… but honestly there should be a special level of hell for authors who say amazeballs! Tommy got a mention a couple of weeks ago and Tuppence has been in the huff ever since, so I had to redress the balance. ‘Cos depsite appearances, she’s not sweet! Ooh, I wonder what you’d think of it… 😀

  10. Welcome back and with such an entertaining post too! I didn’t read The Slap either as everyone was discussing it (even non-bookish people) and so I got the gist. I remember that Joanne Trollope review 😊 although I didn’t have you down as a Georgette Heyer fan so I’ve learnt something new!

    • Thank you! It’s not so much the blurb of The Slap that put me off as the 1-star reviews – though I did get a good laugh reading some of them! Haha! I really need to read more terrible books! Yeah, the Georgette Heyer thing doesn’t do much for my street cred, does it? 😉

  11. Heyer, Christie, Wodehouse – who needs the rest. I’ve spent the weekend on rereads to recover from the local elections and gird my loins for the general – good news from France though!

    • I suspect our loins will need to be pretty well girded this time around! Yes, hopefully Macron is a sign the tide is turning a little towards semi-sanity… but we’ll see!

  12. Well I never had the REMOTEST desire to read any of the clearly marketing idea Austen ‘reworks’ – but I suddenly realised WHY you subjected yourself to the misery of reading something bound to be dreadful – it was purely to give yourself an excuse for a Colin Firth picture. You have been rumbled, I saw the picture coming from the mention of the first pastiche, and wondered how long it would take to arrive………Wodehouse is always sheer joy, and real Austen too, I can leave the rest……..but would be most tempted (even with Wodehouse and Austen) by Tuppence – though the slightly opened eyeslits do make me thing she might be planning some kind of wicked subversion

    • Hahaha! You know me too well! But you don’t realise just how hard I have to work sometimes to find a way to sneak my Darcy in… I’m going for the Nobel Prize for Gratuitous Darcy Pics. I think I’m in with a good chance…

      I’m Wodehousing at the moment – genius! You noticed that too? Yes, she’s definitely scheming… and sadly it was me the eye was glinting at… *gulps*

    • D’you know, I hardly watch any TV these days – just can’t find the concentration for it somehow. And yet I used to be an addict! I blame the TBR…

  13. A word like “amazeballs” should never be connected in any which way with Jane Austen! I tried to do this meme this time, but I got stuck in the Netherlands during WWII and couldn’t dug my way out. Maybe next month…

  14. The Slap isn’t a book I’ve read either. However, I did call my childhood cats Tommy and Tuppence for the very same reason.

  15. Oh, I DID enjoy the journey, very much! Love to see your sweet kitty Tuppy!

    Now I’ve got to add Cotillion to my TBR – drat, Fiction Fan, you’ve gotten me again! Anything you’ve read 20 times I’ve got to add.

    • Thank you – gald you enjoyed it! 😀 Haha! Never be fooled by that sweet face – the glinting eye lets you know she’s plotting… 😉

      Ooh, I wonder what you’ll think of it, if you get a chance to read it! It’s the kind of thing that simply entertains without your brain having to do any work at all…

  16. I will put in a good word for The Slap. It’s a fascinating novel, the slap was not child abuse, and the boy is a little terror, but it does ricochet among a group of friends. Each chapter is in a voice of a character that witnessed it. A microcosm of Australian society. Very good, a page turner. I would give it 4 stars, but definitely not 1.😊

    • Hurrah! I was thinking I might have scared off all the people who enjoyed The Slap! Yeah, clearly lots of people thought it was excellent, but it just doesn’t sound like my kind of thing. Sometimes blurbs appeal, sometimes they don’t… 🙂

  17. I’ve read all of these! I actually enjoyed The Slap and thought it represented modern life in Melbourne well. I agree that The Austen Project was a bad idea, love Georgette Heyer, PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie, and Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel. Topping this off with you and Darcy dancing is just gorgeous, couldn’t have enjoyed this post more 🙂

    • Even the Austen Project ones?!? Tell me you didn’t read the P&P one!!! Yes, I thought I remembered you recommending The Slap, but when I started reading the reviews I realised – not for me. Maybe because I think all kids would be improved by a good slap on a regular basis, until they reach about 25… 😉

      Ah, yes, I enjoyed my dance with Darcy – glad you recognised me! And glad you enjoyed the post! 😀

      • ***hangs head in shame… I think I did read P&P. I was so excited when this series was announced, and so disappointed with the results.
        Not politically correct to say so, but I don’t think a smack ever did much harm to a naughty child.

        • I’m amazed you survived! I must admit I nearly always end up so disappointed with this kind of retelling – I don’t know why I still read them…

          Ha! Couldn’t agree more. As usual, because some parents are cruel to their kids, they overreact and ban something completely. My parents smacked me (I know, it’s hard to believe I could ever have been naughty…) and I don’t feel I was traumatised by it…

          • Exactly! I was smacked and grew into a fine, upstanding member of society.
            I keep saying I won’t read any more Jane Austen fan fiction, but I always succumb, hoping that something will give me a little bit more of her writing… False hope.

            • We should sneak out in the evenings and slap any kids we can find. For their own benefit, of course… 😉

              Yes, that’s why I read Holmes pastiches, but they’re never the same, even the best of them…

  18. Mr. Darby, the cotillion, Dame Agatha, Tommy and Tuppence — soo much to like around here today, FF! (Sorry I’m late, but I didn’t even turn on my computer yesterday!!) Hope you had a lovely break!

  19. Those Austen-adaptations sound appalling! Dare I say sacrilege to the memory of Jane Austen. I once read the first few pages of the Pride and Prejudice from the Austen Project, but could not get past it. But at least it does one make appreciate Austen all the more!

    • They truly were – there should be a law against it! Ugh – I couldn’t bring myself to read the P&P one at all – nobody messes with my Darcy! 😉

  20. I haven’t read the McCall-Smith adaptation, but I know it was part of a bring-Austen-to-the-unwashed-young-masses project by having a number of authors do adaptations. So, I assume the point of each was not sublime writing but plot rehashing (and maybe a way to cheat an Austen book report by reading this sort of Cliff Notes version instead). I’ve yet to read an Austen retelling or extension that I thought was worth it, really. She pretty much stands alone in her class. But good to know about your favorite Heyer. I’ve been wanting to read any of her books but there’s so many- I don’t know which is the shining jewel to start with.

    • The main problem (apart from the use of words like ‘shagbandit’) is that Austen’s plots are so firmly fixed in the society of her own time that to try to modernise them doesn’t work. I wished they’d used them as a springboard to look at the different problems women face in today’s world, but sadly not. Heyer has many good ones and lots of people probably prefer others where the emphasis is more on the romance, but I love this one because the humour is the most important element… 😀

  21. Great journey – from the abominable to the sublime! Amazeballs – yuck, yuck yuck. You can’t improve on perfection – why would there even be an Austen project?? I’ll be going nowhere near. I’m glad you persevered with them though, as you know, I like it when you’re angry 😀

    • Hahaha! Thank you! Yeah, I don’t know why they do these things – money, I suppose! But I’m always glad to sacrifice my own pleasure for the happiness of others… 😉

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