Six Degrees of Separation – From Wyld 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 Bass Rock

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. I haven’t read it but the blurb tells me…

Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries watched over the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries the fates of three women are linked: to this place, to each other. Each woman’s choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men in their lives. But in sisterhood there is the hope of survival and new life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, The Bass Rock burns bright with anger and love.

Not for me – I’m tired of misandry dressed up to look like feminism. Throw me out of the sisterhood by all means – I like men, so there!

The Bass Rock is the home of a famous rock lighthouse, which takes me to my first choice…

Seashaken Houses

Seashaken Houses by Tom Nancollas

In this excellent and well written non-fiction, Nancollas shares his enthusiasm for some of the rock lighthouses around the shores of Britain and Ireland. A fascinating subject, brought wonderfully to life.

Bell Rock Lighthouse during a storm by John Horsburgh Illus. in: Robert Stevenson, An Account of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

One of the lighthouses Nancollas discusses is the Bell Rock, above, which was built by the grandfather of the author of my second pick…

Thrawn Janet by William Strang 1899

Thrawn Janet by Robert Louis Stevenson

This classic horror story, based solidly in the witchcraft superstitions that lasted well into the eighteenth century in Scotland, is mostly written in a broad Scots dialect, which I admit might make it hard work for non-Scots (or young Scots). But it’s worth the effort – it’s amazingly well written and really demands to be read aloud to get the full effect of the speech patterns and rhythms.

Syne she turned round, an’ shawed her face; Mr Soulis had the same cauld grue as twice that day afore, an’ it was borne in upon him what folk said, that Janet was deid lang syne, an’ this was a bogle in her clay-cauld flesh. He drew back a pickle and he scanned her narrowly. She was tramp-trampin’ in the cla’es, croonin’ to hersel’; and eh! Gude guide us, but it was a fearsome face.

My third selection also contains a good amount of Scots, although being more modern it’s not quite so difficult to understand…

Docherty 2

Docherty by William McIlvanney

On a December night in 1903, Tam Docherty lifts his new-born son and declares that this one will never go down the pits – this child Conn, his youngest, will work with his brains, rise out of the poverty of his heritage. The book covers the next twenty years or so, telling the story of Conn and his family, and most of all of Tam himself, a man who may be “only five foot fower. But when yer hert goes fae yer heid tae yer taes, that’s a lot o’ hert.”

“Son, it’s easy tae be guid oan a fu’ belly. It’s when a man’s goat two bites an’ wan o’ them he’ll share, ye ken whit he’s made o’. Listen. In ony country in the world, who are the only folk that ken whit it’s like tae leeve in that country? The folk at the boattom. The rest can a’ kid themselves oan. They can afford to hiv fancy ideas. We canny, son. We loass the wan idea o’ who we are, we’re deid. We’re wan anither. Tae survive, we’ll respect wan anither. When the time comes, we’ll a’ move forward thegither, or nut at all.”

Getting away from the dialect now (did I hear you cheer?), my fourth book is also the story of a son of a miner…

Sons and Lovers

Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence

This story of Lawrence’s alter-ego, Paul Morell, tells of his childhood and young manhood, and (being Lawrence) there’s a lot of concentration on his relationships with women. But the woman who figures largest in his young life is undoubtedly his mother…

On every side the immense dark silence seemed pressing him, so tiny a spark, into extinction, and yet, almost nothing, he could not be extinct. Night, in which everything was lost, went reaching out, beyond stars and sun. Stars and sun, a few bright grains, went spinning round for terror, and holding each other in embrace, there in a darkness that outpassed them all, and left them tiny and daunted. So much, and himself, infinitesimal, at the core a nothingness, and yet not nothing.
“Mother!” he whimpered—“mother!”

Another rather too intimate mother/son relationship is at the heart of my fifth choice…

agostino

Agostino by Alberto Moravia

Agostino and his widowed mother are staying at a Mediterranean beach resort for the summer. As we meet them, thirteen-year-old Agostino is still a child, devoted to his mother, rather infatuated by her and proud to bask in the admiration she attracts as they spend their days on the beach or swimming from the rowboat they take out each day. But when his mother becomes involved with a young man, Agostino’s feelings turn to a jealousy which he barely understands. All very Oedipal!

From the 1962 film of the novella

Moravia’s book was initially banned by the Italian Fascist government. The author of my sixth and last selection fared even worse – he fell foul of the regime by writing a number of anti-Fascist articles; and, after having been arrested and then released, died as a result of being beaten up by a Fascist thug in 1944.

the murdered banker

The Murdered Banker by Augusto de Angelis

Written in 1935, this novella length story is the first appearance of Inspector De Vincenzi in a series that was apparently hugely popular in Italy and gained De Angelis a reputation as father of the Italian mystery novel. An entertaining mystery novel that veers often towards high melodrama…

“Tell me, commendatore, what’s in there? What’s happened?”
“There’s a dead body. What’s happened is that a man’s been killed.”
A tremor convulsed the little man. He clutched at Maccari’s arm, his terror rendering him pitiful.
“Oh my God! This house is cursed! Do they know that this house is cursed?”

opera gif

* * * * *

So from Wyld to De Angelis via lighthouses, the builder of the Bell Rock lighthouse, Scottish dialect, sons of miners, Oedipus and Italian Fascists!

Hope you enjoyed the journey! 😀

39 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Wyld to…

  1. A very interesting chain! I did read and engage with The Bass Rock, for me the craft of the writing and structure gave depth and complexity to the subjects being unfolded. It’s wonderful to be reminded of Seashaken Houses again, and this time it’s in the library, so I’ll get it out sometime. Docherty is an old favourite, and I’m definitely going to look out for Thrawn Janet. I haven’t read DH Lawrence since teenage years, and I’m not sure if I want to pick up his work again or not.

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    • I’ve just listened to Thrawn Janet while I read it. I found this was a good way to thoroughly enjoy the Scots reading and still understand nearly all of it. A great story that just wouldn’t be the same told in English.

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      • Ah, I was going to mention there was a good version on youtube – glad you found it! Even as an archaic Scot I often find it easier to understand spoken Scots rather than written. Stevenson is wonderful at writing in Scots – I wish he’d done more of it.

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    • I’m allowing the blurb of The Bass Rock to put me off – all that lives circumscribed by men, and the power of the sisterhood stuff sets me off into an anti-misandry rant even before I read the book! 😂 Oh, I’m glad you can get hold of Seashaken Houses – one of my favourite non-fictions. His writing is great and his enthusiasm for the rock lighthouses is so infectious! I hadn’t read Lawrence for decades, thinking he probably worked better for teen FF than he would for adult FF, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my re-read of Sons and Lovers. It hasn’t inspired me really to revisit more of his work, though – I think his intensity means I’d have to approach him very sparingly these days…

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  2. Fascinating chain! Seashaken Houses is a particularly niche link. Dialect in novels often makes me cringe. The best examples I can remember are also Scottish – Anne Donovan’s Buddha Da with Shuggie Bain a close second.

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    • Seashaken Houses is one of my favourite non-fiction reads of the last few years – he managed to pass his enthusiasm for rock lighthouses on to me! I struggle with dialect too, especially if it’s one I’m not familiar with. Thrawn Janet is quite hard even for me, but it’s so well done. Buddha Da is another of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years…

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  3. Oh, I really like this chain, FictionFan! It’s great, of course, to see a McIlvanney in there. You make an interesting point about the Scots dialect. There’s such a balance, isn’t there, between depicting a place with some authenticity, and making it harder for readers to understand the writing. Oh, and the Nancollas interests me, too. I’ve always thought lighthouses were beautiful, and they have such interesting histories, too. I might have to look that one up…

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    • Seashaken Houses is a great book – he really manages to share his enthusiasm for rock lighthouses and his writing is excellent. Yes, dialect is often tricky and quite off-putting. I’m always wary of encouraging people to read Thrawn Janet for that reason – it’s brilliantly done but not easy even for an archaic Scot like me, so I imagine it could be fairly incomprehensible to non-Scots or younger Scots. McIlvanney’s dialect is much easier – I suspect most people would be able to read it without too much difficulty.

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  4. I love the way these chains come together, and that everyone goes in a completely different direction from the same starting point. The Bass Rock kind of appeals actually, though I’m a bit worried about potential didacticism, which I am never a fan of. Great to see some Scots here though, I’m sure both of these titles would sound great as audiobooks if performed by very Scottish actors. I’ll see what I can find.

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    • Christine enjoyed The Bass Rock, so I’m probably being unfair to write it off on the basis of the blurb, but all that circumscribed by men and power of the sisterhood stuff sets off my misandry allergy! There’s a good reading of Thrawn Janet on youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rylwyc21OZk – but I’ve never come across an audio of Docherty unfortunately. In fact, the only McIlvanney audio I’ve seen is Laidlaw, and he narrates himself, which could be wonderful or could be awful. I’m never convinced authors narrating their own books is a good idea…

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  5. Dialect in novels almost always pulls me out out of the story, no matter how well-written it is or even if it’s a dialect I know very well. The early part of Great Expectations is full of a rural Kentish way of speaking which I heard all the time at my grandparents’ house, but even though I could follow it easily enough it still made the story feel less real to me. Which I’m sure is the exact opposite of what Dickens was trying to achieve!

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    • I quite often struggle with dialect too, but I found both of these excellent although of course they’re both using the dialect I’m most familiar with. But when it’s a dialect I don’t know so well, I find I keep trying to work out how it sounds in my head and realise I’m concentrating more on that than on the story. I think a lot of it depends on the author’s skill at putting it down on the page in a way that isn’t distracting…

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  6. Interesting chain. I’m not really a fan of books written in dialect as I find it distracting, but I can usually cope with the Scots dialect and Thrawn Janet sounds like a good story for an autumn/winter night!

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    • Dialect often puts me off too, especially if it’s one I don’t know so can’t really work out how it’s supposed to sound. But Thrawn Janet is very well done, and there’s a good version on youtube which is easier than trying to understand the written word sometimes!

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  7. Hmmm, well I find lighthouse very romantic, as I got married at the base of one on the outer banks of North Carolina. Our wedding invitation featured hurricanes and lighthouses, LOL. That said, I thought I was doing well to understand the Scots until I got to “He drew back a pickle…” and completely lost the thread. So I may need to stick with lighthouses….

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    • Haha, I hope the hurricanes took the day off! “Pickle” just mean “little” – so “he drew back a little”. One day if you’re good I might tell you what “Mony a mickle maks a muckle” means… 😉

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  8. Well done, FF, though I must admit I don’t find any of these books terribly tempting, ha! All that dialect, male hatred, and mother-crazed just isn’t something terribly attractive. But your chain is brilliant!

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  9. this was great, thank you. Seashaken Houses does sound good and your love for Robert Louis Stevenson reminds me to put one of his on my next classics list. . .

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    • Seashaken Houses is great – I don’t often remember much about non-fiction books after I’ve read them, but he’s given me an abiding interest in lighthouses and the people who built them! The Master of Ballantrae! Or Jekyll and Hyde! (Not Kidnapped, which I personally found quite dull and overrated…) 😀

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  10. What a clever set of links. So good to,see a non fiction book as part of a chain – that rarely seems to happen.
    I can tolerate a certain amount of dialect, once yiu time into it it’s often not too difficult. But the extract you’ve shown from Docherty was too much for me to cope with.

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    • Glad you enjoyed it! Non-fiction books don’t always stand out in my mind, but Seashaken Houses has really stuck with me – lovely writing and an interesting subject. Ha! I thought the Docherty one was easier than the other, too! I think it’s quite hard when it’s your own dialect to know how accessible it will be to other people.

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  11. Misandry! Can’t believe I’ve never come across this word before and slightly concerned at what this says about me! 😲 I do have a chain listed out, just not written as a post. It may still happen but I suspect not. Possibly a good thing since it begins with a couple of choices where women’s lives are determined by men… 😆

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    • Haha, it’s a good word, isn’t it? I got so furious about a man-hate book a couple of years I was forced to find out if there’s a term for it. Now I use it nearly as often as misogyny… 😂 Go on – get that chain posted! I might even get to say “misandry” again in the comments… 😉

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