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. 😀

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Roses are red…

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

cotillionWhen curmudgeonly old miser Matthew Penicuik suffers a particularly bad episode of gout, he thinks it’s time to decide who will inherit his considerable fortune once he’s gone. Not that any of his relatives believe him to be in any danger, hypochondria being another of his endearing qualities. Many years earlier, he had taken in Kitty Charing, the orphaned daughter of a friend, and he wants to be sure she’ll be provided for. So he hits upon the infamous notion of announcing that he will leave all of his money to whichever of his great-nephews marries Kitty, and invites them all to come for a visit – and to propose to poor Kitty. Everyone assumes Jack will be the lucky man – not only is he Great-Uncle Matthew’s favourite, but Kitty has had a crush on him since she was a schoolroom miss. But Jack’s pride won’t let him dance to Great-Uncle Matthew’s tune and anyway he’s not ready to get married, being too busy womanising all over town, so he refuses to come. In a fit of pique, Kitty persuades her cousin, the Honourable Freddy Standen, to pretend to become engaged to her and take her to London for a month on the pretext of meeting his parents…

‘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.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances are my idea of literary chicken soup – they’re what I turn to if I have a cold or a fit of the dismals or, as now, hit a brick wall with some of the stuff I’ve been reading. She writes with such humour and the books are generally light and frothy fun. The heroes are usually rich, often proud and always handsome. The heroines are always strong, usually feisty and spirited, and would never dream of marrying for anything other than love. In fact, they are all variations of Darcy and Lizzie, and the road to true love is always as convoluted as in Pride and Prejudice, but stripped of the serious side of that book. Heyer is fun and romance, pure and simple, and the inevitable happy ending in no way diminishes the pleasure of the journey.

Oh, come on! You didn't really think I'd miss an opportunity like that...?
Oh, come on! You didn’t really think I’d miss an opportunity like that…?

‘I daresay Freddy might not be a great hand at slaying dragons- but one has not the smallest need of a man who can kill dragons!’

Cotillion is my favourite of all Heyer’s romances. Kitty is such a likeable heroine – kept countrified and dowdy all her life, she discovers the joys of clothes-shopping, hairdressing, learning to dance, and is soon able to stand her ground with the best of them. Freddy’s friends and family have always considered him nothing more than a fashionable young man about town – a Bertie Woosterish figure – but as he has to pull Kitty out of one scrape after another, he shows a level of intelligence and competence no-one ever suspected he possessed. The supporting cast is the usual Regency line-up of fops and dandies, grande dames and put-upon companions, flirts and innocent young misses, out-and-outers and Pinks of the Ton. The assorted great nephews vying with varying degrees of enthusiasm for Kitty’s hand add an extra level of humour to the book. And then there’s Jack – all charming exterior and wicked interior.

Upon Mrs Scorton’s reappearance, she found herself confronted, not by the fool of his family, but by the Honourable Frederick Standen, a Pink of the Pinks, who knew to a nicety how to blend courtesy with hauteur, and who informed her, with exquisite politeness, that he rather fancied his cousin was tired, and would like to be taken home. One of the uninvited guests, entering the box in Eliza’s wake, ventured on a warm sally, found himself being inspected from head to foot through a quizzing-glass, and stammered an apology.

Will Kitty realise Freddy’s superior worth before it’s too late? Will Freddy begin to reconsider his bachelor ways? Will Kitty’s friend Olivia marry the old roué Sir Henry Gosford for money or find a way to marry the gorgeous Chevalier d’Evron for love? Will Great-Uncle Matthew ever recover from his gout? And will I read this book again and again and again? Entertaining, mood-enhancing fun to brighten up the greyest day!

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link