This month’s #6Degrees starts with Anne Tyler’s most recent book Redhead By The Side of The Road. I’ve not read it but the title conjured up an image of a woman hitchhiking. A quick check of the publishers’ info tells me I’m completely off the mark here; the book is actually about an ordinary man whose routine is disrupted when a boy claims to be his son and then a lady friend is evicted from her home.
I prefer my hitchhiking angle so I’m sticking with it and using the theme of a journey for my first link. We’re moving from the “sidelines” to get “on”The Road by Cormac McCarthy; a cult novel of a man and son who endure a gruelling trek through a post-apocalyptic landscape. It was much lauded when published in 2006 but it wasn’t to my taste.
i don’t know how many miles that pair covered during their walk, but they’d have to go some to match the achievement of Phyllis Pearsall who (allegedly) singly-handedly mapped the 23,000 streets of London in the mid 1930s. Mrs P’s Journey by Sarah Hartley gives an account of how Pearsall traipsed the streets of the capital from dawn to dusk over the course of a year, to produce the London A-Z, the first popular indexed street map.
The reason I say “allegedly” is because Pearsall’s claim to fame has been challenged by English Heritage and the British Museum’s head of maps. In the interests of balance however I should also say that Pearsall’s family dispute much of the content of Hartley’s book.
Let’s stick with long-distance walkers for my next link in this chain. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce has a preposterous premise: a quiet and unassuming man leaves his house to post a letter and ends up walking hundreds of miles to visit a terminally ill former colleague. As he makes his way he recollects episodes from his life and how so much of it went wrong.
This leads me to another novel of a man whose life has not turned out the way he expected. In The Lighthouse by Alison Moore a middle aged man on a solo walking holiday in the Rhineland. His marriage has recently broken down but it’s a traumatic incident from his more distant past that occupies his mind as he walks: the way his mother abandoned him as a child and how that has prevented him from achieving happiness.
Why settle for a solitary beacon of light when we can have a sky full of them? Let’s extend our journey north, to the land of the aurora borealis which is part of the setting for Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, part one of the His Dark Materials trilogy.
It’s a young-adult fantasy novel featuring a remarkable girl called Lyra. I score double points for choosing this book for my chain since she was also abandoned by her mother when a child.
The final sections of the book follow Lyra as she travels to the Arctic on the trail of her uncle who has been conducting experiments with a mysterious substance called “Dust.” Right at the end of the book, a hole appears in the northern lights through which Lyra passes into a different parallel universe.
To return to the side of the road we’ll have to take The Long Way Home, the title of the sixth novel in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by the Canadian best selling author Louise Penny. Her books typically feature the delightful village of Three Pines which though it regularly becomes snow bound is a more hospitable location than the Arctic. I’ll see you all in the bistro (after you’ve been to the village second-hand bookshop of course).
And so we come to the end of a chain of journeys taking us from a roadside in the USA to England, Germany , the Arctic circle and ending up in Canada. We’ve experienced a post apocalyptic future and a new universe, It’s always great fun to see where these chains take us.
If you fancy giving this a go, hop over to the blog of our host Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest.