From African crime to games of English politics
It’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation. This month we begin in Botswana and the colourful detective Mma Precious Ramotswe (isn’t that a delicious name?) created by Alexander McCall Smith for his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I did enjoy the book but never went on to read any of the later titles, nor watch the TV adaptation.
Crime and Africa provide me with my first link. There’s even a direct connection to book 2 in the chain because on the back of my copy of Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartery is a comment from The Booklist that the novel will be relished by fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.
Actually Quartery’s novel is much darker than McCall Smith’s because in order to solve the murder of a young female medical student, the investigating detective has to contend with a veil of secrecy about a practice which sees young girls offered as trokosi (or Wives of the Gods) to fetish priests. He finds important clues in the Adinkra symbols that are used to decorate the cloth worn as wraps. Never having heard of these symbols I spent an enjoyable hour searching the web for images to explain their symbolism.
The book in my next link also dealt with fashion accessories, but this time in the form of the jewellery worn by Indian brides. The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee blends family saga and political turbulence in India during the second half of the 1960s. For light relief we get the squabbling members of the Ghosh family and their petty jealousies over gifts of saris and wedding jewellery. Looking at some images of young brides dressed in jewel-encrusted saris and double their body weight in gold, I remembered a visit to the royal jewellery collection at the Kremlin. What the Tsarinas had to wear for their coronation was so phenomenally heavy I couldn’t imagine how they managed to stand let alone walk.
A gift of jewellery from India is the catalyst for the plot of the next book in my chain. The large diamond in Wilkie Collins’ novel The Moonstone was stolen by a British army officer and bequeathed to his niece Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. But on the night of her party it goes missing, believed stolen, an event which results in unhappiness, turmoil and ill fortune for her and the cousin who had hoped to be her husband.
Jewels+India+turmoil= The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott. This is the first part in his Raj Quartet collection about the dying days of the British in India and one of my favourite novels of all time. You can see why it has such a special place in my affection by reading the ‘Books that Built the Blogger’ post I wrote for Cathy at 746books.com (here’s the link if you’re interested.)
The link to book number 5 in my chain may be a bit obvious but I’m going there anyway. Katherine of Aragon by Alison Weir is the first in her series about the women who wore the crown of a Queen of England by virtue of their marriage to King Henry VIII. Some managed to hold onto it for a few years, others lost their head over it which just proves the validity of that line from Shakespeare’s Henry 1V part 2 ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown‘
In Alison Weir’s novel we first meet Katherine as a young and beautiful bride to be who has left Spain to marry the heir to the English throne, Prince Arthur. When he dies she marries his brother Henry and gets to be queen. Weir shows Katherine as more than a match for Henry’s intellect and energy but fate, and Henry’s roving eye, means she ends up divorced and a lonely figure banished to draughty manor houses well away from the court.
Katherine in her role as abandoned wife is a key figure in my final book. Hilary Mantel’s dazzling novel Wolf Hall vividly recreates the life of the man the former queen holds responsible for her demise: Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief advisor. Cromwell is usually depicted in fiction as a shrewd, manipulative and cold figure who will go to any lengths in his master’s service. Mantel turns the traditional portrait on its head and shows Cromwell also as a loving husband and caring father. It’s an extraordinary work of historical fiction; lyrical yet tightly written, bursting with scenes and images that linger in the mind. Quite simply, the most inventive and thrilling historical novel I’ve ever read (apart of course from Mantel’s follow up Bring Up the Bodies).
And so we’ve reached the end of this chain. We’ve travelled from Africa via India to England, from crime and sensational fiction to historical fiction. Is there a connection between our starting book and the one with which I ended? Maybe it’s stretching a point to call the way Katherine was treated as a crime, but she was certainly an innocent victim in a political game.
If you want to play along with Six Degrees of Separation head to Books Are My Favourite and Best where Kate sets us off with a new book each month. As always all the books I’ve included are ones I have read though not necessarily reviewed.
19 thoughts on “From African crime to games of English politics”
I’m in the minority with Wolf Hall – I found it too much of a slog and abandoned it about a third of the way through (a rare DNF for me). I tried the television series a few years ago and again, a DNF!
Oh dear, sorry to hear that. The style did take a little getting used to so maybe that was the issue?
Great! An uprising chain of quality I would say. Wolf Hall is an infinite improvement over The No. 1…
Couldn’t agree more Judy!
That was a fun chain!
I don’t think I’ve seen (or will see) anyone else do a link with fashion accessories, Karen. Brava!
Thanks Debbie. It’s always interesting to see what connections people make
I love seeing all the different directions people take with this. I’ve even read some of your choices which makes something of a change! I too wish Mantel would get a move on with book 3… maybe we should start a petition!
I’m sure she is feeling under pressure – so many expectations that she will deliver the same magic as with the first two books
I think I heard somewhere that she’s been ill too which is partly the reason for the delay. But last I heard she was back on track…
I hadn’t heard that but she did have some severe health issues in her younger days
I love the sound of The Jewel in the Crown – I’m going to look that one up.
Great, I hope I created another fan…
Another great set of links, Karen. Perhaps it was your refernce to the McCall Smith TV adapatation, but you’ve made me remember two others in your chain – The Jewel in the Crown and Wolf Hall both of which were excellent.
I wish Mantel would hurry up with her final Cromwell novel but it sounds like it will be next year at least before we see it
I did read somewhere (can’t remember where, I’m afraid) that it would be published in 2019.
I’ve seen that too. Can you imagine how much pressure she must be feeling to get this done? But then another pressure begins because everyone will be expecting it to be as superb as the last two. And of course the question will come whether she can win the booker for a third time
Even think about it is enough to make you want to run from the room screaming. I had wondered if that pressure might have resulted in a block but there does seem to be some kind of timeline now.
I’ll be joining you in the queue to buy it as soon as it hits the shops