Six degrees: From Year of Wonders
I’ve never tried my hand at the Six Degrees of Separation but the latest chain resulted in some creative linking by a number of bloggers. It got me thinking what connections I could find.
The chain starts with Year of Wonders, a novel that was an international best seller for Geraldine Brooks. Year of Wonders is based on a true-life story of the small Peak District village of the village of Eyam that put itself in quarantine to prevent the spread of the dreaded bubonic plague. If you don’t know this book, I hope my review will persuade you to beg/borrow/buy it soon.
The plague also makes its appearance in an audio book I just finished – Rembrandt’s Mirror by Kim Deveraux – which features a young servant who goes to work in the painter’s house in Amsterdam and ends up becoming his muse and model. I won’t reveal exactly how the plague fits in because that would reveal too much of the plot but I can recommend this book if you enjoy historical fiction set in the seventeenth century.
If you’re thinking the servant/painter’s house/Netherlands combination sounds familiar, you wouldn’t be far wrong because this is also the premise of Girl with a Pearl Earring the best-selling novel by Tracy Chevalier set in the Delft studios of the painter Vermeer.Chevalier said she was inspired to write the book having seen the Vermeer painting at the Mauritshuis art museum in The Hague (you can hear her Ted talk on this here).
From the Mauritshuis it’s but a short step to the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This is a key location in Edna O’Brien’s most recent novel The Little Red Chairs in which a war criminal known in his country as the Beast of Bosnia is found hiding in a remote Irish village. He is captured and taken to the Hague to stand trial for genocide just as Radovan Karadžić was and sentenced earlier this year to 40 years’ imprisonment for atrocities and war crimes.
Violence and crime committed during war also feature large in the novel I’ve just finished reading – Moskva by Jack Grimwood. It’s a page turner of a thriller that begins with the discovery of a young boy’s body at the foot of the Kremlin and the disappearance of the British Ambassador’s daughter. The year is 1985 and Gorbachev is the man who has just taken the hot seat as leader of the Soviet Union with the intent of rescuing the crumbling economic and political system. The plot takes us back to 1945 and the Russian advance on Berlin. What happened then is something the KGB and the Politburo would prefer remain a secret but they have a determined adversary in the form of Major Tom Fox, a man used to going undercover in some of the world’s hottest spots.
Moscow. Snow. KGB. Bodies. It wouldn’t be a thriller set in Russia without these features and they don’t get much better than Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith, published in 1981. The story follows Arkady Renko, a chief investigator for the Militsiya, (the civil police) who is assigned to a case involving three corpses found in Gorky Park, an amusement park in Moscow, who have had their faces and fingertips cut off by the murderer to prevent identification. So realistic a picture did it depict of everyday life in pre-Glasnost era, that the book was immediately banned in the USSR. It’s still one of the best thrillers I’ve read set in Russia.
So in six smallish journeys we’ve gone from plague to political intrigue and from a small village in England to a Dutch city in its golden years and from painters to men determined to get to the truth.
11 thoughts on “Six degrees: From Year of Wonders”
Well you made that seem so easy 😉
I’ll have to look up Rembrant’s Mirror – appropriate given that I’ve just finished another book about 17th century Dutch artists, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos (it’s fictional but the artist is based on a number of female artists of that period).
Thanks again for joining in!
HaHa – you should have seen the perspiration. Saw the review of the Sara de Vos book and will definitely read this. Next year though
Wonderful titles and great links.
When I was reading your description of Moskva i was put in mind of Gorky Park – and grinned when I read your next link. 🙂
I love art books in the style of Girl with a Pearl Earring and have added Rembrandt’s Mirror to my wishlist at Goodreads, but I am also racking my brains to remember that superb little book about Rembrandt’s serving girl… It starts with him walking from Italy to what became his last home in the Loire Valley, and it develops their relationship in a lovely way. What on earth was it called?
Interesting connection! I remember seeing a play on the BBC when I was young called The Roses of Eyam about the village during the plague and it was very affecting – I shall look out for the book!
Some inspired links here! I loved A Year of Wonder which I read soon after publication and it remains one of my favourite reads of all time (sadly long before I started writing reviews) Unsurprisingly I was also a fan of The Girl With the Pearl Earing..
Delightful post! Thanks for showing us some interesting connections.
Very neatly done,and I’m sure it was fun tying it all in.
i had moments when it wasnt so much fun!
One of these days I’ll have a go at this but it will need to be after a good night’s sleep!