Six Degrees from Dorset coast to Australia’s outback
It’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation – hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best – where each month, a book is selected as the start of a chain. The idea is to link it with six other books.
This month we begin with The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles which was published in 1969. I remember enjoying it though the details are a bit hazy. The film version with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons left a lasting impression, primarily because Streep got to wear this fantastic hooded cape that I yearned to own.
The novel relates the intense relationship between a former governess and an amateur naturalist. Sarah Woodruff, the Woman of the title, is also referred to as “Tragedy” and as “The French Lieutenant’s Whore”. She lives in the coastal town of Lyme Regis in Dorset as a disgraced woman, supposedly abandoned by an officer from a French ship. Much of the novel sees her standing on The Cobb, a stone jetty, staring out to sea.
The Cobb plays a key role in a novel from a much earlier period, Persuasion, the last novel fully completed by Jane Austen. It was published at the end of 1817, six months after her death. On a visit to Lyme Regis, one girl’s impetuous behaviour leads to a serious fall and concussion. It causes a change of attitude by a naval captain towards her sister Anne, the girl who he once wanted to marry but who rejected him.
All comes right in the end which is more than can be said for the unfortunate couple in my next book who play out their relationship just a little further along the same coastline. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2007.
It’s an achingly sad novella about the young couple Edward and Florence, who arrive to spend their honeymoon at a hotel near the beach. Though this novel is set in the Sixties, they are both sexual innocents, very nervous about their first night together. The gulf that develops between them that night affects the rest of their lives.
Florence is a talented violinist, who dreams that one day, the quartet she has formed, will be esteemed talented enough to play at the prestigious Wigmore Hall in London.
The violinist in my next novel is already a success yet he is haunted by memories of the pianist he loved and left ten years earlier. An Equal Music by Vikram Seth sees the two lovers find each other once again but one of them has a secret that could mark the end of any hopes of a permanent reconciliation. Not surprisingly, this is a novel that is suffused with feelings of sadness and loss.
An Equal Music is about the desire to return to the past, to rekindle a former relationship. My next choice is also about the desire to return to the past but this time the desire to find the former lover represents a form of escape.
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West recounts the return of Captain Chris Baldry, to his large country estate near London, from the trenches of the First World War. Suffering from shell shock, he doesn’t remember the death of his infant son, doesn’t recognise his wife nor his cousin, doesn’t even know that he is married. All he remembers is Margaret, with whom he had a summer romance 15 years earlier. All three women have to decide whether they should try to “cure” him and return him to the here and now.
My final book in this chain has not one but two connections to The Return of the Soldier (this instance of over-achievement is unlikely to be repeated so enjoy it while you can). Both were debut novels written by young women. Both disappeared from public view for decades but are now considered as modern classics.
My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (a pseudonym for her actual name of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin) was written in 1901 when she was 20 years old. It was intended as a tale set in the Australian outback, to amuse her friends but its popularity and criticism that it was more an autobiography than a novel , caused the author to withdraw the book from sale until after her death. Since 1966 it has never been out of print. The author left a permanent mark on the Australian literary scene with her endowment of the Miles Franklin prize.
And there we must bring this chain to an end. We’ve been to Dorset and the South East England and finally to Australia. Hope you enjoyed the journey. I’ve read all of the first six books mentioned and am currently reading My Brilliant Career.
25 thoughts on “Six Degrees from Dorset coast to Australia’s outback”
I have Return of the Soldier in the library check-outs stack on my bedside table – next up, in fact. I really should connect up and finally read Miles Franklin.
Brilliant chain, BTW!
I’m really enjoying the Miles Franklin ….
I’ve read & enjoyed all but the return of the soldier from your chain this month, but it’s on my TBR pile, so hopefully I’ll rectify that this year, your blurb made it sound intriguing!
It’s very short but quite deep in its psychological examination of people’s motives and reactions
What a brilliant six degrees and for me its been a trip of nostalgia – I’d forgotten all about An Equal Music! I’m also tremendously impressed with your double link to round of the trip… a double pat on the back for sure!
Stop giving me compliments – my head will get so big it won’t fit in a book soon:)
A great chain and a double whammy! Chesil Beach has been made into a film I think, it is languishing on a piece of paper somewhere in a box with about 2,000 post it notes as a reminder to watch it! I have read Equal Music and another book by the same author which name escapes me.
I scope out my chain on paper usually, although managed to surpass myself today! (something not likely to be repeated). I am looking readily at next month’s book which I have not read and don’t suspect I will!
Yes we watched the film version last weekend – very well done I thought.
What a great idea this is, I’ve not read any of the books in the chain, but I have been to The Cobb and Chesil Beach. How hard is it to find six books to link? Is it less daunting than it sounds?
Last year I was inspired to buy and read a book, which had been mentioned in the book that I was currently reading, but that was only a chain of two!
It’s not easy – I often find that the first few books come readily to mind and then I realise I have come to a dead end. So it does take me a while to put together. But others seem to do it more quickly so it maybe that my brain just doesn’t make connections very well. Why not give it a go one month without publishing and just see how easy/tough it is?
That’s a good idea.
Hope to see you in the next month’s chain 🙂
Intriguing chain! How are you finding My Brilliant Career? I read it many moons ago and enjoyed it, though to be honest I can’t remember much about it now. Maybe you’ll inspire a re-read…
Enjoying it a long- the narrator’s voice is so strong and engaging.
What a great chain! #NoteToSelf: I really must read Rebecca West…
i’d never read her before….
Interesting chain! I *love* The Return of the Soldier!
Amazing to think how young she was when she wrote that book
Strangely enough, I ended up in Australia too, although in suburban Sydney rather than the outback.
I never planned to get there. Thought I was going down a totally different route
That’s the fun of it!
Me too 🙂
I enjoyed the jouney!
I was so giddy in fact that I forgot to proof read. Journey.
It was very nearly a different journey until I discovered the fatal flaw in my plan