Saturday, July 3, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation – from Eats, Shoots & Leaves to The Thorn Birds

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point was a big bestseller when new: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss (2003). I think the original cover's cute panda was half the appeal but it was certainly popular with comma fans! Most think of Truss as a grammar guru but she also wrote several mysteries.
Leaves inspire my first degree, The Tender Leaves by Essie Summers (1980), a bestselling Mills & Boon writer. One of her favorite themes is searching for family and, in this book, nurse Maria accompanies a patient across the world to New Zealand so she can try to trace the father she never knew.  Essie's heroines are always pure in mind and motives so it is a shock when she is labeled a gold digger.
My second degree comes from the word tender. A Time for Tenderness (1962) is one of Betty Cavanna’s best YA novels. Teenage Peggy and her family move to Brazil for a year and she embraces the cultural experience, making new friends and falling in love, until her mother’s unexpected racism interferes.  This is another that was in my grade school library, convenient for many rereads until I had my own copy.
My third degree is Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934). I actually don’t remember this very well but I have been thinking of the author since watching the recent Hemingway series on PBS. Hemingway came across as very arrogant and unappealing but F. Scott recognized his talent when they met in Paris and recommended Hemingway to his own editor.  Greater love hath no writer than to help someone else get published!
At the end of Blackhearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken, Dido Twite, an unappealing Cockney child, is thrown overboard. Aiken was not sentimental and planned to let her die but she received a letter from a reader that changed her mind. Instead, Dido became an intrepid and resourceful heroine when she was picked up by a whaler in Nightbirds on Nantucket (1966), next in the Wolves series and my fourth degree. I have never been to Nantucket, although it’s only a few hours away, but I read the first three books in this series frequently as a child and was fortunate to meet Joan Aiken once in New York. I wish I'd had more than 2 minutes to speak with her!
Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear (2004), second in the Maisie Dobbs series, is my fifth degree, staying with a birds theme. I really enjoyed the first few books about Maisie, a former servant, turned WWI nurse, turned private investigator. These books always seem like a cross between Upstairs Downstairs and Testament of Youth.  
My sixth degree is The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1977), the epic saga set in Australia about beautiful Meggie Cleary and the ambitious priest she loves, Ralph de Bricassart. Is this one of the few miniseries that is as good or better than the book? And I like the book!
So this month I traveled from the comma to New Zealand, Brazil, Paris, Nantucket, back to England, and finally to Drogheda, the most famous fictional sheep station in Australia (in the world?). Have you read any of these? If you played #6Degrees this month, please share a link.

Next month (August 7, 2021), we’ll start with more bestselling nonfiction, Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher.


Cath said...

I don't read Mills and Boon these days but years ago I read quite a few and found them better than their 'romantic tosh' label would suggest. I did a lot of armchair travelling with those and think of them fondly.

I'm one of the few people who have never read The Great Gatsby or Tender is the Night and I know this is lamentable. I must make a plan to do it as I think I have both on my Kindle.

I've just read my 10th. Maisie Dobbs, Leaving Everything Most Loved and enjoyed it. Have you stopped reading the series or perhaps you haven't but didn't enjoy the later ones as much? I seem to recall you met her. (Jacqueline Winspear not Maisie Dobbs ;-) )

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

You've met and spoken to Aiken, however briefly, and that is so cool! I've only ever read Five Minute Marriage by Aiken (I hope I'm talking about the right Aiken here), but I liked it. And as for Thorn Birds, I haven't read the book but I've seen that 1980s show -- I remember rolling my eyes at all the melodrama, but maybe I lacked the right viewing lens. ;)

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

I love The Thorn Birds. But did you know that Drogheda is the name of a real town in Ireland? It is! But on the TV series they pronounced it ALL WRONG! I know, because my first visit to Ireland was not long after that show was aired, and everyone there was talking about it. It isn't pronounced drow-GEE-dah but DROCH-eh-dah!

Helen said...

I've been meaning to try the Maisie Dobbs books for years, so I'm pleased to hear you enjoyed at least the first few. I loved The Thorn Birds - both the book and the miniseries!

Katrina said...

You've reminded me that I need to complete the 'Wolves' series. I also enjoyed The Thornbirds book and TV series, it was very annoying that they didn't pronounce Drogheda correctly. I enjoyed Tender is the Night but I find it sad that he is lauded so much when Zelda has been just about forgotten and she was probably better, he certainly didn't mind nicking her ideas.

CLM said...

Cath, I went through a Mills & Boon stage as a teen but still love two authors, Mary Burchell and to a lesser extent Essie Summers. I gave away all the rest but still enjoy those two. Mary Burchell's personal story is also fascinating:

I do like Maisie Dobbs, especially the first one, but felt after the fourth that they were beginning to seem the same, so mentally put them aside. I will probably go back to them at some point. I did enjoy the author's memoir recently and was surprised to learn she did not have an Upstairs background. I do recommend The Great Gatsby, in part because there are so many allusions to it. And as Katrina says, Zelda Fitzgerald is as interesting a character as F. Scott and may deserve some of the credit for his writing.

Lex, The Five Minute Marriage is by Joan Aiken, although her sister Jane Aiken Hodge also wrote historical fiction set in the Austen/Heyer era. Jane's books are more predictable because Joan does not guarantee a happy ending. Katrina, I never finished the Wolves series either. I think it is because most of them were published at a time when I was busy with other things but also she shifted from Dido as a central character to her sister.

The Thorn Birds miniseries was way over the top and definitely eye-rolling but quite enthralling. It was first shown in the US during Holy Week which upset many people, given it showcased a priest breaking his vows. I had read about Drogheda being pronounced wrong; that kind of carelessness is annoying.