Saturday, November 6, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation – from What Are You Going Through to Dune Drive

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 is Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through.

I am unfamiliar with Nunez's work but I know another Sigrid, so my first degree is the epic historical novel Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, set in 14th century Norway and written in 1920.
I read this as a teen because it is one of my friend Judy Amory’s favorite books but I absolutely hated it. The heroine was weak and made terrible choices, including staying with a man who was unfaithful. Of course, I realize now that in that era she had no options but it was still upsetting.
The link to my second degree is Norway: Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes (1943) is about a Norwegian-American family living in San Francisco, It is a delightful fictional memoir about the author’s childhood growing up in the boarding house her mother ran. One shockingly memorable bit was an eccentric uncle who used to yell, “What are Swedes but Norwegians with their brains knocked out?” My mother says the TV show based on this book is one of the first things she remembers watching in the 50s.
San Francisco is the link to my third degree, Calico Palace by Gwen Bristow (1970), a wonderful historical novel about the California gold rush in 1848 and the resulting growth of the city. Bristow’s Celia Garth is another of my favorites and both are still in print. I did not know until a few weeks ago that Bristow had cowritten a highly regarded mystery, The Ninth Guest (fka The Invisible Host), with her husband. It looks like the closest copy is at UNC so I am not sure this Duke alumna can pursue it . . .
The link to my fourth degree is California. Another great epic novel set in 19th century California is The Proud Breed by Celeste De Blasis (1978). It does start off with a cliché – the heroine is swimming naked in a secluded pool – how many times do I have to warn these young women that either the hero or the villain will turn up and they usually want the same thing. Keep your clothes on or buy an anachronistic bathing suit! However, Tessa impresses the reader by stabbing her peeping Tom and we’re off!
My fifth degree is another heroine named Tessa in Love You More by suspense writer Lisa Gardner (2011). Tessa Leoni is a state police trooper in Massachusetts accused of killing her abusive husband. Her six-year-old daughter is missing and Tessa is terrified that the police won’t search for the girl because they are so busy building a case against her. I also just finished Gardner’s most recent book, Before She Disappeared.
Abuse is the link to my sixth degree, Dune Drive by Mariah Stewart (2018) about a woman who realizes she is in an abusive relationship and plots to escape. She takes refuge with her grandmother in a coastal community in Maryland, where she rebuilds her life and falls in love. Naturally, the evil ex is looking for her everywhere so I cringed when Chrissie allows someone to take her picture.
Have you read any of these? Please share your link if you played #6Degrees this month. Next month (December 4, 2021), we’ll start with Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. 


Helen said...

My first link this month is to Kristin Lavransdatter too - I struggled to get started with the chain and could only think of linking through the author's name. I liked that book a lot more than you did, but maybe I would have felt differently if I'd first read it as a teenager!

OneVikingGirl said...

Swedes and Norwegians love to joke about each other (often the same jokes too, just reversed) and we share a distaste of the Danes not to be joked about. (Haha-ha) Undset’s books about women in the 14th C were important for women in the 1920 as those topics were then (and now in many cultures) difficult to talk about.

JaneGS said...

I always enjoy Six Degrees posts. Sad to say, I haven't read any of these, but I still enjoyed the progression :)

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

How nostalgic! I know Kathryn Forbes from the play they made of her book "I Remember Mamma" which we put on in High School! Thanks for the reminder.

CLM said...

Davida, it's the same book - Mama's Bank Account inspired the play (movie too, I think) and the TV show. Irene Dunne played the mother in the movie: I don't recognize the actors in the TV version except Dick Van Patten who played the brother.

Jane, I think you would like Gwen Bristow's books if you come across at the library or a used bookstore.

Helen and Viking Girl, I would probably appreciate Kristin a lot more as an adult but there are too many other books to read. Also, isn't it interesting that at least in the US, the name Christine which was extremely popular when I was growing up has been replaced by Kristin/Kirsten, etc.?

FictionFan said...

"Keep your clothes on or buy an anachronistic bathing suit!" Haha, perfect advice to heroines everywhere! I haven't read any of your choices but they all sound good, except perhaps for Kristin Lavransdattar!

TracyK said...

Constance, the only one of these books I am familiar with is Kristin Lavransdattar, but I have not read it. However, one of my best friends (we named our son after him) read it several years ago. His background is Norwegian and he is a librarian (retired but still working as an adjunct at a community college), so it does not surprise me that he was interested in it.

I would not mind reading Mama's Bank Account if I found a copy someday. I don't know if I have seen the film, but I did not know it was about a Norwegian-American family. It sounds very interesting and entertaining.

CLM said...

Tracy, reading other people's comments about Kristin Lavransdattar makes me think maybe I read it too young. It is interesting that your friend read it recently because I don't think it is much read these days. I really haven't got into the Scandinavian mystery books at all but there was a Swedish author I found in my grade school library who wrote children's mysteries called Karin Anckarsvard, and I really enjoyed her books. The first was called The Mysterious Schoolmaster and it must have done well in the US because it was in paperback.

You would definitely like Mama's Bank Account and the travails this family experiences that mean tapping into the mother's emergency savings. It is very short if you come across it. Is your library open again?