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Starting off this month’s Six Degrees of Separation, Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld is a fictional re imagining of the life of Hilary Clinton and explores what might have happened had she not accepted Bill’s proposal.
Joyce Carol Oates fictionalises a moment in the life of another presidential candidate – Ted Kennedy – in her 1992 novella Black Water. Oates retells the infamous Chappaquiddick incident as the story of a young woman, Kelly Kelleher, who meets The Senator at a party and agrees to go for a drive with him. When their vehicle plunges into a river and The Senator escapes to safety, Kelly thinks back over her brief life as she lies dying in the car.
Another novel that explores the thoughts of a dying woman is Elif Shafak’s critically acclaimed 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World, which tells the story of Tequila Leila, an Istanbul sex worker who is dying in a rubbish bin. In the 10 minute and 38 seconds that consciousness exists after death, she remembers what brought her to this fate and the friends she met along the way.
The plight of a sex worker is also the theme for Michel Faber’s sprawling, Dickensian novel The Crimson Petal and the White which tells the story of Sugar, a 19-year prostitute who seizes a chance for a better life when wealthy perfume magnate William Rackham falls under her spell. The title for the novel is taken from the 1847 poem “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
“The Lady of Shallott”, also by Tennyson is recited by Jean Brodie in Muriel Spark’s classic novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The book centres on the romantic, charismatic and ultimately tragic schoolmistress who pays a devestating price for her hubris and self-confidence at the hands of her beloved pupils.
The dysfunctional relationship between a teacher and a group of students is at the heart of Donna Tartt’s 1992 debut novel The Secret History. Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor Julian, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But as their grasp on morality starts to slip, they find themselves committing murder.
The university setting in The Secret History is a thinly veiled version of Bennington College, the liberal arts college in Vermont which Tartt attended in the 1980s and where she began writing the novel.
Her classmates at the time included Bret Easton Ellis and Jonathan Letham. Jonathan Letham’s last novel The Feral Detective is a quirky detective story featuring two different groups of people, the Rabbits and the Bears and is a thinly-veiled allegory for the two-party political system in America. The novel takes place in the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential elections, which saw Donald Trump elected to President over his greatest foe, yes, you guessed it, Hillary Clinton!
So there you have it, this month’s links come full circle, starting and ending (kind of!) with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Why not join in next month on Saturday 3 October when the starting point will be The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
Uncategorized #6degrees black water curtis sittenfeld donna tartt elif shafak jonathan letham joyca carol oates michel faber muriel spark rodham six degrees of separation the crimson petal and the white the feral detective the prime of miss jean brodie the secret history
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!