Follow the hashtag #6degrees on Twitter to check out everyone else’s chains.
The starting point for this month’s chain is The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. In this Stella Prize-winning novel, the lives and fates of three women play out under the shadow of the titular bass rock on the coast of Scotland. The novel is set in the early 1700s, the aftermath of the Second World War and in the present day and Max Porter hailed it as ‘a modern gothic masterpiece.’
The Hours by Michael Cunningham also tells the story of the interlinked lives of three women over three different timelines. Drawing heavily from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, the novel moves effortlessly across the decades and between England and America, telling the story of one day in the lives of three unforgettable women.
Deirdre Madden also sets her novel Molly Fox’s Birthday over one day. It is the height of summer, and celebrated actor Molly Fox has loaned her house in Dublin to a friend while she is away performing in New York. Alone among all of Molly’s possessions, struggling to finish her latest play, she looks back on the many years and many phases of her friendship with Molly and their college friend Andrew, and comes to wonder whether they really knew each other at all.
House-sitting also features in The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier, but with slightly more dramatic results. Dick Young is lent a house in Cornwall by his friend Professor Magnus Lane. During his stay he agrees to serve as a guinea pig for a new drug that Magnus has discovered in his scientific research. When Dick samples Magnus’s potion he travels through time all the way back into Medieval Cornwall. As Dick comes to prefer the time spent in the past rather than in the present, his intoxication will have devastating consequences.
Drug –testing and medical experimentation is also at the heart of The Constant Gardner by John Le Carré. The novel tells the story of Justin Quayle, a British diplomat whose activist wife is murdered. Believing there is something behind the murder, he seeks to uncover the truth and finds an international conspiracy of corrupt bureaucracy and pharmaceutical money. In order to find out what happened to his beloved Tessa, Justin must travel the world under a number of assumed identities.
Someone else with dozens of different identities is Joan Foster, main character in Margaret Atwood’s third novel Lady Oracle. Joan is a romance novelist who has spent her life running away from difficult situations. Once an overweight child whose mother constantly criticizes her she is now a breakthrough literary success with a volume of feminist poetry but fakes her own death to get away from her bipolar husband and her lover, a performance artist called The Royal Porcupine. Lady Oracle is a comic masterpiece which parodies of literary forms and expectations, but mainly subverts the gothic romance.
The most famous of all gothic romances is undoubtedly Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, that epic and unforgettable tale of the wild and passionate love affair between Heathcliff and Cathy, set on the dark Yorkshire Moors.
So, from a modern gothic romance to the ultimate gothic romance, these are my six degrees for this month! Have you read any of my choices?
Next month (3 July 2021), we’ll start with Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!