Six Degrees of Separation: From Wolfe Island to Riverine

It’s my second month participating in Kate’s Six Degrees of Separation meme (see her introductory post). This time the challenge starts with Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar. Alas, as far as I can tell this hasn’t yet been published outside of Australia. Which is such a shame, because I absolutely adored…

#1 Salt Creek, Treloar’s debut novel. I read it in 2018 and deemed it “one of the very best works of historical fiction I’ve read.” A widowed teacher settled in England looks back on the eight ill-fated years her family spent at an outpost in South Australia in the 1850s–60s. It’s a piercing story of the clash of cultures and the secret prejudices that underpin our beliefs.

#2 I recently saw someone on Twitter remarking on the apparent trend for book titles to have the word “Salt” in them. Of the few examples he mentioned, I’ve read and enjoyed Salt Slow by Julia Armfield, which was on the Young Writer of the Year Award shortlist last year. The book’s nine short stories are steeped in myth and magic, but often have a realistic shell.

#3 One story in Salt Slow, “Formerly Feral,” is about a teenager who has a wolf for a stepsister. So, to get back to the literal wording of our starting point (a homonym, anyway; I didn’t know whether to take this in the Salt direction or the Wolf direction; now I’ve done both!), another work of fiction I read that incorporated wolves was The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall, a fantastic novel to which Scottish independence and rewilding form a backdrop.

#4 The controversy over the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park – and the decision to remove their endangered status, thus declaring open season for hunters – is at the heart of the nonfiction study American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee. “The West was caught up in a culture war, and for some people it was more than just a metaphor,” he writes.

#5 Wolves and rewilding in the American West also come into the memoir-in-essays Surrender by Joanna Pocock, about the two years of loss and change she spent in Missoula, Montana and her sense of being a foreigner both there and on her return to London.

#6 A wonderful memoir-in-essays that was criminally overlooked in 2016 was Riverine by Angela Palm (my BookBrowse review). It has such a strong sense of place, revealing how traces of the past are still visible in the landscape and how our environment shapes who we are. Palm reflects on the winding course of her life in the Midwest and the people who meant most to her along the way, including a friend who was later sentenced to life in prison for murdering their elderly neighbors. In keeping with the watery imagery, there is a stream-of-consciousness element to the writing.


Join us for #6Degrees of Separation if you haven’t already!

Have you read any of my selections? Are you tempted by any you didn’t know before?

17 responses

  1. I share your frustration about lack of availability in UK of Wolfe Island. That happens so often with NZ and Aussie books I see mentioned by Lisa at ANZlit lovers and Sue at Whispering Gums

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, Salt Creek did eventually make it over here (thanks to a blogger!), so let’s hope the same happens for her next book.


  2. Great chain, Rebecca. I’d amplfy your comment about Wolfe Island not being published outside Australia to include so many of the books Kate reviews. A shame indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sometimes able to nab Canadian and Australian titles on NetGalley (I know you don’t read e-books), but very few compared to all the ones that tempt. Do you find that a prize shortlisting makes it more likely that a book will be published in the UK?


      1. Not entirely sure about the shortlist but I’ve found it to be true of the winner in the past.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What an interesting twist the wolves have given this! Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! The word Wolf(e) gave me some good ideas right away.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Have you read the book at the very bottom of my 6 Degrees post? 🙂


    2. Lemme see … from your chain I’ve read the Ozeki, Stedman and Hemingway. Ah, and I picked up a free copy of Never Cry Wolf last year in America but haven’t read it yet. I recall that it’s very short, so maybe I’ll try to read it for Novellas in November.

      I grew up near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, so I’m also interested in why Treloar chose that as her setting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wonder how accurate her descriptions and, esp, dialogue are?


  4. Nice list! I have had The Wolf Border near the top of my TBR for ages but never seem to get round to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the best thing I’ve read by Sarah Hall (though I do keep meaning to read more of her stuff).


  5. Shamefully, I haven’t read either of Treloar’s books… both are in my TBR queue. I forget that many books I read might not be available overseas – in Australia we’re kind of lucky in that we are ‘in-between’ the UK and the US and seem to have no delay on publications from either country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like I don’t see you read a ton of historical fiction? Nonetheless, Salt Creek is exceptional.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, I’m picky about historical fiction (I can’t stand ‘info- dumping’ so as soon as the writing becomes overly detailed, I’m off it).


    2. I understand that — I like historical fiction that feels naturally of the period. I have recently DNFed a few historical novels where I thought I would like the themes but something about the voice felt off.


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