Six Degrees of Separation: From Rodham to The Shadow in the Garden

This month we’re all starting with Rodham. I reviewed this Marmite novel as part of the UK blog tour and was fully engaged in its blend of historical and fictional material. Ultimately, it doesn’t work as well as American Wife because we all know too much about Hillary Clinton, but it was a lot of fun for summer binge reading and is a must for any diehard Curtis Sittenfeld fan.

#1 Late last year I was sent an e-copy of The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton for a potential review. I didn’t end up reading it at the time, but I still have it on my Kindle so might get to it someday. Like many, many books that have come out over the last few years, it’s full of mini-biographies of praiseworthy women from history. It seems a bit superfluous and overlong, but if the writing is up to snuff it might still be one to skim.

#2 Speaking of guts, earlier in the year I took perverse glee in reading Gulp by Mary Roach, a tour through the body’s digestive and excretory systems. Here’s a quick question to help you gauge whether the book is for you: does the prospect of three chapters on flatulence make you go “Yesssss!” or “Ew, no. Why?!” I’m in the former camp so, for the most part, found it fascinating. Footnotes on bizarre scientific studies are particularly hilarious.

 

#3 I’ve read two novels with “Roach” in the title; I didn’t want to use Ian McEwan as a link two months in a row, so I went with the other one: Cockroaches by Scholastique Mukasonga, which is also a good follow-on from #WITMonth as it was originally written in French. I reviewed this harrowing memoir of her Tutsi family’s slaughter during the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s for Wasafiri literary magazine in early 2018.

#4 One of the sunny/summer reads I featured last week was The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński. One essay from the middle of the book is called “A Lecture on Rwanda,” which locates the seeds of the 1990s conflict in the independence struggle and peasant revolt of the late 1950s and early 1960s: the Hutu majority caste (85%) was composed of tenant farmers who rebelled against the cattle-owning Tutsi minority (14%).

 

#5 I’ve read another book by the title The Shadow of the Sun, this one a weak early novel by A.S. Byatt. It’s about a young woman struggling to get out from under the expectations and example of her father, a literary lion.

#6 Staying in the shadows … my top nonfiction read of 2017 was James Atlas’s memoir of the biographer’s profession, The Shadow in the Garden. The book deals with the nitty-gritty of archival research and how technology has changed it; story-telling strategies and the challenge of impartiality; and how we look for patterns in a life that might explain what, besides genius, accounts for a writer’s skill. Even though I knew little about his two main subjects, poet Delmore Schwartz and Saul Bellow, I found the book thoroughly enthralling.

 


Join us for #6Degrees of Separation if you haven’t already! (Hosted the first Saturday of each month by Kate W. of Books Are My Favourite and Best; see her intro post.)

Have you read any of my selections?

Are you tempted by any you didn’t know before?

21 responses

  1. Cockroaches leapt out of your chain at first glance for me. I’m glad it’s not what I assumed given your interests!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Cockroaches” is what the Hutus called the Tutsis, alas.

      Like

  2. The Shadow in the Garden is the most tempting. Gulp? Not so much. Hope you’re having a good weekend away!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read The Shadow of the Sun years ago ans had completely forgotten about it until now! Great list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Which one? 🙂 The travel book would be my guess for you.

      Like

      1. Oh sorry! The A S Byatt!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Ah, okay, I predicted the wrong one. Not among Byatt’s finest moments.

      Like

  4. I’ve not read the Roach, but want to…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, my fellow medical books reader 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can manage Gulp I think having read The Clever Guts Diet by Michael Mosely. I am about to find out having just ordered it – I shall hold you responsible if I don’t like it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, hope you enjoy! It’s a more flippant approach, but still with lots of solid information.

      Like

  6. I enjoyed Gulp a lot – I keep meaning to read more of her books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was delighted to learn that my libraries own a few of her books. I’d always assumed that she was one of those American authors you can never find over here.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great chain. The Shadow in the Garden sounds fascinating. Much more so than Gulp!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had grand plans of reviewing the Atlas with A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin, another memoir of the biographer’s life. That didn’t end up working out, but both are great books. I might recommend the Tomalin to you in the first case.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I already have the Tomalin in my sights so that’s encouraging!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I borrowed Gutsy Women last month for the Rachel Carson chapter, but I ended up reading it through. There are so many interesting choices there! (Not usually my type of volume, being so glossy-paged and the narrative by a political family…it was a nice surprise!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, it’s good to hear that the whole thing was worth a read! I suspect that on Kindle will not be an ideal format, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe not? But the visuals were especially striking and that would still come through as a digital-read. (The photocredits were longer than the index, or close anyway! LOL)

        Like

    2. My Kindle doesn’t cope well with graphics, so it might be one to keep on the PC desktop and read a chapter of at a time for proofreading breaks.

      Like

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: