Six Degrees of Separation: From Phosphorescence to Sunburn

This month we begin with Phosphorescence by Julia Baird (2020). (See Kate’s opening post.) It’s not currently available in the UK but is set to be published by HarperCollins in late May, and I’d be interested in reading it.

 

#1 Baird’s premise and subtitle – “On Awe, Wonder and Things that Sustain You when the World Goes Dark” – remind me a lot of Wintering: How I learned to flourish when life became frozen by Katherine May, which I reviewed for the TLS early last year. (I also published an excerpt here.)

 

#2 Winter and snow books together make up my favorite seasonal reading, though I’ll soon be moving on to spring themes instead. A wintry novel I recently loved was Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (review here), which is doubly appropriate for this chain because I noticed the pretty rare word “phosphorescence” being used in it twice, including on the next-to-last page.

 

#3 Cedars take me to Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (review here), which takes place on Cedar Street in the fictional Colorado town of Holt. I wouldn’t normally recall such a tiny detail, but I grew up on a Cedar Street (in Silver Spring, Maryland), so it stuck in my mind.

 

#4 Whenever I think of Our Souls at Night, I remember John Boyne’s crude Twitter joke about someone asking a bookshop for “Arseholes at Night.” I’ve enjoyed a couple of Boyne’s novels, including A Ladder to the Sky, a Ripley-esque work of suspense (review here).

 

#5 In 2018 I read a few books with the word “Ladder” in the title in quick succession. One of the others was Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler, currently my second-favorite of her novels.

 

#6 Sunburn by Laura Lippman, a noir mystery, must have been inspired – unconsciously, at least – by Ladder of Years: both are set in the mid-1990s, have a woman walking away from her family and into a new life, and feature a Delaware beach. I read Sunburn during a week in Milan in July 2019 – our last holiday abroad (tacked onto my husband speaking at a conference); indeed, the last time we went away anywhere for longer than a night or two. We hope to manage a couple of mini-breaks this spring and summer.

 

I’ve gone round from one evocative, light-filled word to another, both of which offer a tantalizing glimpse of warmer, happier times to come.

 

Where will your chain take you? Join us for #6Degrees of Separation! (Hosted on the first Saturday of each month by Kate W. of Books Are My Favourite and Best.) Next month’s starting point is Shuggie Bain.

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

29 responses

  1. I like the Boyne joke which reminds me of the bookshop customer who reportedly asked for Thomas Hardy’s Test of the Dormobiles. Possibly apochryphal as it sounds too good to be true.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! I remember Jen Campbell’s Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops having lots of silly examples like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice chain. I think it was you who put me onto Wintering, and you know I’ve read Snow Falling on Cedars. I love Haruf’s work, so maybe I ought to TBR the remaining choices too. Well, maybe not Sunburn. Noir and Covid aren’t great bedfellows as far as I’m concerned

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hardly ever pick up a mystery and even less often find them worthwhile. This one was more memorable for where I read it than what it was about.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great chain – that Boyne joke is very good – Haruf was such a great writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m partway through Plainsong now. It’s a shame he only wrote six (I think) novels.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Boyne joke is hilarious! Still haven’t read anything by him, although I have at least one on the shelves, Sunburn is there too. The only one I haven’t read, or got to read of your 6 is Wintering, which is the kind of book I ought to read more of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’d love Ladder, but The Heart’s Invisible Furies was on another level for me. His new one, though, was pretty atrocious.

      Wintering is a nice low-key book that includes memoir, nature and travel writing. You might enjoy it, but you needn’t feel you ‘ought’ to read it!

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  5. You always find such effortless links… love them! I’ve just written my post (coming out tomorrow Sunday) and I might also have a Kent Haruf novel in my chain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I originally had the first two links as two different directions I could go … but I decided to combine them instead. I’ll look out for your chain. Always good to see a Haruf.

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  6. Great chain. I’d like to read Tyler’s Ladder… and Snow Falling on Cedars… I think I actually have (or had) that book. I’ll have to take a look when I finally unpack my books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’re both great reads. I hope you can find a copy!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really liked Ladder of Years and now that I know Sunburn features a similar plot I think I might want to try it too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’d enjoy it. I know you like crime novels; I don’t particularly, but wanted to try Lippman because she (like Tyler) almost always writes about Baltimore, which is 30 miles from where I grew up.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Nice chain. Cool to find a book with phosphorescence. My quirky chain is here: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/03/06/six-degrees-of-separation-from-phos-to-light/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What an interesting theological angle you took! We both followed the light to an extent.

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  9. I liked Lippman’s Sunburn a lot. Great chain!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Not my usual fare, but it was fun for a vacation read.

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  10. Our Souls at Night is so amazing!! I had Wintering, too–it surprised me by being so good. I thought it would be something else and was so pleasantly surprised. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a very gentle, thoughtful book.

      Like

  11. Oh, I’ve read most of these: the Guterson, Boyne, Tyler and Haruf! I like the sound of the Lippman so will add that to my wishlist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always try to read some “Sun” books over the summer, and if I’m ever to succumb to a mystery novel it’s likely to be then, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting… in summer I tend to hunt out wintry books and vice-versa. It gets so hot here, it’s nice to read something set in colder climes.

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    2. I tend to read with the seasons, though I can see why it would be welcome respite to experience a different one sometimes!

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  12. The first three choices are all on my list and have been for a long time. All three seem ideal choices for the present times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’d particularly enjoy Wintering.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The only one I’ve read is the Gutterson and just a couple of years ago too. At last. The one I’d like to read is the Anne Tyler; I do have a copy, and have long suspected it would be a favourite of mine as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember you read it during the summer and it felt all wrong!

      It’s one of Tyler’s best, a real cut above for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, yes: you’re right! And the weather is still a factor that looms large in my memory of the story.

        Liked by 1 person

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