Book Serendipity, May to Mid-August 2022

This is a regular feature of mine every few months. I call it “Book Serendipity” when two or more books that I read at the same time or in quick succession have something in common – the more bizarre, the better. Because I usually have 20–30 books on the go at once, I suppose I’m more prone to such incidents. The following are in roughly chronological order.

  • Not only did the opening scene of All Down Darkness Wide by Seán Hewitt share with Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier a graveyard setting, but more specifically an angel statue whose head falls off.
  • SPOILER: {The protagonist has a backstory of a mother who drowned, presumably by suicide, in Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford and The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.}

 

  • I started reading two e-books on the same day that had Taylor Swift lyrics as an epigraph: Bad Vibes Only by Nora McInerny and Tracy Flick Can’t Win by Tom Perrotta. I have never knowingly heard a Taylor Swift song.

 

  • Rescuing insects from a swimming pool in Fledgling by Hannah Bourne-Taylor and In the Quaker Hotel by Helen Tookey.

 

  • Reading two feminist works of historical fiction in which the protagonist refuses to marry (even though it’s true love) at the same time: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus and Madwoman by Louisa Treger (about Nellie Bly).
  • Two London-set books featuring a daughter named Mabel, one right after the other: This Is Not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan and Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy by Helen Fielding.

 

  • In Jenn Shapland’s My Autobiography of Carson McCullers I came across the fact that McCullers married the same man twice. Just a few days before, I’d seen that same odd fact about Hilary Mantel in her Wikipedia bio.

 

  • A character named Clodagh in Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden and “Rainbows” by Joseph O’Neill, one of the entries in The Best Short Stories 2022: The O. Henry Prize Winners.

 

  • Reading two books about an English author who died young of TB at the same time: Tenderness by Alison MacLeod (about D.H. Lawrence) and Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit.
  • Reading two novels that mention the shipwreck of the Batavia at the same time: The Night Ship by Jess Kidd (where it’s a major element) and Cloudstreet by Tim Winton (just a tiny reference that nonetheless took me aback). According to Wikipedia, “Batavia was a ship of the Dutch East India Company. Built in Amsterdam in 1628 as the company’s new flagship, she sailed that year on her maiden voyage for Batavia, capital of the Dutch East Indies. On 4 June 1629, Batavia was wrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos, a chain of small islands off the western coast of Australia.”

 

  • David Lack’s Swifts in a Tower is mentioned in Swifts and Us by Sarah Gibson (no surprise there) but also in From the Hedgerows by Lew Lewis.

 

  • There’s a child nicknamed Chub in Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson and Cloudstreet by Tim Winton (which both also at least started off being buddy reads with Marcie of Buried in Print!).

 

  • Two novels in quick succession in which the discovery of a horse skeleton sparks the action in one story line: The Last Wild Horses by Maja Lunde and (coming up soon – I have a library reservation placed) Horse by Geraldine Brooks.
  • Unst, Shetland as a setting in Orchid Summer by Jon Dunn, Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, and Where the Wildflowers Grow by Leif Bersweden.

 

  • “Quiet as it’s kept” (a quote from the opening line of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye) is borrowed in a poem in No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies by Julian Aguon and one in the anthology American Wildflowers: A Literary Field Guide, ed. Susan Barba (“A Siren Patch of Indigo” by Cyrus Cassells).

 

  • I didn’t recognize the word “swingeing” in The Reindeer Hunters by Lars Mytting and encountered it again the same day in Brief Lives by Anita Brookner before I had a chance to look it up (it means extreme or severe).

 

  • A 1950s setting and a main character who is a man with missing fingers/arm in Cloudstreet by Tim Winton and The Young Accomplice by Benjamin Wood.

What’s the weirdest reading coincidence you’ve had lately?

23 responses

  1. Clever stuff as ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always love these! And always mean to take note of mine, then forget. The only that comes to mind is characters called Valentine in Late and Soon by E.M. Delafield and Appointment With Venus by Jerrard Tickell, and characters called Baptiste in Appointment With Venus and The Orchid House by Phyllis Shand Allfrey. Not the most unexpected, but still struck me!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like to spot recurrences of unusual names like that. I remember I once read three books with a Kiki in at the same time! And my first incident I’ve noted down for next time is two characters called Verena, a name I’d possibly never come across before.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Always love your book serendipity posts. I should really note things down. I have read several books set in small town America lately, but that’s all I can think of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. By design or by coincidence?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How about unconscious design – that’s approaching coincidence 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great name for it! I often catch those in my reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think “synchronicity” is technically the more appropriate term, but the branding has stuck. Can you think of any coincidences you’ve had lately?

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      1. Yes, the name Entwhistle! The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle is the second book with that last name this year (I haven’t finished the other one which is a much older book). Several others.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Always enjoy reading these. I seldom seem to encounter this synchronicity. I find it fascinating that people marry the same person twice. There must be some good stories there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just can’t imagine going through all the emotional pain (and paperwork) of a divorce, and then saying, you know what, marriage to you was actually okay 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmm, my serendipitous synchronicities are never as striking as yours: two novels I read recently Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop and Patricia Highsmith’s Those Who Walk Away were both set in places we’d stayed in the past: the first was a fictionalised Southwold, where we holidayed last year, and the second in Venice, partly in a certain Pensione Seguso – here we probably had the self-same room where the main protagonist lodged for a few days (and possibly even Highsmith herself!).

    Long before these we glimpsed the door of the room we had for a week in Florence’s Palazzo Guadagni included in a key shot of Zeffirelli’s 1999 film Tea with Mussolini but I suppose that doesn’t really count, does it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The very same room! That is an excellent coincidence.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Fun! One recent serendipitous connection was reading the same Martha Graham quote in Agnes de Mille’s Dance to the Piper, and a book or two later in the biography of Louise Fitzhugh, Sometimes You Have To Lie (Fitzhugh kept a copy of the quote in her wallet). I would not have connected those two authors!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had the same quotes turn up in two very disparate books before. It’s fun to see how wide an author’s inspiration can reach.

      Like

  8. Hooray, I love these! I had one where I was reading White Spines by Nicholas Royle and he’s the publisher of some pamphlets that Kaggsy had been reading and I checked for a reply to my comment within an hour of reading the pamphlet series name in the book; also in White Spines he of course mentions a few serendipities himself. No other true ones recently; I’ll continue to note them as I find them …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. White Spines was a great one for bookish trivia.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had to write my review a bit oddly to fit it all in (out tomorrow)!

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  9. I always love this because the coincidences are SO specific! Angel statues whose heads fall off? Brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s my favourite, when it’s not just a shared vague theme but something really particular and bizarre.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. *claps excitedly* So I am now a personification of one of your Synchronicities, with the multiple Chubs from two of our buddy reads?! (And I feel compelled to mention that Mr. BIP had a family member with that name as well, long deceased.)
    One synchronous moment in my recent reading experience surrounds a memory in Kazim Ali’s hybrid-styled memoir Northern Light in which he memorizes distances between places while walking (pacing them out), as a way of contemplating how we absorb places and are connected to the land, and that’s something I read in fiction recently, too, a character who memorized the paces between places…the only problem being that I haven’t yet been able to find the previous passage (have been going through my log looking for the likely candidates, but no luck yet).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, a place of honour for you! I can’t imagine someone having the nickname Chub nowadays. I hope you can figure out which novel that came from. I hate when I can’t quite put my finger on a coincidence.

      Like

      1. It was pure joy for a moment, then I realised that I will likely have my badge ripped from my uniform if our next buddy read does not contain a Chub. My status is precarious, at best. Must collect the reward before we finish Cloudstreet then, I suppose. *brushes lint from lapel to await badge placement*

        You got it: it’s driving me slightly mad!

        Like

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