Friday, August 5, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation: From Ruth Ozeki to Louise Penny

The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest. The idea behind the meme is to start with a book and use common points between two books to end up with links to six books, forming a chain. The common points may be obvious, like a word in the title or a shared theme, or more personal. Every month Kate provides the title of a book as the starting point.

The starting book is The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki. I know nothing about this book so I am using just a few sentences from the Goodreads summary to describe it:

After the tragic death of his beloved musician father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house – a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn't understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.

This time I am using a simple approach, linking from a word in the current title to a word in the next title. 


Using "Emptiness" in the starting title, my first link is to An Empty Death by Laura Wilson. That book is the second in a historical mystery series set from the early 1940s into the late 1950s, a period I enjoy reading about. The novel provides a vivid picture of the wartime years in Great Britain, and how the war affected family life in particular. Set in 1944 after several years at war, it also focuses on the deprivation that was experienced during those years.


From An Empty Death, I move on to A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson. This book has two story lines, one set in the 1940's in Germany and Portugal, the other set in the late 1990's in Lisbon. The later time line features a police detective whose investigation of a teenage girl's murder links back to the experiences of a Berlin factory owner forced into Hitler's SS in 1941. The story is suspenseful and compelling, the characters have depth, but there was too much violence and sex for me. This book won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1999.


From A Small Death in Lisbon, I next link to The Lisbon Crossing by Tom Gabbay. Comparing the two books, this story is much lighter and very picturesque. Jack Teller is a US citizen visiting Lisbon with international film star Lili Sterne in 1940, to help her locate a childhood friend, Eva Lange. This is the 2nd in the Jack Teller series and each book is set in a different city and time period. 


The Lisbon Crossing leads me to The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths. That book takes me out of the World War II period to a more contemporary mystery. This is the first book in the Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries. The main character is a forensic archeologist who often ends up working with the police when there are questions about skeletal remains. There are 15 books in the series but I have only read the first four. 


My next link is A Beautiful Place to Die (2008) by Malla Nunn, a story set in 1950s apartheid South Africa. This is the only one of the six linked books that I have not read.  And it has been on my TBR pile for five years now! 

Description at the publisher's site:

In a morally complex tale rich with authenticity, Nunn takes readers to Jacob's Rest, a tiny town on the border between South Africa and Mozambique. It is 1952, and new apartheid laws have recently gone into effect, dividing a nation into black and white while supposedly healing the political rifts between the Afrikaners and the English. Tensions simmer as the fault line between the oppressed and the oppressors cuts deeper, but it's not until an Afrikaner police officer is found dead that emotions more dangerous than anyone thought possible boil to the surface...


A Beautiful Place to Die leads me to my last link, The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. This is the eighth book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, set in a secluded monastery. I enjoyed the new setting. The stories set in Three Pines are charming, but I also enjoy exposure to other parts of Qu├ębec. It was interesting to get a look at the workings of a small monastery. (I am currently reading the tenth book in the series, The Long Way Home.)


All of my links are crime fiction stories, and all are set outside of the USA. Settings are in the UK, Portugal, Germany, South Africa, and Canada. 

If you are participating in the Six Degrees meme, where did your links take you? If not, have you read these books? Any comments on The Book of Form and Emptiness or A Beautiful Place to Die, which I have not read yet?


Next month (September 3, 2022), Six Degrees of Separation will begin with the book you ended with this month. (So, for me it will be The Beautiful Mystery.) For those who did not participate this month, start with the last book you read.


21 comments:

Todd Mason said...

I've not yet participated in this roundelay, though the not altogether liner grouping of fantasy-fiction magazine issues on a 1 August post certainly comes close! Issues closest to April 1958, except the April 1959 issue of FANTASTIC (and, peripherally, a 1953 issue of FANTASY FICTION, which debuted a story reprinted in 1958 by the one non-US magazine in the mix, the UK title SCIENCE FANTASY.

I have not yet read any of these novels, and barely read Penny and perhaps Wilson (and have meant to read at least Ozeki, Griffiths and Nunn among the remainder).

Mallika@ LiteraryPotpourri said...

Enjoyed your chain. I love detective fiction, and almost all the titles on your list are new to me, so I will enjoy exploring them

Margaret 21 said...

I've read some of Elly Griffiths and Louise Penny's books, but not these, so that's something to look forward to. But I wouldn't say no to any books in this interesting chain

Cath said...

I've read two of your books, The Crossing Places and The Beautiful Mystery... the latter is one of my favourite Gamache books. My next is The Long Way Home, the book you're reading, so I'll be interested to hear how you like it because he's retired in that one isn't he?

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

Nice chain! I don't know any of these books (not really my genre) but I adored the starting book! Ozeki is a marvelous writer.

Elza Reads said...

I've talked about Louise Penny with another blogger just yesterday - I really, really need to start reading her books.

I actually love all the books you've listed on your Six Degrees today, not that I've read any.... But if the opportunity arises, I'll read them all!

Have a wonderful August!

Elza Reads

Kathy's Corner said...

This is such a great idea for choosing books, Six Degress of Separation and you have made some very fine choices. I am a big fan of Louise Penny. In fact since I discovered her I have found it hard to continue with other mystery series I have started. That's how hooked I am on the village of Three Pines.

TracyK said...

I like the word "roundelay", Todd. All of these authors (that I have read) are good, but Robert Wilson's books that I have read most recently are just too violent for me. I also would like to read something by Ozeki, and The Book of Form and Emptiness sounds like my type of reading, but it is longish. None of us can read all the authors we would like to. I don't get to nearly as much science fiction or fantasy as I would like to.

TracyK said...

Malika, even though my reading is largely mystery novels and always has been, I was surprised that all my links turned out to be in that genre. I am trying to mix in more genres lately.

TracyK said...

Margaret, it just occurred to me that I had problems when I started reading Elly Griffiths' books and Louise Penny's. I did not like the first few books in their series and it took a while to get into them. I don't know why I persevered in those cases; I guess because the series were so popular.

Todd Mason said...

Mine was meant to be referred to as an arguably non-linear group...a liner group sounds like old newspapers bound for the bottom of a birdcage!

Taking on new fields of fiction can be particularly tough in busy, stressful times. Finding what you want to read can take some time even with leisure.

TracyK said...

Cath, Gamache is retired in The Long Way Home, in Three Pines. And for that reason (partially) this book is a bit different. Still, I am loving it. I am less than 50 pages from the end and will definitely finish it today. Once I began to enjoy reading Penny's books, her writing gets me pulled into the story almost immediately every time. And I now love all the quirky characters.

TracyK said...

Davida, thanks for the comment on Ruth Ozeki's book. I visited your blog and checked out your review of The Book of Form and Emptiness. It was very helpful and I think I will give it a try. Not excited about reading a book over 500 pages but I think it will be worth it.

TracyK said...

Elza, I agree, you should start reading Louise Penney's books. As I mentioned in another reply, I did not like the first few books in the Inspector Gamache series. The characters that irritated me at that point I now like a lot, and it isn't that they change a lot, the reader just gets to know them better.

TracyK said...

Kathy, I have always enjoyed doing Six Degrees of Separation, but I have done many in the last year or two. I hope to continue to do them more regularly.

Louise Penny's Three Pines series is certainly a different kind of mystery series and all of the stories tie together in some way. I do love them and now I have read over half of them.

I notice that another of your favorite series is Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder Mystery Series. I have only read one of those. And also Donna Leon's series, which I have only read a few of.

CLM said...

Nice chain! I also had an Elly Griffiths book in mine. I have been intending to try the Laura Wilson series - I wonder if I read a review of yours because I put it on my Goodreads list. Of course, it is easy to get distracted from the TBR!

My sister recommended a new author last week (new to us, at least), Sarah Stewart Taylor. Unusually, all three of us and my mother read The Mountains Wild within a week (some were on vacation so were uninterrupted). While we had some quibbles, we liked the story and Dublin setting.

stargazer said...

Great chain! I used to enjoy the Ruth Galloway series, but I have given up on it by now. Over time, I found the book became a bit too similar. Still not convinced by Louise Penny. I have read three of her books and may give her another try, but I am not a big fan so far.

TracyK said...

Constance, I have read three of the books in Laura Wilson's series, and will read more if I run into them at the book sale. I liked the first two a lot, the third was just so so for me. However, what I really like is that there are years between each of the books, so the main protagonist ages, his children are at different stages in each book. And they are about family dynamics. At least the three I read.

I have read Sarah Stewart Taylor's first series, which is about graveyard art specifically. I liked it but had quibbles. My husband liked it more, partially because of the graveyard art. I do have that first book in her newer series but haven't read it.

TracyK said...

Stargazer, it was when I read the 4th book in Louise Penny's series that I began to like the books, and I have liked each book since, some more than others.

I am still not a huge fan of the Elly Griffith's series, but I did like book 4 much more than the others, and I have book 5 to read some day.

FictionFan said...

Some interesting-looking books here and you've certainly done plenty of "travelling"! The only one I've read is the Elly Griffiths. I quite enjoyed the early books in that series but gradually tired of Ruth and Nelson and their on-going non-affair.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, my approach to the Elly Griffiths series now is to take them one by one. I enjoyed number 4 so I will try number 5. But I don't worry too much about it because there are so many books to read and I keep finding new (to me) authors to read. The ongoing non-affair bothers me and did from the start. But other characters in the books seem more interesting now.

Last year I actually found some of her books at the annual book sale (from the two other series) which usually doesn't happen.