I do like it when books that happen to figure in my current, completed or planned reading — however different they are in theme or tone — somehow manage to display links. Whether it’s unconscious or pure coincidence I’m never sure, but it’s an added pleasure when I spot the chain of connections.
As I follow the Pequod on its quest around the seven seas I’ve been diverting myself with tales from elsewhere as respite from Melville’s intensity. Some of the Twitterati I follow have recommended the late Jan Marks, not a writer I was aware of before, but an author whose attitude was “I write about children, but I don’t mind who reads the books.” Thanks to Jon Appleton I now have a copy of a collection of thirty short stories entitled The One That Got Away (Roffo Court Press 2020), pieces which have been receiving renewed interest and admiration.
As it happens I’m now finishing off a review of another collection of short stories (nearly thirty of them) by the late Ray Bradbury, publisbed under the title Summer Morning, Summer Night (2008). They are — mostly — about summer, as you’d expect. In contrast were the short stories by Tove Jansson in a posthumous (2006) selection A Winter Book which were — mostly — about winter, unsurprisingly.
Also set in winter is John Masefield‘s The Box of Delights (1935), a Christmas classic which I reread as a Twitter readalong (#DelightfulXmas) over the Christmas and New Year period. (I’ll be discussing the interchange of tweets and reviewing the novel in future posts.) The seasonal snow and ice from Masefield’s fantasy reappear in Ariana Franklin‘s The Death Maze (2008), a historical whodunit set in the Plantagenet period and centred on the Godstow convent near Oxford; again, a review shouldn’t be long in coming.
Interestingly, this very convent of Godstow was featured in the first instalment of Philip Pullman‘s new trilogy The Book of Dust, La Belle Savage. The second volume, The Secret Commonwealth — which I’ve just received as a Christmas present — is set many years afterwards, however, and ranges much further afield than Oxfordshire. A little like Moby Dick.
That only leaves Scott Lloyd‘s Arthurian Place Names in Wales (2017) which I acquired just before my self-imposed embargo on buying new-ish books in 2020. I haven’t as yet found what, if anything, links this to any of the other books mentioned but it doesn’t matter — I’ve been looking forward to reading what Lloyd (whom I knew few years ago) has to say about the reality or not of an historical ruler called Arthur, and whether places named after or associated with such a figure substantiate his existence or not.
So, this post outlines another example of an unexpected chain of connections in a series of seemingly different books, a phenomenon I’ve noted occurring before in my reading of consecutive works. Is this the kind of near synchronicity you’ve noted in your own bookish experience too?