Reviews

Six Degrees of Separation: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Six degrees of separation is a new meme hosted by Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman. Here’s the idea:

Annabel and Emma will choose a book they’ve both enjoyed and then link them together. Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

The great thing about this meme is that each participant can make their own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.

Burial Rites

This month’s selection is the lovely Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

In Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, a historical fiction novel focused on the last woman executed in Iceland, the extreme, isolated landscape stands out in my mind, as well as the murder aspect of the story. Given it’s based on actual events; you know the outcome can’t be changed.

This brings me to A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrienne Harun. This novel is also set in an isolated, extreme landscape – in the very different, but equally forbidding logging country of northwestern Vancouver. This novel was partially inspired by the very real murder of women along the Highway of Tears.

Much like in A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain, poverty, death, and the rural landscape star front and center in Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All the Time. The characters are all haunted by a devil they know – neglect, abuse, and temptation.

Also set in the backwoods of middle America, this time in Bill’s Indiana as opposed to Pollock’s Ohio, Donnybrook (by Frank Bill) is the tale of men who have run out of options through luck, stupidity, or addiction. As the characters converge on a three day, bare-knuckled fighting tournament held in the middle-of-nowhere, Indiana, they hope to be the last man standing. If they are, they win the one hundred thousand dollar grand prize. To make it through the tournament and win the fight, both the participants and the onlookers are drunk and high on whatever’s on offer.

As impoverished and isolated as the characters of Donnybrook are, the characters of Winter’s Bone are more so. In a desperate corner of Missouri, Meth is king and Ree Dolly’s father is one of the manufacturers. He’s skipped bail, leaving Ree to fight – literally and figuratively – to keep her family’s home.

Although the viewed through very different lenses, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas also stars illegal drugs (more of the recreational sort) as a central plot point. Hunter S. Thompson was one of the better known residents of Colorado.

Dan Simmons, another (still living) Colorado writer based in the Front Range, wrote the interesting, opium influenced Drood. The novel focuses on the last years of Charles Dickens as told by the opium-addled Wilkie Collins.

Six Degrees
We made it from the nineteenth century Iceland to modern day Vancouver, from drug-impoverished middle America to a drug-fueled road trip, and finally to two very different Colorado writers – all in six moves.

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