Book Covers: Postcards from the Edge, Edge of Eternity, Woman on the Edge of Time, Gone to Soldiers, Second Generation, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, How It All Began

6 Degrees of Separation

It’s time for another adventure in Kate’s 6 Degrees of Separation Meme from her blog, Books Are My Favourite and Best. We are given a book to start with, and from there we free associate six books.

This month we start with a bestselling work of autobiographical fiction, Postcards From the Edge (1987) by Carrie Fisher. Wednesday will be the 30th anniversary of my reading it (August 11, 1991). The novel tells the story of 30-year-old actress Suzanne Vale as she goes through drug rehab and tries to put her life back together. My remembrance of this novel is that it was both poignant and, at times, quite funny.

1. In searching for other books on the edge, I came across Edge of Eternity (2014), the concluding book in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, which “has followed the fortunes of five intertwined families – American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh – as they make their way through the twentieth century” (according to Goodreads). I love both big, sprawling family sagas and Ken Follett’s work (especially his trilogy that begins with Pillars of the Earth), so now I’m planning to queue up the Century Trilogy on my Kindle to take on my next extended trip.

2. While Suzanne Vale was mailing in her postcards from the edge, Connie Ramos, the Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) by Marge Piercy, was waiting patiently on my Kindle for me to get to her. According to Marge Piercy’s bio on Goodreads, Woman on the Edge of Time:

mixes a time travel story with issues of social justice, feminism, and the treatment of the mentally ill. This novel is considered a classic of utopian “speculative” science fiction as well as a feminist classic.

Time travel, social justice, feminism, and mental illness: What’s not to love?

3. But I particularly want to read Woman on the Edge of Time because I loved Piercy’s novel Gone to Soldiers (1987) so much that I gave it five stars on Goodreads. I’m a fool for big, sprawling novels (see #1), and this Big Book presents the stories of several characters who are all affected in some way by World War II.

4. I recently read another novel that features characters caught up in World War II. Second Generation (1978) by Howard Fast is the second book in his Immigrants series (another big, sprawling family saga). The main character of this novel, Barbara Lavette, working in Europe as a foreign correspondent, gets pulled into both the reportorial and the political intrigue of the war before returning to her hometown of San Francisco.

5. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) by Anthony Marra also focuses on characters caught up in war, this time in 2004 in a rural village in Chechnya. I loved this novel for the way in which it shows how human interaction can work wonders, even in the face of something as grim as war. In the end, what goes around comes around. 

6. How It All Began (2011) by Penelope Lively opens with a 77-year-old widow getting mugged. Her injuries require her to move in with her middle-aged daughter for a while, which in turn means that the daughter cannot go on a planned business trip, which means that someone else must take her place, and on that trip the someone else runs into . . . . As in A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, one event leads to another, which in turn leads to another, and so on. In a generally upbeat way, this novel illustrates how random acts and coincidences often have as much effect on how our lives turn out as do all our best laid plans.  

Much in that same way that, in 6 Degrees of Separation, one book leads to another.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

15 thoughts on “6 Degrees of Separation”

  1. Excellent work! The Immigrants Saga was so big at one time. I can’t believe I didn’t read it when it came out–I loved huge books then. Penelope Lively’s book sounds like one I’d llke.

  2. I enjoyed your post Mary. I’veread none of the novels but do know of Follett, Piercy and Lively. The Lively sounds particularly good. I loved Moon Tiger. I have to say that while I can enjoy “big, sprawling novels “, like Dickens for example, I tend to prefer shorter, tighter novels, partly because I can read three in the time it would take to read one of those! Three means more variety of ideas and styles, more challenges for me! That said, one of my all-time favourite novels is Rohinton Mistry’s A fine balance.

  3. I like time travel tropes, so Woman on the Edge of Time caught my eye. I also love how you’ve introduced each book. Seems like a bit of heavy reading, but also powerful reading. Thanks for a great chain!

    1. Mary Daniels Brown

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m determined to get to Woman on the Edge of Time some time soon (so many books, so little time).

    1. Mary Daniels Brown

      Time travel fascinates me. I’ll sometimes read a book just because it involves time travel, regardless of what else it might contain. Different strokes and all that. . . Thanks for reading and commenting, Davida.

  4. I’m a fool for big sprawling stories too. Once upon a time I would buy books based on their size!

    Enjoyed your chain this month!

    1. Mary Daniels Brown

      As much as I like Big Books, sometimes I also want a little one. I have a special shelf for them.

  5. I find myself intrigued by books that focus on the human side of the fall-out from war, so there’s plenty to think about here, and my TBR list has grown again (sigh …)

    1. Mary Daniels Brown

      I’m with you, I think, Margaret. I don’t read books that are about the actual battles of war, but I’m interested in how the experiencing of war affects people afterwards. I was surprised at how upbeat Marra’s book manages to be despite the fact that it deals with, you know, war.

  6. Pingback: Review: “We Are the Brennans” – Notes in the Margin

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