Six Degrees of Separation: July

I had so much fun last month, so I’m taking a few moments off from filling up boxes to think about book titles (always better than wasting time on Instagram or Pinterest, right?). The meme is hosted by Kate from Booksaremyfavouriteandbest and picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps.

This month’s pick is Picnic at Hanging Rock, a Joan Lindsay novel set in Australia, in a stifling all girls’ boarding school. (Unless last month’s novel which I didn’t know at all) I read the novel and saw the movie waaay too early as a teenager, and it was very striking and memorable to my young self. I remember the frilly dresses (completely inappropriate for the rocky wilderness) and the heated atmosphere. I have a thing for novels set in boarding school and so I thought of…

1. Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the first novel I read about boarding school. The Japanese anime series was totally addictive when I was a kid, and I reread many times the book. Another gloomy view of boarding school that marked me as a teenager was of course…

2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, that starts with some memorable chapters set in Lowood charity school. Jane’s indomitable character, both unflinching and idealist, made me think of another girl on the cusp of adulthood, but seen this time from a cynical, satirical point of view:

3. Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe. Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch, but Charlotte Simmons is portrayed as a naive, idealist, pure girl from a small-town highschool entering an elite university, and I can’t help but think that Jane Eyre, if not for her Victorian moral backbone, could easily have turned out into a Charlotte Simmons. At any case, that was exactly what Jane was determined not to become.

4. Another outsider thrown into a cut-throat school environment is Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld. I read it a few years ago, back to back with Charlotte Simmons, and I must confess my memory is a bit hazy. It’s set in a boarding school so we definitely stay in the same setting. Still I remember loving more…

5. American Wife, by the same author Curtis Sittenfeld, on a banal, bookish, rather conventional Midwestern middle-class girl who ends up marrying the future President of the United States (not Trump, obviously, but a fictional Bush). I remember liking this soft-spoken main character who teaches elementary school and works as a school librarian a lot. The presidential train of thought was a tough one to follow, so the best association for this book would be…

6- A Summer without Men, by Siri Hustvedt, for the recurrent setting in the Midwest. Many books by Hustvedt reference her native Minnesota, but I chose this one because, well, an all-female cast of characters was a nice allusion to Hanging Rocks’ school, and the main character in this novel also teaches girls during the summer.

From Australia, to London, to Yorkshire, to New York and the Midwest, hopping from one girls school to the next, I have somehow come full circle, haven’t I?