Six Degrees of Separation: Phosphorescence by Julia Baird

Here’s the brief version of how this meme works:

“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 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.

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.” You can read all the rules here.

This month we start with Phosphorescence. I haven’t read this book so here’s an excerpt from the Amazon blurb to set the scene:

“After surviving a difficult heartbreak and battle with cancer, acclaimed author and columnist Julia Baird began thinking deeply about how we, as people, persevere through the most challenging circumstances. She started to wonder, when we are overwhelmed by illness, loss or pain, or a tragedy outside our control: How can we keep putting one foot in front of the other?”

My Chain

The first book that came instantly to mind was Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May which deals with what we do during our “winters.” Through her own story and those of others, May helps us see how we weather such times.

Another book that deals beautifully with the worst of times is The Sound of A Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. If I ever must endure something like Bailey endured, I’d want this book to return to–and a snail for a roommate.

The words “illness” and “cancer” bring this book to mind–I still haven’t read it but it has been on my TBR since it was published. (Plus, the crustacean on the cover with its hard shell, visually ties it to the snail carrying his own house on the cover above). A “biography of cancer” hmmmm. Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Muherjee.

The shells tie in this book Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning who hunt fossils. The story reflects the gender-related issues in being taken seriously in the natural science community since both are spinsters. By being unmarriaed both have the freedom to pursue their science, but at a cost to themselves socially and more. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.

Say the word “Emperor” and I think of Japan. Say the word “freedom” and the last thing I’d think of is the Japanese royal women. If born royal, they give up their status when they marry. If they marry a royal, their enitre life depends on producing a male heir. Poor Empress Masko, today’s Empress, “failed” having only a daughter. Even her mother-in-law, portrayed in this story, was locked into a gilded cage of a life. One of the best royal novels ever is The Commoner about the courtship of the now-retired Emperor and Empress. I could not put it down.

“One of the books I named as must read for 2009 on my blog. Excellent. This book took me out of my world of Nowhereville, Ohio, and dropped me secretly behind the walls of Imperial Palace in Japan. The characters came totally alive for me. All my years of reading about the British and various German royal families did help me understand some details but did nothing to prepare me for the emotion this book generated for me. The soul-stifling gilded cage that the palace truly was and is for these people actually made me hurt for them. Never mind the opulence, or the wall-to-wall servants, nor even the total serenity of the grounds around them. The life they are forced into by birth or marriage TAKES their lives, crushes them, but forces them to keep on keeping on. This book makes you relish freedom to the nth degree.” (review is from my old blog)

Another word for Emperor is “Kaiser.” After his wife and consort Augusta died of breast cancer (tying it to Emperor of Maladies), the Kaiser remarried. The marriage upset many for his bride was much younger and quite controversial. This book is a fictionalized story of the Kaiser in exile–a difficult time ndeed. No status outside his own home, no pomp, no ceremony, no world attention. Today he’d get an Oprah interview to bleat on and on about his supposed victimhood. The Exception (aka The Kaiser’s Last Kiss) by Alan Judd.

From a difficult time with cancer to a difficult time with a mystery illness to cancer to creatures with shells to a loss of freedom by marriage to a loss of freedom in exile. Not sure. Is this really full circle?

Next month 

Next month we start with Booker Prize winning Shuggie Bain: A Novel by Douglas Stuart.

10 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: Phosphorescence by Julia Baird

  1. Wintering began my on chain about 5 months ago, but we went in quite different directions after that, Chevalier is always a good read, so with two books in common, as it were, I think I should TBR your other choices too. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed Remarkable Creatures, but haven’t read any of the other books in your chain. The Commoner sounds interesting – I know very little about Japanese royalty.


  3. So sorry for the terribly late comment! I love your chain three of your books caught my attention immediately. The sound of the wild snail eating, Remarkable Creatures and The Exception. All seems good and I will check them out.

    Elza Reads


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