I found this meme on Debbie’s ExUrbanis blog. It is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, ‘Chains’, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘˜six degrees of separation‘. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.
On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book, 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.
You make your 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.
This is my first chain:
The chain this month begins with Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, one of my favourite authors, although I haven’t read this book – yet. It’s set in a small village in Derbyshire, during the year of 1666 ravaged by the plague. The story was inspired by the true story of the villagers of Eyam, Derbyshire and their own historical account of the plague.
This leads on to the following books:
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland, also a novel of the plague, but set in 1348 as a group of people flee across England as the plague moves inland from the ports. The members of the group, a conjurer, a one-armed storyteller, a musician and his apprentice, a young couple on the run, a mid-wife and a strange child who can read the runes, are all liars with secrets that are gradually exposed as they journey on.
Secrets are also a major part of In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward, in which two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later, Yvonne, Sophie’s mother commits suicide, which prompts Rachel, to try to remember what had happened. She is a genealogist and her research into her own family history proves to be invaluable, as devastating family secrets are revealed. This also links back to Year of Wonders as it is set in Derbyshire.
In The Blood Detective genealogist Nigel Barnes helps DCI Grant Foster to track down a killer who has left cryptic clues carved into his victims’ bodies. Although this has some really gruesome scenes, which I normally avoid, this a fascinating fast-paced book linking the crimes of the past ‘the events of 1879 ‘ to a series of murders in the present. It is set in London and the topography of London through the years also helps Barnes to solve the crimes.
Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine is also set in London. It begins in 1905 when Asta Westerby and her husband Rasmus come to East London from Denmark with their two little boys. Asta keeps loneliness and isolation at bay by writing a diary. These diaries, published over seventy years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal. For they seem to hold the key to an unsolved murder and to the mystery of a missing child. It falls to Asta’s granddaughter Ann to unearth the buried secrets of nearly a century before.
Denmark and family secrets are the links to this next book, Anna Marklin’s Family Chronicles, a psychological mystery by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen, a Danish author. Set in Denmark in the present day with flashbacks to Sweden during the early part of at the beginning of the twentieth century, Anna finds herself with beset with problems. Her father is seriously ill and strangely secretive about his family background. Anna longs to know more and when she finds her grandmother’s journal she is enthralled. But digging into the past can reveal secrets that you might not want to know.
The final link in this chain is another psychological mystery, Blood Harvest by Sharon Bolton. I could have chosen any one of her books but this one stands out for me. Evi, a psychiatrist has a new patient, Gillian, unemployed, divorced and alcoholic, who can’t accept that her daughter died in the fire that burnt down her home. Meanwhile, the new vicar in town is feeling unwelcome and hears voices in the church, but can’t find anyone there And a young boy keeps seeing a strange, solitary girl playing in the churchyard. Who is she and what is she trying to tell him? It’s a dark, scary book and one that I found disturbing, but thoroughly absorbing.
My chain goes from a seventeenth century English village devastated by plague to a twentieth century English village in six links, via books revealing murder, mayhem and mystery in their pages. Apart from Year of Wonders these are all books I’ve read and enjoyed, even The Blood Detective, a grisly tale.