Six Degrees of Separation from The Poisonwood Bible to …

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the chain begins with The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favourite books. I’ve read it several times.

The Poisonwood Bible

Told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959, The Poisonwood Bible is the story of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

I bought The Poisonwood Bible in Gatwick airport bookshop just before boarding a plane to go on holiday. So my first link in the chain is to another book I bought in an another airport bookshop waiting to board another plane:

Fortune's Rocks

It’s Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. I had never heard of Anita Shreve, but I liked the look of this book – and the fact that it’s a chunky book of nearly 600 pages, good to read on holiday. It’s set in the summer of 1899 when Olympia Biddeford and her parents are on holiday at the family’s vacation home in Fortune’s Rocks, a coastal resort in New Hampshire. She is fifteen years old and this is the story of her love affair with an older man.

When I looked at it today, I saw that it’s written in the present tense. Recently I’ve been writing about my dislike of the present tense – but I obviously haven’t always disliked it, because I remember really enjoying this book.

Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)

Another book written in the present tense that I loved is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the story of Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, and his political rise, set against the background of Henry VIII’s England and his struggle with the Pope over his desire to marry Anne Boleyn. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, which takes me to my next link, another book set in the reign of Henry VIII –

Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake, #6)

Lamentation by C J Sansom set in 1546, the last year of Henry VIII’s life. Shardlake, a lawyer is asked by Queen Catherine (Parr) for help in discovering who has stolen her confessional book, Lamentation of a Sinner. It evokes the people, the sights, smells and atmosphere of Henry’s last year and at the same time it’s an ingenious crime mystery, full of suspense and tension.

Barnaby Rudge

The next book also combines historical and crime fiction – Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, set in 1780 at the time of the Gordon Riots.  It’s a story of mystery and suspense which begins with an unsolved double murder and goes on to involve conspiracy, blackmail, abduction and retribution.

Barnaby Rudge is a simple young man, living with his mother. His pet raven, Grip goes everywhere with him. He’s a most amazing bird who can mimic voices and seems to have more wits about him than Barnaby. Grip is based on Dickens’s own ravens, one of whom was also called Grip.

Ravens form the next link-

The Raven's Head

to The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland, set in 1224 in France and England about Vincent, an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. He attempts blackmail but when this fails Vincent goes on the run in possession of an intricately carved silver raven’s head. The plot revolves around the practice of alchemy – the search for a way to transform the base soul of man into pure incorruptible spirit, as well as the way to find the stone, elixir or tincture to turn base metals into precious metals.

And finally to the last link in this chain another book featuring alchemy –

Crucible (Alexander Seaton, #3)

Crucible by S G MacLean, the third of her Alexander Seaton books. Set in 1631 in Aberdeen Robert Sim, a librarian is killed. Alexander investigates his murder and finds, amongst the library books, works on alchemy and hermetics – the pursuit of ancient knowledge and the quest for ‘a secret, unifying knowledge, known to the ancients’ since lost to us. S G MacLean’s books are full of atmosphere. I think her style of writing suits me perfectly, the characters are just right, credible well-rounded people, and the plot moves along swiftly with no unnecessary digressions.

My chain this month has travelled from Africa to Scotland via America and England, and spans the years from the 13th century to the mid 20th century. It has followed a missionary and his family, a teenager in love with an older man, and looked in on power struggles in Tudor England, and the pursuit of the secret to turn metal into gold.

Links are: books I bought to read on holiday, books in the present tense, crime fiction and historical fiction (and a combination of these genres), ravens and alchemy.

Next month  (June 2, 2018), we’ll begin with  Malcolm Gladwell’s debut (and best seller), The Tipping Point, a book and author I’ve never come across before.

21 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation from The Poisonwood Bible to …

  1. I have only read Wolf Hall of your links, and I loved it. I’ve heard of Anita Shreve but haven’t read her.

    But, your comment on present tense reminded me that I meant to say in my response to you about my heavy looking list, that Dorothy Johnston’s Through a camel’s eye isn’t heavy. I was reminded because I’m pretty sure that she has also commented on the use of first person in contemporary writing, and doesn’t like it much!

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    1. I didn’t mean they all looked heavy reading – but I missed the fact that Through a Camel’s Eye is crime fiction, thanks for letting me know. 🙂 I’ll look out for Dorothy Johnston’s books.

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    1. Thanks Kate. Reading The Poisonwood Bible on holiday has stuck in my mind not just because I loved but but also because I remember being very amused by the description of how the Price family got round the forty-four pound per person luggage limit on their flight to the Congo. I’d just struggled to get our luggage allowance down to the required limit for our holiday, but I hadn’t thought of doing what they did – each of them wearing multiple layers of clothing and other goods etc.:)

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  2. I like the links you’ve forged here, Margaret, very much. There’s something about those ‘holiday’ books, isn’t there? I bought one once when I was in London. It now goes with me whenever I travel!

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  3. I’m hanging out for Mantel to complete the Wolf Hall trilogy-hopefully later this year. Have read a number of books about Elizabeth before, but not Henry. An amazing time in history.

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  4. Great links, Margaret! The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorites as well, although I’ve only read it once so far. Really need to pick it up again soon! I haven’t read anything by Anita Shreve, but Fortune’s Rocks sounds interesting.

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  5. Love the links you’ve used to tie these books together. Fortune’s Rocks is familiar to me, I think perhaps I had plans to read it at some stage, will look out for it as I quite likes AS’s writing. I had no idea there was a raven in Barnaby Rudge or that it was potentially such an interesting book. Another one for the ‘keep an eye out for’ list.

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    1. Cath, I was surprised by how much I liked Barnaby Rudge. It has a very slow beginning, with a complicated plot and, as with all the Dickens’ books I’ve read, very many characters. It’s almost a book of two parts and the dramatic second half, to my mind, more than makes up for the slow beginning – and Barnaby Rudge himself is a very interesting character.


  6. What an interesting set of links, none of which I’v read, although I do quite like historical fiction. I have read a few Anita Shreve books though, and would like to read more. I’m also quite interested in checking out some of Charles Dickens work; I’ve never been that keen, but recently began researching a friend’s ancestor, who reminds me a little of the young boys in The Artful Dodger.

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    1. I should clarify. I meant I should read Oliver Twist – The Artful Dodger is the name of another (non-fiction) book about those juvenile offenders (which I’ve just ordered through my local library), and takes its name from the character from Dicken’s work.

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  7. Oh my goodness, Margaret, it was quite unsettling reading your chain! I make a point of not looking at anyone else’s until my own is done (it will be out later today) and a very good thing in this instance. I also Have Fortune’s Rocks in my chain and I’m currently reading Barnaby Rudge! Very spooky! Great links (and I will be reading The Poisonwood Bible before long!)

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  8. Ah, some great books this month! It’s years since I read Barnaby Rudge – well overdue for a re-read. And both Wolf Hall and the Sansom books are up amongst my favourites of all time. Glad to hear you think so highly of The Poisonwood Bible too, since it’s lingering on my TBR – I really must try to get to it soon. Great chain!

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  9. Great chain! I love your choices. It’s funny – my chain this month also took me to Dickens, although I linked to Great Expectations, and also to Anita Shreve. I ended with her book Body Surfing. I love how we all take these links in different, but similar directions!


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