Six Degrees of Separation: from Vanity Fair to Oliver Twist

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 with Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. I read this book in December 2004 (I know this as I’d written the date at the front of the book). I loved it. I didn’t watch the recent TV adaptation, not wanting to lose my own mental pictures of the characters and it always irritates me when adaptations move away from the original story.

Vanity Fair


The main character in Vanity Fair is Becky Sharp, an orphan who was brought up at Miss Pinkerton’s Academy for young ladies in Chiswick Mall, which leads me to my first link in the chain –

Pinkerton’s Sister by Rushforth. The main character is Alice Pinkerton who is most definitely eccentric. The book begins: ‘The madwoman in the attic was standing at the window.’  It’s a bizarre story, funny, even ludicrous at times, full of literary and musical references and I got lost in it for hours. It’s a very long and detailed book and I don’t suppose it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it.

Pinkerton's Sister

My second link followed on naturally to another book by Peter Rushforth, A Dead Language. I was disappointed with this book as it was so hard to understand what was going on – it’s about Alice’s brother Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, the young naval lieutenant who abandoned Madame Butterfly as he is about to set sail for Japan. It is strange and I didn’t finish it.

A Dead Language

It leads me on to another book with ‘dead’ in the title – The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer. This is about Eve Singer, a TV crime reporter, who will go to any length to get the latest scoop. But when a twisted serial killer starts using her to gain the publicity he craves, Eve must decide how far she’s willing to go – and how close she’ll let him get.

The Beautiful Dead

The fantastic TV drama Killing Eve is based on Codename Villanelle, a series of novellas by  Luke Jennings.  Eve Polastri, a desk-bound MI5 officer, begins to track down talented psychopathic assassin Villanelle, while both women become obsessed with each other.

Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle

In Worth Killing For by Ed James  DI Simon Fenchurch witnesses a murder when a woman is attacked by a young hoodie on a bike, who snatches her mobile and handbag. The hoodie is part of a phone-theft gang, run by the mysterious Kamal.

This reminded me so much of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, in which young boys are recruited by Fagan to ‘pick-a pocket-or two’. After running away from the workhouse  Oliver is lured into a den of thieves peopled by vivid and memorable characters – the Artful Dodger, vicious burglar Bill Sikes, his dog Bull’s Eye, prostitute Nancy, and the cunning master-thief Fagin.

Oliver Twist

I am so surprised at where this chain has ended – from one classic to another, both about an orphan, but very different in style. Both Vanity Fair and Oliver Twist were first published as serials, before being published as books – Vanity Fair in 1847-48 and Oliver Twist in 1837-39. In between it has passed through two rather strange literary novels and three books focusing on death and murder!

Next month (December 1, 2018), we’ll begin with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

31 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from Vanity Fair to Oliver Twist

  1. A super chain, Margaret! I really enjoyed the TV series of Killing Eve and don’t normally read books if I have already seen an adaptation. Do you think it would be worth a go in this case though?


  2. I love how well you construct these chains. I too like the sound of Pinkerton’s Sister. Assume next month’s will be Christmassy… heavens, where has the year gone?


  3. Great chain this month! I haven’t heard of Peter Rushforth until now, but I’m intrigued by Pinkerton’s Sister. I really enjoyed Belinda Bauer’s first two books and need to catch up with her newer ones!


    1. Thanks, Helen – Pinkerton’s Sister is the book that introduced me to book blogs. I wondered if anyone else had found it as fascinating as I did and found a blog review! I love Belinda Bauer’s books – but haven’t read The Beautiful Dead yet.


  4. Your chain is so clever, Margaret! And such different sorts of books, too. So interesting how it ended where it s tarted – with a classic novel about an orphan. Now, that takes skill!


    1. You are very kind Margot, but I have to admit that I didn’t plan the chain at all – it just happened as I went from one book to the next and was nicely surprised to find that it began and ended with two classics about and orphan! 🙂

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  5. I like your full circle this month!
    I saw the BBC production of Vanity Fair years ago (maybe it was a series??) and I seemed to recall it being very good, but I understand what you say about having a mental picture of characters.


    1. Thanks, Kate – in September this year ITV broadcast Vanity Fair in seven episodes – I think there have been several series broadcast over the years.


  6. Great chain! It’s always a surprise seeing where they lead everyone. This is the second blog-post in a row to rave about Killing Eve, so I shall take that as a sign that I should watch it…

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  7. Oh, you had some great links, Margaret! Loved all the crime novels and the covers on most were very vivid. Interesting that you came around to Oliver Twist – ha! I’m looking forward to next month’s starting point and all things Christmas! My chain might be longer than usual for that – that’s allowed, right? 🙂

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  8. Haha, I ended up with a classic too, as you know, after a circuitous route. Until a few months ago I soul have said I hadn’t heard of any of the others, but we did watch Killing Eve and knew that it was based on novels. I’m getting less and less keen on psychopath stories, but this has an edge. Still, I think we would have given up if it hadn’t been for Sandra Oh. She was riveting.

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      1. Yes, she was good too, I agree – but I was very sad to see the open ending. I think I’ve had enough and can’t imagine watching another series. Shows about psychopaths make me too tense.


  9. I did’t see this until now because my naughty email had filed your blog into the Spam folder (along with a good many others – I wonder if it caught me napping during my holidays!). What an unusual jump for the first link – well done – and sorry to hear that the Pinkerton brother book didn’t work as well. You’d think it would be a great story to tell!

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    1. I shall be trying A Dead Language again some time – it might just be that it wasn’t the right time for me to read it before. I’ve found that with other books I didn’t take to at first. 🙂


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