Six Degrees of Separation from Rodham to …

It’s time again for 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.

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The chain begins this month with Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, a partly fictional account of Hillary Clinton’s life, imagining what would have happened if she hadn’t married Bill Clinton. As I’m not keen on fictionalising a real person’s life, especially when that person is still alive, this book doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t much like ‘what if …’ novels either.

I’d rather read a biography or an autobiography.

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And as it happens I do have Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book, What Happened, in which she reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. I haven’t read it yet.

But I have read the next book in my chain. It’s another autobiography – Agatha Christie’s, simply called An Autobiography.

As well as being a record of her life as she remembered it and wanted to relate it, it’s also full of her thoughts on life and writing. She wrote quite a lot about her writing methods, writing criticism, hearing your own voice, economy in wording, writing detective stories, adapting plays and writing them herself, and about the joy of creation.

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The one book that satisfied Agatha Christie completely is not one of her detective books but one she wrote under the name of Mary Westmacott – Absent in the Spring. I loved this novel and I was thoroughly absorbed in the story of Joan Scudamore who was stranded in the desert, after visiting her daughter in Baghdad. It is a complex and in-depth character study, with a growing sense of tension. 

Cards on the Table

But of course what she is most famous for are her crime fiction novels. Cards on the Table is one of my favourites. Mr Shaitana is murdered whilst his guests are playing bridge. Two games were set up – one made up of the four people he considered were murderers and the other in a separate room made up of the four detectives or investigators of crime, including Hercule Poirot. Poirot, of course was the only one who worked out who the murderer was.

Agatha Christie was writing her books right up until her eighties when she wrote her last novel, Postern of Fate. It was published in 1973, and it’s rambling and repetitive, with very little in the way of mystery. It’s the fourth of the Tommy and Tuppence Beresford mysteries and it begins with the ageing couple, now retired and living in a new home. Tuppence is bemoaning the fact that they have so many books and there isn’t enough room to shelve them. She reminisces about the books she/Agatha had read as a child. If you haven’t read any of Agatha Christie’s books please don’t start with this one. It’s not one of her best!

Which brings me to the last book in my chain with one of Agatha’s/Tuppence’s favourites – Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, which was also one of my favourites when I read it at school.

On a stormy night off the coast of Scotland, young David Balfour faces his most terrifying test yet. He’s been double-crossed by his wicked uncle, tricked into a sea voyage and sold into slavery. When the dashing Alan Breck Stewart comes aboard, he finds a brave friend at least, and the pair fight back against their treacherous, black-hearted shipmates. But then the ship hits a reef, it’s every man for himself, and David must battle against the raging sea itself!

My chain is not very varied this month! Beginning with a fictional biography I moved on to a couple of real autobiographies which lead me to one of my favourite genres – crime fiction – with three of Agatha Christie’s novels, finishing the chain with one of her favourite childhood books.

Next month (October 3, 2020), we’ll start with The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

34 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation from Rodham to …

  1. Interesting chain Margaret, though I haven’t read any of the books you include. I have never read an Agatha Christie and have never read Robert Louis Stevenson. However, I do love the cover of the Kidnapped edition that you chose to include. It’s got a bit of a Japanese look to it.

    BTW Though I haven’t read Christie, her autobiography sounds interesting. I do like it when authors write about their thoughts about writing – their methods, criticism etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agatha Christie’s autobiography is long and she wrote it over 15 years. I read it slowly over several months and it was like having a daily chat with her, listening to her life story and thoughts about her writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This ls an interesting chain. It has some books I’ve overlooked simply because the author’s been around a long time and it’s easy to disregard old favourites in favour of newer releases. I should read an Agatha Christie, I think. A first for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always enjoy seeing Agatha Christie featured. At some point I had the idea of doing a full chain of Christie novels, but I should probably wait until the starting book is a mystery, if not actually a Christie…

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  4. What a lovely chain! I didn’t know that Christie wrote under another name. As for Tommy & Tuppence, they’re my favorites (that I’ve read) because they age, where the others don’t seem to – at least not much. Postern might not be her best of ALL her books, but I really enjoyed it.

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    1. I like the Tommy and Tuppence books very much – particularly ‘N or M?’ the third book. it was first published in 1941 and after it was published Agatha Christie was investigated by MI5 because she had named one of the characters ‘Major Bletchley’ and MI5 suspected she had a spy in Britain’s undercover code breaking centre, Bletchley Park!

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  5. I”m completely with you on Postern of Fate, Margaret. It’s definitely not one of her best. But then, ‘not her best’ is a lot better than many other people’s best work (of course, I’m a Christie fan). I really like the way you’ve moved from biography (which I prefer to fictional accounts, too) to Agatha Christie’s work and then to Treasure Island. Very clever!

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    1. Thanks, Margot! Even though it’s a bit rambling there was a lot I liked in ‘Postern of Fate’, such as in the opening pages as Tuppence is bemoaning the fact that they have so many books and there isn’t enough room to shelve them. I can identify with that!

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  6. Great chain, Margaret! You included one of my favorite Christie books, Cards On The Table. I love that one and have read it many times. Postern of Fate is not a favorite, but any Christie is better than a lot of other choices. Hope you are doing well!

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  7. Great chain Margaret! I have been meaning to read Kidnapped ever since we moved to Edinburgh, over ten years ago!! I used to walk past RLS’s former home every day but he has slipped off my radar in recent times.

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  8. Excellent chain, Margaret. I’ve read two of your books, the AC autobiography and Absent in the Spring, both excellent. I’ve read lots of RLS but not Kiddnapped. I don’t think I even knew much about it but your description makes me want to read it. I agree with you completely as regards fictional books about real people who are still alive. I wonder how HC feels about it, I think it would upset me. I haven’t had time to do Six Degrees for a couple of months but plan to get back to it next month with The Turn of the Screw.

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    1. Thanks, Cath. I think it would upset me too – so much speculation. I enjoy doing Six Degrees and it’s a good way to remember what I’ve read and to discover ones I haven’t read on other people’s chains.

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  9. I read Agatha Christie’s autobiography back in the 1970s when it came out and bits of it have really stuck in my mind, then I read the Westmacott books, sadly those haven’t stuck with me, maybe time for a re-read.

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  10. What Happened is fascinating and a real insight into American Politics which I find complicated and confusing. I would love to hear her speak, she makes some very insightful comments about women in a ‘mans world’ which I could relate to.

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  11. One of the things I love about this meme is the freedom to do whatever you want with the links, so if you want to do a chain of just Agatha Christie then you can!

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  12. And that’s why you are on my blogrole!! I simply love love love love your book choices! This link didn’t disappoint at all. I’ve actually forgotten about Mary Westmacott… How could I!
    I’ve bought a printed and old copy of Agatha Christie’s biography last year, but still haven’t read it. Need to get to it!

    Great great list. Here’s my 6 Degrees of Separation Sep 2020

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