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.
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.
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.
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.
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.