Six Degrees of Separation: from Phosphorescence by Julia Baird to The Burry Man’s Day

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.

This month the Six Degrees chain begins with Phosphorescence by Julia Baird, who is an Australian author. The book won’t be published here in the UK until 27 May. Julia Baird reflects on her encounters with phosphorescence, a luminescent phenomenon found in the natural world, and how she was able to cultivate her own ‘inner light’ in the face of suffering and illness. I think I’d like to read it.

I didn’t know where to start my chain, so I used my Search Box to see if I had used the word phosphorescence previously on my blog – and I had, just once. It’s in a passage I quoted from D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, when he described Paul Morel’s grief and sadness after his mother’s death, and yet also his hope for the future:

Turning sharply, he walked towards the city’s gold phosphorescence. His fists were shut, his mouth set fast. He would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her. He walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly.

I read Sons and Lovers in 2007 and another book I read then is The Moon and Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham, a novel about Charles Strickland, who was a stockbroker; a boring, man. He left his wife and family after seventeen years of marriage and fled to Paris, because he wanted to paint. It is roughly based on the life of Gauguin, which reminded me I have Gauguin By Himself, a massive book that contains copies of his paintings, drawings, ceramic, sculpture and prints together with his written words.

Gaugin’s relationship with Vincent Van Gogh described in his book leads me on to Van Gogh and A S Byatt’s book, Still Life in which Alexander Wedderburn struggles to make a play about Van Gogh. The cover painting on my copy is Van Gogh’s Still Life with Coffeepot.

Another book called Still Life is Val McDermid’s latest Karen Pirie mystery. It combines a cold case investigation into the identity of a skeleton found in a campervan and a current case into the discovery of a body in the Firth of Forth.

The Burry Man’s Day is the second in Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver series. It is set in South Queensferry, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, where there is an annual Ferry Fair and the Burry Man Parade. A local man is covered from head to ankles in burrs and walks round the town, taking a nip of whisky at every stop. When Dandy visits the Parade, the Burry Man drops down dead at the end of the Parade, apparently poisoned. The list of suspects includes all those who gave him a nip of whisky.

My chain begins with awe and wonder and ends in murder, linking together sons and lovers, artists, and detectives.

Next month (April 3, 2021), we’ll start with the 2020 Booker Prize winner, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart – a book I haven’t read.

33 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from Phosphorescence by Julia Baird to The Burry Man’s Day

  1. I love the variety in your chain Margaret.

    I’ve read some of the Dandy Gilver books and enjoyed them, so thanks for the reminder that there are lots more!

    I’ve only ever read one Val McDermid, though I’ve heard her speak at least twice at book events and she’s brilliant, very interesting and funny. I found the book I did read too gory for me, but I should probably give her another try.

    I did DH Lawrence at school and didn’t enjoy him, but maybe he’s another one to revisit.

    Thanks for all these ideas.

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  2. Love the link to Sons and lovers Margaret. How lucky you’d used that quote. I’ve read it of course, but your other books I haven’t though I’ve always wanted to read the Maugham. And I have been interested in Byatt.

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    1. The Maugham book took me a little while to settle into his style with long and sometimes convoluted sentences in long paragraphs – but I liked his sense of humour.


  3. Such a clever chain, Margaret! And I never would have thought of beginning it with the word ‘phosphorescence!’ Glad to see a Dandy Gilver novel in your list; I like that series very much, and I really ought to get back to it.


  4. You know… I believe I have The Moon and Sixpence among my books (I’m sure I saw it when I was packing for my move, but without new bookshelves, I haven’t been able to unpack all my novels), but I don’t think I ever read it. I really should!

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  5. What a clever way to start a chain for an unfamiliar book! I love reading different books with the same title and now I have 2 more “Still Life” books for my TBR. Thanks!

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  6. Great chain concept! Unlike you, I knew I have not used that word before because I kept checking to make sure I hadn’t spelled it wrong! Like Rosemary, I have heard Val McDermid speak. I haven’t read this series but I like her books despite a gruesome aspect to them. I also read the first Dandy Gilver and think the packaging is great, although found the book a bit dull.

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  7. How clever of you to link from Phosporescence in this way. And what a great chain it led on to. There are many books called Still LIfe and I keep meaning to read this particular one. Thanks for the reminder, Margaret!


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