Six Degrees of Separation: from Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss to Talk to the Hand

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 Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. I like books on grammar and punctuation! I love her examples and the wrong use of the apostrophe in “its/it’s” infuriates me, although not quite as as much as it does her:

No matter if you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice. If you still persist in writing, “Good food at it’s best”, you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave.

My first link is Henry JamesWashington Square. It’s all about will /won’t Catherine Sloper and Morris Townsend get married. Catherine lives at home in Washington Square with her father, the wealthy Dr Sloper. I found it rather tedious and repetitive as Catherine grew older, constantly in conflict with her father over whether she should marry Morris. Her father describes her as ‘ about as intelligent as the bundle of shawls.’

Thinking of shawls provides my next link – is The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas, a dual time-line romantic novel about a beautiful handmade shawl. It’s set in Wales in the present day and in the Himalayas and Kashmir in the 1940s . The story switches between Mair’s journey and that of Nerys Watkins, her grandmother, a missionary’s wife, living in India during the Second World War.

Kashmir is my third link, with The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. The novel begins in Old Delhi then moves into the new metropolis and beyond, to the Valley of Kashmir and the forests of Central India. After a good beginning I struggled with this book because there is so much description, so little plot and such a large cast of characters. It’s a book about love and loss, death and survival, grief, pain and poverty. It made the 2017 Booker Prize longlist.

My fourth link is to Arundhati Roy‘s first book, The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize in 1997. Set in Kerala this is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence. I loved this book, but as I read it before I began my blog I haven’t reviewed it.

Small is also in the title of Susan Hill’s novella, The Small Hand, a sad and mournful ghost story about Adam Snow, a dealer in antiquarian books and manuscripts who got lost on his way home from visiting a client when he came across a derelict Edwardian house. It was there in the garden that he had a strange experience in which he felt a small hand creep into his right one.

So that brings me to the end of my chain linking back to the opening book with another book by Lynne Truss – Talk to the Hand. I haven’t reviewed this book as it’s another one I read before I began my blog. It’s about the rudeness of modern society, or as she describes it ‘unashamedly, a big long moan about modern life including automated switchboards, customer service, mobile phone abuse, littering, and telling strangers to Eff off.‘ You can see more about why she wrote the book on her website.

My chain begins with a book about punctuation and ends with one about rudeness by the same author. It’s a circle which came about quite by chance as I moved from one link to the next, not knowing where it would end! The links are Henry James, shawls, Kashmir, books by Arundhati Roy, books with ‘small’ in the title and also ‘hand’, moving from the UK, travelling through the US, Kashmir and India and then back to the UK.

They are all books I’ve read – and, for a change, my chain does not include any crime fiction!

Next month, on the 7 August 2021 (my birthday), we’ll start with  Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher.

28 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss to Talk to the Hand

  1. Loved your first link Margaret. Truss also refers to Orwell in her book, as I recollect, so I nearly linked to an Orwell book but as I’d done Orwell last month I decided to think harder!

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    1. Thank you – I thought The Kashmir Shawl was too long and there were some unconvincing coincidences, but it’s interesting about life for missionaries in Kashmir, and the differences in attitudes to women over the two time periods.


  2. I really enjoyed Eats Shoots and Leaves, Margaret. It was nice to see it here. And you’ve got, as always, a very clever chain. I’d like to read Talk to the Hand, as it sounds like a very interesting commentary. Funny how our language and the way people feel they can act have both changed over time. I like this chain a lot!

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  3. You always come up with such clever chains, Margaret! I have a Henry James title in my chain too, so I was delighted to learn about that reference by Lynne Truss!!

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  4. Very interesting how you got to your first and second links – with quotes. I liked that! By the way, I loved The God of Small Things so I really should read her second book. (Took her long enough to publish it.)

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  5. I share Lynne Truss’s (I nearly wrote ‘Liz’ Truss who is somewhat of a different person altogether… ) frustration about modern use – abuse – of punctuation. I’m really not an expert myself and sometimes get it wrong but my goodness so many Twitter posts these days are completely unintelligible. ‘Nonsense’. I know predicitive text has a lot to answer for but even so. ‘Your’ and ‘you’re’ is the one that drives me to distraction. I read a prediction recently which talked about how English is changing all the time and that the distinction between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ is going to be one of the first things to disappear as it’s practically already gone. Depressing.

    Anyway, excellent chain, encouraging me to look up some of your books.

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    1. Liz Truss came to my mind too, who is, as you say, somewhat of a different person altogether… And I couldn’t agree more with you about punctuation – so depressing!.


  6. That’s such a clever chain! I love the way you linked first to Henry James and then to The Kashmir Shawl. I enjoyed Eats, Shoots & Leaves but haven’t read the other Lynne Truss book – it sounds interesting too.

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  7. Arundhati Roy has been a rather politically controversial figure. I tend to stay away from her work because while she writes exquisitely, I do find her stance quite needlessly contrarian on even seemingly minor issues. But I do like the idea of “Talk to the Hand”, that used to be such a fun emoticon — and I wonder how Truss has worked around that. Thanks for talking about it here.

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    1. I’m sure that I didn’t pick up all the political and cultural references in Roy’s book and I was for the most part bewildered in the middle of the book. There is a lot of violence, massacres, beatings, tortures and rapes. It’s a heartbreaking book, which doesn’t spare the details and I was relieved to finish it.

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      1. Yeah, Roy cuts no corners. Another reader described her work as showing only the cruel and dark aspects of human character, and that’s probably true.


  8. Its an excelent chain this month – theirs lots of good links in it, especially the one to Henry Jame’s book. Im very picky about apostrophes too, though I mightnt go so far as to hack people to death over them… 😉

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