Six Degrees of Separation from Second Place to Sons and Lovers

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 chain begins with Second Place by Rachel Cusk, one of the books longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021. I’ve read a couple of books by Rachel Cusk, Arlington Park which I loved and The Bradshaw Variations, which I enjoyed but not as good, in my opinion, as Arlington Park. So I was interested to see what Second Place was like and have just finished reading it .

Blurb: ‘A  woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape. Over the course of one hot summer, his provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds. With its examination of the possibility that art can both save and destroy us, Second Place is deeply affirming of the human soul, while grappling with its darkest demons.’

My preliminary comments – this book was inspired by a real set of circumstances. In her Acknowledgement at the end of the book Cusk refers to Mabel Dodge Luhan’s 1932 memoir of the time D H Lawrence stayed with her in Taos, New Mexico. She acknowledges that her version of that event is intended as a tribute to her spirit. I’ll write more about Second Place in a later post.

I didn’t find it easy to come up with a chain from Second Place. I started twice, but each time the chain just fizzled out quite quickly. One began with Mabel Luhan’s memoir, Lorenzo in Taos, which is written loosely in the form of letters to and from D. H. Lawrence, Frieda Lawrence, and Robinson Jeffers, the celebrated poet who had been a guest of Mabel’s in Taos, with references to Dorothy Brett and Spud Johnson among others. The second began with A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson, which is also on the longlist for the Booker Prize 2021.

So, I decided to make it very simple!

First linkThe Secret River by Kate Grenville – historical fiction following the life of William Thornhill from his childhood in the slums of London to Australia. He was a Thames waterman transported for stealing timber; his wife and child went with him and they made a new life for themselves. It’s about their struggle for survival as William is eventually pardoned and becomes a waterman on the Hawkesbury River and then a settler with his own land and servants.

Second LinkSee What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt – a novel based on true events. On the 4 August 1892 Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abby, were brutally murdered in their home at 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts and Andrew’s daughter, Lizzie, was charged with the murders. She was tried and was acquitted in June 1893 and speculation about the murders and whether Lizzie was guilty or not continues to the present day.

Third Link The Serpent Pool by Martin Edwards – a Lake District murder mystery featuring DCI Hannah Scarlet, in charge of the Cumbria’s Cold Case Team, her partner Marc Amos, a rare book dealer and Daniel Kind, a historian and the son of Hannah’s former boss, Ben Kind. It begins with the death of George Saffell, one of Marc’s customers, stabbed and then burnt to death amidst his collection of rare and valuable books.

Fourth LinkThe Shining by Stephen King – this tells the story of Jack Torrance and his family as they move into the Overlook Hotel in the Colorada Rockies. The Overlook is closed for the winter and Jack, a recovering alcoholic is the caretaker. Just what impels him towards murder is horrifyingly revealed as the winter weather closes in on the hotel and they are cut off from the rest of the world.

Fifth Link Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie is Miss Marple’s last case, published posthumously in 1976, although Agatha Christie had written it during the Second World War. Miss Marple investigates a murder that had happened 18 years ago.

Sixth Link Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence – a powerful, emotional novel depicting the struggle, strife, and passion of relationships and their intensity, and possessiveness. Throughout the book Lawrence’s vivid descriptions and observation of the English countryside are so beautiful that I couldn’t stop marvelling at his writing.

My chain is made up of books all with titles beginning with the letter ‘S’. The final link, Sons and Lovers makes the chain into a circle as it is also linked to Second Place, which inspired Cusk’s fictionalised version of D H Lawrence’s relationship with Mabel Dodge Luhan – called ‘L’ and ‘M’ in her book.

Next month (October 2, 2021), the chain begins with a (frightening) short story, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

26 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation from Second Place to Sons and Lovers

  1. It’s wonderful to find out new things about D.H. Lawrence, now I really want to know about his travels to Mexico! Thanks for talking about those links here. And I’m seeing a lot of Lizzie Borden retellings these days, including the TV show with Christina Ricci — second place to none, for sure!

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  2. I haven’t read Cusk, and of your chain I’ve only read the first and last books, though I’ve heard of 2 and 4. Good on you for keeping it simple. My change last month was a bit of a challenge, as I had a few dead ends before I finally found something that I liked, but this month I completed it in minutes. Strange eh?

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  3. Sometimes, Margaret, the simplest chains work out to be the best. I think yours is terrific. I was pleased to see The Secret River, The Serpent Pool, and Sleeping Murder – all books I really enjoyed.

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  4. That’s a great chain, with two books I’ve read and enjoyed – The Shining and Sleeping Murder – and two that I want to read – The Secret River and See What I Have Done. Well done for bringing the chain full circle!

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  5. Nice way of creating a chain. Sometimes, it’s good to keep it simple. 🙂 I look forward to more of your thoughts on Second Place. I more or less decided not to read it, but could be persuaded by positive reviews.

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  6. Making this into a circle with the final book was a clever twist.
    I’ve decided I am only going to do 6 degrees if I can easily think of connecting books – this one had be stumped early on

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  7. Like you, I started a couple of chains that went nowhere (I really wanted to do yellow covers but they were not as easy to come by as I had anticipated). I enjoyed your watery theme.


  8. I struggled with this chain too, Margaret, despite feeling confident that it would come easily. In the end I settled for a 2nd link of the one longlist book I read – a link you considered. I was enjoying your choices and puzzling over the links until you pointed it out for me! Very clever and nice and simple. I read Sons & Lovers many years ago and sadly can’t remember what I thought of it. The Secret River is on my wish list and any Christie is good! Excellent choices.


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