Six Degrees of Separation: from Ethan Frome to Beneath the Surface

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 this month begins with  Ethan Frome, a novella by Edith Wharton, which I have read and loved. Set in the fictitious town of Starkfield, Massachusetts, this is a tragedy about a farmer trapped in an unhappy marriage. Their lives are changed when his wife’s cousin comes to live with them to help in the house.

My first link is to another book by Edith Wharton, Xingu and other stories, one of my TBRs, There are five short stories – about jealous husbands, spinsters who have wasted away their lives, and bored ladies infatuated with money and aspirations.

My second link is to another book of short stories, which I’m currently reading. It’s The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier, a total of six stories. Hitchcock based his film on du Maurier’s horror story of a farmhand, his family, and his community who are attacked by flocks of birds.

My third link is Corvus: My Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson, which is part memoir and part nature study. Corvus’ is a genus of birds including jackdaws, ravens, crows, magpies and rooks. The specific birds Esther Woolfson looked after are a rook, a young crow, a cockatiel, a magpie, two small parrots and two canaries.

My fourth link is to the word ‘raven‘ in Raven Black by Ann Cleeves, the first book in her Shetland series – Inspector Perez. It begins on New Year’s Eve as Magnus Tait is seeing the new year in on his own, until two teenage girls knock on his door to wish him a Happy New Year. A few days later one of the girls is found dead in the snow not far from Magnus’s house, strangled with her own scarf.

My fifth link is to a novel that also begins on New Year’s EveThe Nine Tailors by D L Sayers,  as Lord Peter Wimsey is driving through a snow storm and ends up in a ditch near the village of Fenchurch St Paul in the Fens. He is taken in for the night by the vicar and helps the bell-ringers ring in the New Year. A few weeks later Wimsey is asked back to the village to help solve the mystery of the dead man found by the sexton whilst he was opening up Lady Thorpe’s grave to bury her husband.

My sixth link: is to Beneath the Surface by Fiona Neill, which is also set in the Fens, where Patrick and Grace Vermuyden and their two daughters, teenager Lilly and ten year old Mia, are living in badly built, damp and draughty house.This is an emotionally charged novel about the burden of keeping secrets and the effects that misunderstandings and lies can have. 

Beginning with a novella by Edith Wharton about a family tragedy my chain travels to another family in an ever decreasing spiral of disastrous events, thus making the chain into a circle and linking together short story collections, stories about birds, books beginning on New Year’s Eve and books set in the Fens.

Next month (January 4, 2022), we’ll start with a story that also begins on New Year’s Eve (what a coincidence!)– Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, a book I haven’t read.

20 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from Ethan Frome to Beneath the Surface

  1. What a clever chain, Margaret! It was nice to see The Nine Tailors here, and very good to see some of du Maurier’s work as well. Oh, and the Cleeves, too! You really chose some good ‘uns, and put them together so well.

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  2. I’m not always a fan of short stories, but I do love du Maurier’s! I have read some of the Lord Peter Wimsey books, but The Nine Tailors wasn’t one of them. Great chain!

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    • Yes, the movie is so scary – but for me the book wasn’t as scary – and it’s not really the same story – different setting, different country and different characters. It’s just the attacks by the birds that Hitchcock used.

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  3. Ha, some nice seasonal links there! My chain (not yet posted) also veered off into birds in the middle but different birds and different books. It’s always fun to see how different all the chains turn out.

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