Six Degrees of Separation: from Like Water for Chocolate to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Six Degrees of Separation is 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 begin with a book that Kate says people may not have discovered, were it not for the hugely popular movie version – Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. I hadn’t discovered it at all until now! But I see that it’s a ‘bestseller’, a book about passion and the magic of food (including recipes), a tale of family life in  Mexico.

Like Water for Chocolate

The first link in my chain is a book also set partly in Mexico:

The Lacuna

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver is the story of Harrison Shepherd, the son of a Mexican mother and an American father and it’s told through his diaries and letters together with genuine newspaper articles, although whether they reported truth or lies is questionable. As you can see from the cover swimming plays a part in this book. As a boy, Harrison, loved swimming and diving into a cave, which was only available at certain tides, a cave that was there one day and gone the next – a lacuna.

Swimming also features in Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie.

Evil Under the Sun (Hercule Poirot, #23)

Poirot is on holiday in Devon staying in a seaside hotel. It’s August, the sun is hot, people are enjoying themselves, swimming and sunbathing until Arlena is found dead – she’d been strangled.

The next book in my chain is also crime fiction  – Blue Heaven by C J Box.

Blue Heaven

This is a story set in North Idaho about two children, Annie and William who decide to go fishing without telling their mother, Monica, and witness a murder in the woods. One of the killers sees them and they run for their lives. It’s fast-paced and full of tension right to the end.

I chose Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the next link, a book that also has a colour in its title.

Half of a Yellow Sun

It’s based on the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967 – 70. Focusing on the struggle between the north and the south, the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa people, it brings home the horrors brought about by war, the ethnic, religious and racial divisions and the suffering that results.  It is also a novel about love and relationships, a beautiful and emotional book without being sentimental and factual without being boring.

Another book about war, but this one is non-fiction about a spy operation during World War Two – Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre.

Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of World War II

It’s about the Allies’ deception plan in 1943, code-named Operation Mincemeat, which underpinned the invasion of Sicily. It was framed around a man who never was. I thought it was so far-fetched to be almost like reading a fictional spy story. I marvelled at the ingenuity of the minds of the plans’ originators and the daring it took to carry it out.

Operation Mincemeat led me to think about a fictional spy in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré.

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

This is set in the Cold War period in the 1960s and tells the story of Alex Leamas’s final assignment. It’s a dark, tense book and quite short, but very complicated; a story  full of secrecy, manipulation, of human frailty and its duplicitous nature.

What a journey! My chain moves through time and place – from Mexico to Devon, North Idaho, Nigeria, Sicily and Berlin. It encompasses fiction and non-fiction and takes in several wars. All, except for the book that starts the chain, are books I’ve read and enjoyed. Six Degrees of Separation is always fascinating to compile and I’m always surprised at where it goes and where it ends up. Who would have thought that a book about family life in Mexico would end up linked to a spy novel about the Cold War?

Six Degrees of Separation: From Revolutionary Road to On Chesil Beach

Six Degrees of Separation is 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’s chain begins with:

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, set in America in 1955, focussing on the hopes and aspirations of Frank and April Wheeler, self-assured Connecticut suburbanites.

I haven’t read Revolutionary Road, so knowing very little about it I’m using the title as the link to: The Ghost Road by Pat Barker. I haven’t read this one either but I’ve had a copy on my shelves for a few years. It’s set in 1918 during the last months of the First World War.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is also set during the First World War and is yet another book I haven’t read yet. In 2012 I watched the two-part television adaptation, starring Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford, the main character. I loved the story, so I’m looking forward to reading the book.

Eddie Redmayne was also in the film The Theory of Everything. This is a beautiful film based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen and another book I own that I haven’t read yet!

This leads me on to another biography and to another TBR that has sat partly read on my shelves for several years. It’s Thomas Hardy:The Time Torn Man by Claire Tomalin. Hardy is one of my favourite authors.

And this is one of my favourite books of his –  The Mayor of Casterbridge, which I first read at school. It’s set in Hardy’s Wessex, a fictional area covering the small area of Dorset in which Hardy grew up. Casterbridge is the name he used for Dorchester, his home town. Michael Henchard, a man of violent passions who sells his wife and child, subsequently becomes  the rich and respected Mayor, but ends his life in ruin and degradation. (the cover I’ve shown above is of the paperback I first read).

The chain ends with On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, a book also set in Dorset – in a hotel at Chesil Beach on the Dorset coast in 1962, where a newly married couple struggle to suppress their fears of their wedding night to come.

My chain goes from books I haven’t read to books I’ve loved and from 1950s America via the First World War and the life and work  of Stephen Hawking to that of Thomas Hardy and finally to Dorset in 1962.

Six Degrees Of Separation: Year of Wonders to Blood Harvest

I found this meme on Debbie’s ExUrbanis blog. It is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, ‘Chains’, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘˜six degrees of separation‘. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book, for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

You make your own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.

This is my first chain:

Year of Wonders chain

The chain this month begins with Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, one of my favourite authors, although I haven’t read this book – yet. It’s set in a small village in Derbyshire, during the year of 1666 ravaged by the plague. The story was inspired by the true story of the villagers of Eyam, Derbyshire and their own historical account of the plague.

This leads on to the following books:

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland, also a novel of the plague, but set in 1348 as a group of people flee across England as the plague moves inland from the ports. The members of the group, a conjurer, a one-armed storyteller, a musician and his apprentice, a young couple on the run, a mid-wife and a strange child who can read the runes, are all liars with secrets that are gradually exposed as they journey on.

Secrets are also a major part of In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward, in which two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later, Yvonne, Sophie’s mother commits suicide, which prompts Rachel, to try to remember what had happened. She is a genealogist and her research into her own family history proves to be invaluable, as devastating family secrets are revealed. This also links back to Year of Wonders as it is set in Derbyshire.

In The Blood Detective genealogist Nigel Barnes helps DCI Grant Foster to track down a killer who has left cryptic clues carved into his victims’ bodies. Although this has some really gruesome scenes, which I normally avoid, this a fascinating fast-paced book linking the crimes of the past ‘the events of 1879 ‘ to a series of murders in the present.  It is set in London and the topography of London through the years also helps Barnes to solve the crimes.

Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine is also set in London. It begins in 1905 when Asta Westerby and her husband Rasmus come to East London from Denmark with their two little boys.  Asta keeps loneliness and isolation at bay by writing a diary. These diaries, published over seventy years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal. For they seem to hold the key to an unsolved murder and to the mystery of a missing child. It falls to Asta’s granddaughter Ann to unearth the buried secrets of nearly a century before.

Denmark and family secrets are the links to this next book, Anna Marklin’s Family Chronicles, a psychological mystery by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen, a Danish author.  Set in Denmark in the present day with flashbacks to Sweden during the early part of at the beginning of the twentieth century, Anna finds herself with beset with problems. Her father is seriously ill and strangely secretive about his family background.  Anna longs to know more and when she finds her grandmother’s journal she is enthralled. But digging into the past can reveal secrets that you might not want to know.

The final link in this chain is another psychological mystery, Blood Harvest by Sharon Bolton. I could have chosen any one of her books but this one stands out for me.  Evi, a psychiatrist has a new patient, Gillian, unemployed, divorced and alcoholic, who can’t accept that her daughter died in the fire that burnt down her home. Meanwhile, the new vicar in town is feeling unwelcome and hears voices in the church, but can’t find anyone there And a young boy keeps seeing a strange, solitary girl playing in the churchyard. Who is she and what is she trying to tell him? It’s a dark, scary book and one that I found disturbing, but thoroughly absorbing.

My chain goes from a seventeenth century English village devastated by plague to a twentieth century English village in six links, via books revealing murder, mayhem and mystery in their pages. Apart from Year of Wonders these are all books I’ve read and enjoyed, even The Blood Detective, a grisly tale.

Meme: Book Title Acrostic

Yet again I’ve fallen behind with writing about the books I’ve read. So far this month I’ve read 6 books and have written about just two of them. But although I need to catch up, tonight I fancy doing this meme I spotted on Jessica’s blog, The Bookworm Chronicles. It’s to make an acrostic of my name using the book titles  of books* I’ve read so far this year.


M ‘“ (The) Murder Room by P D James
A‘“ An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope
R ‘“(The) Raven’s Head by Kate Maitland
G ‘“ Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers
A‘“ A Question of Identity by Susan Hill
R‘“ (The) Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter
E‘“ Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
TTurn of the Tide by Margaret Skea

*The links are to my posts on the books*

Just a fun meme that entertained me. Please let me know if you give it a go too.

This Week in Books: 8 April 2015

My week in booksThis Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.


I’m currently reading The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld. I have mixed feelings about it, alternating between thinking it’s good, not so good, and just about OK, so I carry on reading. It’s historical fiction based on Freud’s visit to New York in 1909, accompanied by Jung, when a young woman is brutally murdered and a second is attacked and left unable to speak. A mixture of murder mystery and psychoanalysis with an interpretation of ‘Hamlet‘ thrown in. I’ve nearly finished this book.

I’m also reading Dreamwalker: The Ballad of Sir Benfro Book One by James Oswald on my Kindle. This is fantasy fiction, not the sort of book I read very often, so it makes a refreshing change. This is inspired by the language and folklore of Wales, following the adventures of a young dragon, Sir Benfro, in a land where his kind have been hunted near to extinction by men. I’ve read about 25% of the book so far.


I’ve recently finished reading Dacre’s War by Rosemary Goring, a new book which will be published in June. My copy is a pre-publication review copy courtesy of I loved this book, historical fiction set in the Scottish and English Borders and London between 1523 – 1525, full of political intrigue and personal vengeance. My review will follow soon.


There are several books lining up that I’m keen to read next. I’m not sure which one to choose. It’s been a while since I read an Agatha Christie, so it could be The Moving Finger, a Miss Marple mystery. Or it could be Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, or Nora Webster by Colm Tobin, or The Last Girl, the third Maeve Kerrigan book by Jane Casey. Or something completely different!

Six in Six: a Selection from the last Six Months of Reading

Jo at The Book Jotter  is running this meme again this year to summarise six months of reading, sorting the books into six categories – you can choose from the ones Jo suggests or come up with your own.

Here is my version for 2014, with links to my posts on the books where appropriate. I’ve only listed each book in one category, although some of them could have gone in more than one. I’ve not listed the books in order of preference:

  • Six books I loved (there are more books in the other categories I could have included here):
  1. The Dance of Love by Angela Young – review to come later
  2. A Whispered Name by William Brodrick
  3. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. Crucible by S G MacLean
  5. The Office of the Dead by Andrew Taylor
  6. The Potter’s Hand by A N Wilson
  • Six historical novels:
  1. The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart (historical fantasy 5th century Britain)
  2. The King’s Evil by Edward Marston (1666)
  3. The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter (1940s and 1971)
  4. Pictures at an Exhibition by Camilla Macpherson (1940s and present day)
  5. Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody (1922)
  6. The Witch’s Brat by Rosemary Sutcliff (12th century England)
  • Six Crime Fiction books:
  1. In the Woods by Tana French
  2. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie 
  3. Death Under Sail by C P Snow
  4. Vengeance by Benjamin Black 
  5. The Cabinetmaker by Alan Jones
  6. No Stranger to Death by Janet O’Kane 
  • Six authors I have read before:
  1. The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves
  2. Not Dead Enough by Peter James
  3. Playing With Fire by Peter Robinson 
  4. They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie 
  5. The Time Machine by H G Wells 
  6. North Sea Cottage by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen
  • Six new authors to me:
  1. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
  2. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers
  3. Tantalus by Jane Jazz 
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 
  5. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing 
  6. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 
  • Six authors I read last year €“ but not so far this year and their books I have yet to read
  1. Barbara Kingslover (Flight Behaviour)
  2. Kate Morton (The Secret Keeper)
  3. Ruth Rendell (Put on by Cunning)
  4. Josephine Tey (Miss Pym Disposes)
  5. Jane Gardam (I have three of hers to read)
  6. Iris Murdoch (The Unicorn)

Today's post is brought to you by the letter…

letter LSimon T of Stuck In A Book has started another meme. He randomly generates a letter for you and then you have to name your favourite book, author,song, film and favourite object beginning with that particular letter.

  My letter is €¦ L

I didn’t find it very easy – in some cases I had too much choice and in others (eg favourite object) very little choice.

Favourite Book €¦ here is where I’m spoilt for choice, with Lark Rise to Candleford (Flora Thompson), The Last Enchantment (Mary Stewart), Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Pierre Choderlos de Laclos), The Last Time They Met (Anita Shreve) and The Light Years (Elizabeth Jane Howard) in the running. but I’ve decided on

Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski, a book I read a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful book – one of those that once I start reading I can’t put down, and yet a book that I don’t want to finish as I’m enjoying it so much. This book is emotional, heart-wrenching and nerve-wracking, full of tension, but never sentimental.

Favourite Author … well it could be Marghanita Laski, Harper Lee, Laurie Lee, Donna Leon or Andrea Levy, but it has to be:

Penelope Lively, an all-time favourite and I’ve read more of her books than the other authors’.

Favourite Song …  Let It Be by the Beatles

Favourite Film … for the letter L it has to be The Lord of the Rings, which could equally as well be my favourite book, especially as I prefer the book (my own images etc).

Favourite Object … I found this the hardest one of all and in the end I decided on this:

Yoghurt maker

This is my Lakeland electric yoghurt maker, which I’ve had for years and use every week. It makes lovely yoghurt. All you do is put in a couple of spoons of natural yoghurt and some milk and the yoghurt maker does the rest. I strain it to make it even thicker – like Greek yoghurt. 

Thinking of ‘objects’ on a wider scale there are of course, Libraries!

 If you’d like to join in go on over to Simon’s post (link back at the top) and wait for your letter.