Six Degrees of Separation: from Murmur to Alan Turing: The Enigma

I love doing 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.

Murmur

This month the chain begins with a book I haven’t read or heard of before, Murmur by Will Eaves. This is the summary from Amazon: Taking its cue from the arrest and legally-enforced chemical castration of Turing, Eaves fictionalises the devastating period before the mathematician’s death in an extraordinary contemplation of consciousness.

Murmur has won several prizes including the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize, an annual award, open to new works of fiction or non-fiction. To be eligible for entry, a book should have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness.

I checked back to see if I had read any of the earlier  Wellcome Book prize winners. I had to go back to 2010 when The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was the winning book. I read this in April and thought it was excellent. Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951. The cancer cells taken from her tumour were cultured and became known as HeLa cells which have formed the basis for medical research and drug development ever since.

The Quarry by Iain Banks is a novel about Guy, a man dying from cancer. He lives in a house that is gradually falling to pieces, situated on the edge of a quarry in the Pennines..Feeling his death is imminent, Guy gathers around him his oldest friends as they reminisce about their time as film students and search through the house for a video tape they had made that could ruin all of their lives if it became public.  It’s the last book Iain Banks wrote – whilst writing it he, himself, was diagnosed with cancer.

Another house in ruins is the setting for the opening of The Ruin, Dervla McTiernan’s debut novel. DI Cormac Reilly has left his high-flying Dublin career to return to Galway, where he is confronted with a case that has haunted him for twenty years. As a young constable he was called to a decrepit country house where he found two silent, neglected children and their mother lying dead upstairs.

Another debut novel is Everything But the Truth by Gillian McAllister set in Newcastle and Oban. This is a thriller about lies, secrets and relationships; about how we get to know people and learn to trust them.

Also set partially in Newcastle is Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves. It begins ten days before Christmas, as the Newcastle Metro is packed with shoppers, babies screaming, office workers merry after pre-Christmas parties where an old lady, Margaret Krukowski, is found fatally stabbed. This book was adapted for TV adaptation, but with many changes from the original.

Another adaptation is the film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley about Alan Turing as he tries to crack the German Enigma code.  It’s an adaptation of the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. In 1952 Turing’s homosexuality rendered him a criminal and he was subjected to humiliating treatment. In 1954, aged 41, Alan Turing took his own life – thus linking back to Murmur.

I’ve started and ended with books about Alan Turing, linked by books that have won the Wellcome Book Prize, books about cancer, set in ruined houses, debut novels, books set in Newcastle and books that have been adapted for TV and film.

The books are mostly crime fiction, all of which I’ve read. Although I haven’t read Andrew Hodges’ book I have seen the film – which is excellent!

Next month (July 6, 2019), the chain will begin with the children’s classic, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Dry to The Song of Troy

I love doing 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. But for this chain the books are all connected in that they are all books on my TBR shelves.

The Dry

This month the chain begins with The Dry by Jane Harper, crime fiction set in a small country town in Australia, where the Hadler family were brutally murdered. I have had this book on my TBR shelves for quite some time now and I really want to read it as I loved Force of Nature and The Lost Man. I was thinking of linking to one of these books but decided to go for another book, one that I bought on the same day as The Dry. It’s Longbourn by Jo Baker, a story about the Bennet’s servants in a re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Another book that is a re-imagining is Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman, a companion novel to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It is set 20 years after the death of Rebecca and the burning of Manderley. I’m hoping I’ll  love it as much as I loved Rebecca and Hitchcock’s 1940 film of the book. Sally Beauman was a journalist before she became an author. She wrote Rebecca’s Tale after writing an article about the work of Daphne du Maurier in The New Yorker magazine.

My next link is through the author’s first name – Sally – to  another author called Sally,  Sally Gunning and her book, The Widow’s War. It’s historical fiction set in Cape Cod, Massachusetts during the years prior to the War of Independence. After Lyddie Berry’s husband of 20 years dies in a whaling accident she has to fight a ‘war’ for control of her own destiny. Under the laws of the colony widows had the use of only one third of their husbands’ real estate, and did not inherit the ownership.

A different type of war is the subject of Small Wars by Sadie Jones. This is historical fiction set in  Cyprus in the 1950s as the EOKA terrorists are fighting for independence from Britain and union with Greece.

Another book set on an island is The Island by Victoria Hislop.  Alexis Fielding discovers the story of her mother’s family on the island of Spinalonga, a tiny, deserted island off the coast of Crete – Greece’s former leper colony.  Victoria Hislop was also a journalist before she became an author.

As was Colleen McCullough, the author of numerous books including the Masters of Rome series. So, my final link is to one of her books – The Song of Troy in  which she recounts the tale of Helen and Paris, sparking the Trojan War. Colleen McCullough was also an Australian author so it links back to the first book, The Dry by Jane Harper, also an Australian author, who I’m delighted to see was also a journalist before becoming an author!

In addition to all the books being TBRs, four of the authors were journalists before becoming authors and two are Australian authors.

The chain moves through time from the present day back to late classical Antiquity, beginning in Australia and passing through England, America, Cyprus, Crete to Anatolia in modern Turkey.

Next month (June 1, 2019), the chain will begin with the winner of the 2019 Wellcome Prize, Murmur by Will Eaves.

Six Degrees of Separation: from How To Be Both to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

I love doing 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 (April 6, 2019), the chain begins with Ali Smith’s award-winning novel, How to be Both.

How to be both

How to be Both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a Renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real—and all life’s givens get given a second chance.’ (Goodreads)

I haven’t read this book but I’d like to sometime. I see that there are two versions: one begins with the contemporary story, the other with the 15th-century story. This reminded me of Carol Shields’ book Happenstance, two stories about the same five-day period – one from Jack Bowman’s point of view, and the other from his wife, Brenda’s. They’re printed in the same book in an unusual format of containing two books in one, either can be read first – then turn the book upside down and read the other story.

Happenstance

My next link is a bit of a jump – from the character Brenda in Happenstance I immediately thought of Brenda Blethyn, who plays Vera in Ann Cleeves’s books. One of these books is Silent Voices in which D I Vera Stanhope finds a dead body in the sauna room of her local gym. The victim, a woman had worked in social services – and was involved in a shocking case involving a young child.

Social Services also feature in Fair of Face by Christina James. Ten year old Grace is being fostered when her foster mother and her baby are found dead in their beds. Social Services are asked to work with the police, in order to question Grace and her friend Chloe, a child from a troubled family.

Another author with the name James, is P D James, also a crime writer. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is a Cordelia Gray detective story in which she takes on an assignment from Sir Ronald Callander, a famous scientist, to investigate the death of his son, Mark who had been found hanged in suspicious circumstances. Mark had left Cambridge University without completing his degree and had taken a job as a gardener.

My next link is to Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons, set mainly in an exclusive and expensive girls’ school, Meadowbank, in England. Some new staff members have been appointed, including Adam Goodman, a handsome young gardener.

My final link is to another school, the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Marcia Blaine is a traditional school where Miss Brodie’s ideas and methods of teaching are viewed with dislike and distrust. The Head Teacher is looking for ways to discredit and get rid of her. The girls in her ‘set’ fall under her spell, but one of them betrays her, ruining her teaching career.

Different formats, the name ‘Brenda’, Social Services, authors’ surname ‘James’, gardeners,  and girls’ schools all link How To Be Both to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Except for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie the books in my chain are all crime fiction and apart from How To Be Both I’ve read all the books in the chain – clicking on the titles takes you to my posts, where they exist.

Next month (May 4, 2019), the chain will begin with Jane Harper’s debut best-seller, The Dry.

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Arsonist to The Ashes of London

I love doing 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 Arsonist: A Mind on Fire

This month the chain begins with The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper, a book I haven’t read. In fact, it isn’t to be published in the UK until May 2019. It’s non fiction about the scorching February day in 2009 that became known as Black Saturday, when a man lit two fires in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.  It is also the story of fire in Australia, and of a community that owed its existence to that very element.

My chain begins by using the word ‘Saturday‘ as the link. It’s Saturday by Ian McEwan which follows one day in the life of a neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne as his life takes an unexpected turn of events. A minor car accident brings him into confrontation with Baxter, a man on the edge of violence.

Also following the life of one person in one day is Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, in which Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of party she is to give that evening. Elsewhere in London, Septimus Smith is suffering from shell-shock and on the brink of madness. Mrs Dalloway first appeared in Virginia Woolf’s short story, Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street published in The Dial magazine in 1923.

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie was also published in 1923, her second book featuring Hercule Poirot. She had the idea for the book after reading newspaper reports of a murder in France, in which masked men had broken into a house, killed the owner and left his wife bound and gagged. From these facts she then invented her plot, setting the book in the fictional French town of Merlinville next to a golf course and overlooking the sea.

SaturdayMrs DallowayThe Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot, #2)The Chalk Circle ManTitus GroanThe Ashes of London (Marwood and Lovett, #1)

The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas is also set in France, her first book featuring Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. Strange blue chalk circles start appearing on the pavements of Paris and increasingly bizarre objects are found within them, including the body of a woman with her throat savagely cut. Like Poirot, Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is a detective who works on intuition.

Vargas’s books are full of eccentric characters as is Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, the first of his Gormenghast books.  It begins with the birth of Titus, soon to be the 77th Earl of Gormenghast. His father, Lord Sepulchrave has endured despair and then madness after his beloved library was burnt down and Steerpike, a disrespectful youth, has clawed his way out of the castle’s kitchen to a position of some power, by manipulation and deceit.

This brings me full circle to a book about fire, or rather the aftermath of a fire in The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor as people set about rebuilding London after the Great Fire had reduced a large part of it to ashes and rubble. Interwoven with a murder mystery, and the hunt for the regicides responsible for the execution of Charles I, it brings home the reality of being homeless – a refugee in your own country. I could hear the noise of the fire, smell the smoke and almost feel the heat and the pain of the victims of the fire.

So, the last link in my chain takes it back to the start of the chain, but to the results of a fire started by accident rather than arson. This month my chain has travelled from Australia to the United Kingdom, via France and the fantasy world of Gormenghast, connected by names, dates of publication, settings and eccentric characters.

Next month (April 6, 2019), the chain will begin with Ali Smith’s award-winning novel, How to be Both.

Six Degrees of Separation: from Fight Club to The Word is Murder

I love doing 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.

Fight Club

This month the chain begins with Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, a book I haven’t read but it’s about a club where men meet in the basement of bars and can fight ‘as long as they have to’.

The Friday Night Knitting Club

So I’m moving away from a club where men meet and fight to a club where women meet to exchange knitting tips, jokes, and their deepest secrets. It’s The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. I haven’t read this book either. It seems as though they didn’t do much knitting so maybe there was more ‘natter’ than ‘knitting’. It sounds a bit too angst ridden for me and probably no more appealing than a fight club.

Dying In the Wool (Kate Shackleton, #1)

So, in a complete change of genre I’m moving on to crime fiction and my next link is to another use of wool in Dying in the Wool the first of Frances Brody’s Kate Shackleton Mysteries, crime fiction set in Yorkshire in 1922, with flashbacks to 1916.  It’s a post World War 1 crime novel, along the lines of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs and Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple books, with an independent female amateur detective. Kate investigates the disappearance of mill owner Joshua Braithwaite who went missing after apparently trying to commit suicide.

Gallows View, the first Inspector Banks book by Peter Robinson, is also set in Yorkshire, where Alice Matlock, an old woman, living on her own, is found dead in her ransacked house in Gallows View, a row of old terraced  cottages. One of the suspects for her murder is a Peeping Tom who is targeting young, blonde women, following them as they leave the pub and then watching as they undress for bed.

A Good Hanging

There is also a Peeping Tom in Tit for Tat, one of the stories in Ian Rankin’s collection of short stories, A Good Hanging. Rebus investigates a fire in a tenement in Edinburgh where John Brodie lives after a woman in a tenement opposite reported a Peeping Tom had been spying on her, aiming his binoculars towards her flat. He claims he was ‘bird-watching’.

When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3)

KateAtkinson has written four books about another character called Brodie – Jackson Brodie. My favourite of these books is the third one – When Will There Be Good News? It’s set mainly in Edinburgh where Brodie, along with Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, is involved in the search for a missing woman. It has the most complicated plot, with many twists and interlinking sub-plots (some with convenient coincidences) and I loved it.

The Word Is Murder

Brodie is an ex-policeman and now a private investigator, as is  Daniel Hawthorne in The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz. This is a very clever and different type of murder mystery in which the author plays the part of himself helping Hawthorne to solve the murder of Diana Cowper who was killed on the same day that she had made arrangements for her funeral. I was totally unable to solve the mystery, the clues were all there, but I was so involved in sorting out what was real and what wasn’t and enjoying the puzzle that I completely missed them.

This month my chain has travelled from America to the United Kingdom, connected by clubs, wool, settings in Yorkshire, Peeping Toms, characters called Brodie and ex-policemen turned private investigators.

Next month (2 March) the chain will start with The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper.

Six Degrees of Separation: from The French Lieutenant’s Woman to The Lieutenant

I love doing 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 The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, a book I read and loved years ago but now I’ve forgotten most of the details – I’ve been meaning to re-read it for years.

The French Lieutenant's Woman

But what I do remember is that it is a book with an alternative ending and what I first thought of for my first link is a book with no ending – The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. It begins with a scene in an opium den where Jasper lies under the influence of several pipes of opium, trembling and almost incoherent from the visions that came to him.

Drood

Drood by Dan Simmons is also full of opium induced nightmares. In this book Drood is horrific, a half-Egyptian fiend who takes laudanum by the jugful. I didn’t enjoy this book – it’s too long, too wordy and full of unlikeable characters, but it does contain some vivid descriptions – the slums of London, the train accident at Staplehurst and the fantastical “Undertown” with its miles of tunnels, catacombs, caverns and sewers.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: a biography by Margaret Forster reveals that from an early age Elizabeth took a tincture of opium (laudanum) prescribed to her for various illnesses, including ‘nervous hysteria‘. Elizabeth had a beloved spaniel, Flush, who shares her sickroom.

Dumb Witness (Hercule Poirot, #16)

Agatha Christie also had a much loved dog and dedicated Dumb Witness to him. Poirot investigates the death of Miss Emily Arundell. The ‘dumb witness’ of the title is Bob, Emily’s wire-haired terrier. After Emily fell down the stairs, tripping over Bob’s ball, she was convinced her relatives were trying to kill her.

TNow We Shall Be Entirely Freehis brings me to Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller in which the main character, Captain John Lacroix, also takes opium and meets an Emily – Emily Frend, who is losing her sight. Lacroix, unable to face the memories of the horrors he experienced at the battle of Corunna is being tracked by Corporal Calley and a Spaniard, Lieutenant Medina, who have been ordered to kill him for his part in the battle.

The LieutenantMy final link is to another book about a lieutenant and also linking back to the start of the chain. It’s The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, based on real events and set in 1788, about Daniel Rooke, a lieutenant and an astronomer with the First Fleet when it lands on the shores of New South Wales. Rooke gets to know the local Aboriginal people, and forges a remarkable connection with one child, which will change his life in ways he never imagined.

I like the circularity of this chain beginning and ending with books about lieutenants and containing a third book about yet another lieutenant. The chain passes through time and place from England in the 19th century to Australia in the 18th century, connected by the endings of books, opium addicts, a love of dogs and characters called Emily. I have read all the books except for The Lieutenant, which is one of my TBR books.

Next month (February 2, 2019), the chain begins with Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

Six Degrees of Separation: from A Christmas Carol to No Further Questions

I love doing 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 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

A Christmas Carol cover

I love A Christmas Carol and when I sat down to think about this Six Degrees post I thought I’d be linking up to more books with a Christmas theme, but it didn’t work out like that. Instead what came to mind after the first link to another Dickens’ book is a series of mystery/crime fiction books! These are all books I’ve read, so the links are to my review posts.

The MoonstoneDiamonds Are Forever

  • The Holly Tree Inn by Charles Dickens. This was originally published in 1855, being the Christmas number of Dickens’s periodical Household Words. It was so popular that it was then adapted for the stage. It’s a collection of short stories by Dickens, Wilkie Collins, William Howitt, Adelaide Anne Procter and Harriet Parr, around the theme of travellers and inns.
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – The ‘Moonstone’, a large diamond, originally stolen from a statue of an Indian God and said to be cursed is left to Rachel Verinder. She receives it on her 18th birthday and that night it is stolen from her bedroom.
  • Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming in which James Bond is assigned to infiltrate and close down a diamond smuggling operation, run by the Spangled Mob, operating from Africa to the UK and the USA. It’s run by a couple of American gangsters, the Spang brothers, and the mysterious character known as ‘ABC‘.

The ABC Murders (Hercule Poirot, #13)The House at Sea's End (Ruth Galloway, #3)No Further Questions

  • ABC leads me to The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie – one of her best books, I think, in which there’s another mysterious character known as ‘ABC’. Poirot and Captain Hastings investigate a series of murders. An ABC Railway Guide is left next to each of the bodies.
  • The House at Seas End by Elly Griffiths – The bones of six people are found in a gap in the cliff, a sort of ravine, where there had been a rock fall at Broughton Seas End. Seas End House, which stands perilously close to the cliff edge above the beach is owned by Jack Hastings. I really, really do wish these books weren’t written in the present tense!
  • No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister – also written in the present tense, but in this book it didn’t irritate me. I was totally gripped by it. It plunges straight into a trial as Martha sits in the courtroom listening to expert witnesses being questioned  and cross-examined about the death of her baby, Layla, just eight weeks old. I didn’t want to stop reading it and when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it, about the characters and their relationships, about how they had got themselves into such a terrible situation. An excellent book, and it is without doubt one of the best books I’ve read this year.

From tales told in an inn, to diamond smugglers, murders connected to a mysterious character, characters called Hastings and books written in the present tense, this chain has once again surprised me at where it has ended up!

Next month (January 5, 2019) the chain begins with another of my favourite books – The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles.