Six Degrees of Separation: from The Outsiders to the Mill on the Floss

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 with The Outsiders by S E Hinton.

The Outsiders

Kate describes it as a teen classic, but it’s a book I haven’t come across before. According to Amazon it is ‘an outstanding story of teenage rebellion, written when the author was only 17 years old.’ 

The Outsider

I immediately thought my first link had to be to The Outsider (L’Etranger) by Albert Camus. Set in Algiers this is a book about Mersault, an individual who refused to conform to society, a reserved man without any sense of God, and who doesn’t show emotion but faces the world with indifference.

The Plague

My second link followed on naturally to another book by Albert Camus –  The Plague a book that can be read on two levels – either as a straightforward narrative about a plague in Oran in the 1940s or centred on the idea of plague as a symbol – the symbol being that of the German occupation of France (Camus was in the Resistance during the Occupation) during the Second World War.

A Journal of the Plague Year

Thinking about plague takes me to my next link – A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, about the Great Plague of 1664-5. Written in 1772 this is an account of the epidemic of bubonic plague, known as the Black Death, that ravaged England in 1664–1665.

The Plague Charmer

Still on the subject of plague my mind jumped to The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland, a fascinating medieval tale full of atmosphere and superstition set  in 1361, at Porlock Weir in Somerset where a village is isolated when the Black Death spread across England.

The Western Wind

Another book about an isolated village is The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey. In this book the village is Oakham also in Somerset that was  cut off in the 15th century from the surrounding villages when the river flooded. It’s also a book full of superstitions.

The Mill on the Floss

And finally, the last link – The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, in which the river plays a major role. Set in the early 19th century, Dorlcote Mill stands on the banks of the River Floss near a stone bridge – a noisy place as the deafening rush of water speeds on its way to the sea.

All my links apart from the first one are to historical fiction, moving from America through Algiers to England and travelling through the 14th, 15th, 17th  and 19th centuries (not in that order though). The plague and natural disasters feature strongly.

Six Degrees of Separation from Where Am I Now? to The Book of Illusions

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 with Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson, subtitled True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. Mara Wilson is a former child actress best known for her starring roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire. I haven’t read this book which tells the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity. 

Where Am I Now?

As the title of Mara Wilson’s book is a question my first link is to another book with a question in the title. When Will there Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson. A tale of disasters beginning when six year old Joanna witnessed the murder of her mother, older sister and baby brother. It’s the third in her Jackson Brodie series. I raced through this very quickly as I was so keen to find out what happened. I know I missed the clues and I’d love to re-read it sometime!

When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3)One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie #2)Three Act Tragedy (Hercule Poirot, #11)

The second link is to another book by Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn. This is the second  Jackson Brodie book, a cleverly constructed and complicated murder mystery. It’s a puzzle and like the Russian dolls within dolls (which also feature in this book), there is a thread connecting it all together. I didn’t think it was quite as good as When Will There Be Good News?, but still enjoyed it.

Another book with a number in the title is Agatha Christie’s  Three Act Tragedy, also a book containing lots of puzzles to be solved. Poirot plays a secondary role, preferring to think rather than act and it is Mr Satterthwaite and Sir Charles who investigate the deaths of two of the guests at Sir Charles Cartwright’s party. This is one of Christie’s earlier books (1935) and I really enjoyed it.

Mr Satterthwaite, along with Mr Harley Quin, also features in Agatha Christie’s short story collection The Mysterious Mr Quin, first published in 1930 . This is my favourite of her collections, containing some of her very best short stories.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin (Harley Quin, #1)The Breaking Point: Short StoriesThe Book Of Illusions

My fifth link is to another collection of short stories: The Breaking Point by Daphne du Maurier. These stories are dark, difficult, perturbing – and sometimes shocking, telling of double lives, split personalities, paranoia and conflict, each one with a ‘breaking point’. One of the stories is The Menace about a silent movie star, a heart-throb until the advent of the ‘feelies’ when it is discovered that his magnetism is almost non-existent.

One of the characters in The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster is a silent movie star – Hector Mann. There are many layers to this novel; it’s a detective story with gothic overtones, a love story and a novel about the passing of the 20th century, ending as the last weeks of the century approach. It’s a circular story as well, ending with the hope that it ‘will start all over again.’

And this completes my chain beginning and ending with books about movie stars, passing through murder mysteries and short story collections, and moving from the US to the UK and back to the US, linked by the titles, authors and characters.

Next month (October 6, 2018), we’ll begin with a book I haven’t read (or heard of before) – a story of teenage rebellion, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.

Six Degrees of Separation from Atonement to Out of Bounds

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.

Atonement

This month the chain begins with Atonement by Ian McEwan, a book I’ve read and loved! This is a love story and also a mystery. It revolves around the lives of  two sisters, Briony and her older sister, Cecelia. It has vividly-drawn characters and harrowing descriptions of war with reflections on the process of writing and the interpretation of novels.

Kew GardensThe Gardens of the DeadThe Black Friar (Damian Seeker, #2)He Who Whispers (Dr. Gideon Fell, #16)CauldstaneOut of Bounds (Inspector Karen Pirie, #4)

Briony is an admirer of Virginia Woolf and stream-of-consciousness writing and that brings me to the first link in the chain – Virginia Woolf’s short story Kew Gardens with its descriptions of people in the Gardens on a sunny day as they pass by a flowerbed.

My second link is to a book also with the word ‘gardens‘ in the title –  The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick, featuring Father Anselm, a barrister turned monk. Another book, also crime fiction, that features a monk is –

The Black Friar by S G MacLean, set in the 17th century, in which the body of a man dressed as a Dominican friar, is found bricked up in a wall in Blackfriars, once a monastery. He was actually an undercover agent going under the name of ‘Gideon Fell’.

In He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr, one of his series of locked room mysteries/impossible crimes, Dr Gideon Fell is an amateur sleuth.  A body is found lying on the parapet of a tower, once part of a chateau since burnt down.

My next link takes me to another book featuring a tower – Cauldstane by Linda Gillard, a ghost story, set in a Scottish tower house in the Highlands owned by Sholto MacNab, a retired adventurer. It’s also a story of loss and revenge, of good versus evil and the power of love. Meredith, Sholto’s second wife, was killed in a car crash.

There is also a car crash in my final link, another crime fiction novel, Out of Bounds by Val McDermid, the 4th Inspector Karen Pirie novel, in which a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma. A routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before.

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My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and a mix of short stories, historical fiction and mostly crime fiction. Beginning with a book set in the 1930s and 40s the chain moves through the centuries from the 17th century to the present day linked by the titles, monks, names of the characters, towers and car crashes.

Next month (1 September, 2018), we’ll begin with Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson.

Six Degrees of Separation from Tales of the City to Fear in the Sunlight

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.

Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)

Completely Unexpected TalesDon't Look Now and Other StoriesThe Man in the PictureThe Picture of Dorian GrayOscar Wilde and the Candlelight MurdersFear in the Sunlight (Josephine Tey, #4)

This month the chain begins with Tales of the City, the first in a series by Armistead Maupin – yet another book I haven’t read or even heard of before! But it brought to my mind another book of tales –

Completely Unexpected Tales by Roald Dahl, described on the back cover as a collection of macabre tales of vengeance, surprise and dark delights. I used to enjoy these tales in the TV series, Tales of the Unexpected, years ago.

That takes me to the second link in the chain which is another collection of short stories, Don’t Look Now and Other Stories  by Daphne Du Maurier. The title story is a supernatural tale involving a British couple on holiday in Venice to escape the pain of their young daughter’s recent death.

Another book set in partly in Venice is The Man in the Picture: a Ghost Story by Susan Hill . The narrator is having a meal with his old college professor one bitterly cold January evening in  Cambridge, listening to a strange tale of a Venetian painting, of death and damnation.

And so to the fourth link both by its title and its subject – a story of the supernatural, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, a Gothic horror story in which Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty.

Oscar Wilde is the main character in Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders by Gyles Brandreth, a detective story of corruption and intrigue in which Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle investigate a murder. This is a book that mixes fact and fiction by using real people as characters. As does my last book –

Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson, set in the 1930s, in which writer Josephine Tey joins her friends in the holiday village of Portmeirion to celebrate her fortieth birthday. Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, are there to sign a deal to film Josephine’s novel, A Shilling for Candles.

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My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and a mix of short stories, ghost and horror stories and crime fiction. Books about the supernatural, books set in Venice and books  that mix fact and fiction.

Next month (August 4, 2018), we’ll begin with Atonement by Ian McEwan. Hurrah – a book I’ve read and loved!

Six Degrees of Separation from The Tipping Point to Five Red Herrings

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 Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, a book I haven’t read. The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. 

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and they are all crime fiction.

The Secret Place: Dublin Murder Squad:  5 (Dublin Murder Squad series) by [French, Tana]A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs Mysteries Series Book 8) by [Winspear, Jacqueline]Dead Scared: Lacey Flint Series, Book 2 by [Bolton, Sharon]Time is a Killer: From the bestselling author of After the Crash by [Bussi, Michel]Five Red Herrings: Lord Peter Wimsey Book 7 (Lord Peter Wimsey Series) by [Sayers, Dorothy L.]

My first link in the chain is to the word ‘point’ in the book title – The Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah, also a book I haven’t read. It’s a psychological thriller in which Sally Thorning has a secret affair.

The Secret Place by Tana French is another book about secrets that bind  a group of adolescent girls together in a girls’ boarding school when they become involved in a murder investigation. It’s the 5th book in the Dublin Murder Squad Series. Another book I haven’t read yet.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – historical crime fiction set in 1932. Maisie Dobbs directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service goes undercover as a lecturer at Cambridge University to monitor any activities ‘not in the interests of the Crown.’ Yet another TBR book.

Another crime fiction book set in Cambridge University is Sharon Bolton’s Dead Scared in which DC Lacey Flint is posted at the University, after  a spate of student suicides, with a brief to work undercover, posing as a vulnerable, depression-prone student.

Sticking with the theme of crime fiction takes me to my next link – Time is a Killer by Michel Bussi, a murder mystery set in Corsica. Clotilde is determined to find out what  happened in a car crash that killed her parents and brother 27 years earlier. There is a plan showing the Revellata Peninsula, a wild and beautiful coastline, where Clotilde’s grandparents lived, and all the key locations.

I think maps and plans are really useful in crime fiction. Another book that has a map is Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayers. Lord Peter is on holiday in Scotland, in a fishing and painting community when Campbell, a local landscape painter and fisherman is found dead in a burn. The map at the beginning of the book helped me follow the action – I needed the map!

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My chain this month is linked by: crime fiction, books about secrets, books set in Cambridge and books with helpful maps. And in a way the books all link back to The Tipping Point as they all demonstrate how the little, minute things in the details of each case add up to help solve the crimes.

Next month (July 7, 2018), we’ll begin with Tales of the City, the first in the much-loved series by Armistead Maupin – yet another book I haven’t read or even heard of before!

Six Degrees of Separation from The Poisonwood Bible to …

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 Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favourite books. I’ve read it several times.

The Poisonwood Bible

Told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959, The Poisonwood Bible is the story of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

I bought The Poisonwood Bible in Gatwick airport bookshop just before boarding a plane to go on holiday. So my first link in the chain is to another book I bought in an another airport bookshop waiting to board another plane:

Fortune's Rocks

It’s Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. I had never heard of Anita Shreve, but I liked the look of this book – and the fact that it’s a chunky book of nearly 600 pages, good to read on holiday. It’s set in the summer of 1899 when Olympia Biddeford and her parents are on holiday at the family’s vacation home in Fortune’s Rocks, a coastal resort in New Hampshire. She is fifteen years old and this is the story of her love affair with an older man.

When I looked at it today, I saw that it’s written in the present tense. Recently I’ve been writing about my dislike of the present tense – but I obviously haven’t always disliked it, because I remember really enjoying this book.

Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)

Another book written in the present tense that I loved is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the story of Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, and his political rise, set against the background of Henry VIII’s England and his struggle with the Pope over his desire to marry Anne Boleyn. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, which takes me to my next link, another book set in the reign of Henry VIII –

Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake, #6)

Lamentation by C J Sansom set in 1546, the last year of Henry VIII’s life. Shardlake, a lawyer is asked by Queen Catherine (Parr) for help in discovering who has stolen her confessional book, Lamentation of a Sinner. It evokes the people, the sights, smells and atmosphere of Henry’s last year and at the same time it’s an ingenious crime mystery, full of suspense and tension.

Barnaby Rudge

The next book also combines historical and crime fiction – Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, set in 1780 at the time of the Gordon Riots.  It’s a story of mystery and suspense which begins with an unsolved double murder and goes on to involve conspiracy, blackmail, abduction and retribution.

Barnaby Rudge is a simple young man, living with his mother. His pet raven, Grip goes everywhere with him. He’s a most amazing bird who can mimic voices and seems to have more wits about him than Barnaby. Grip is based on Dickens’s own ravens, one of whom was also called Grip.

Ravens form the next link-

The Raven's Head

to The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland, set in 1224 in France and England about Vincent, an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. He attempts blackmail but when this fails Vincent goes on the run in possession of an intricately carved silver raven’s head. The plot revolves around the practice of alchemy – the search for a way to transform the base soul of man into pure incorruptible spirit, as well as the way to find the stone, elixir or tincture to turn base metals into precious metals.

And finally to the last link in this chain another book featuring alchemy –

Crucible (Alexander Seaton, #3)

Crucible by S G MacLean, the third of her Alexander Seaton books. Set in 1631 in Aberdeen Robert Sim, a librarian is killed. Alexander investigates his murder and finds, amongst the library books, works on alchemy and hermetics – the pursuit of ancient knowledge and the quest for ‘a secret, unifying knowledge, known to the ancients’ since lost to us. S G MacLean’s books are full of atmosphere. I think her style of writing suits me perfectly, the characters are just right, credible well-rounded people, and the plot moves along swiftly with no unnecessary digressions.

My chain this month has travelled from Africa to Scotland via America and England, and spans the years from the 13th century to the mid 20th century. It has followed a missionary and his family, a teenager in love with an older man, and looked in on power struggles in Tudor England, and the pursuit of the secret to turn metal into gold.

Links are: books I bought to read on holiday, books in the present tense, crime fiction and historical fiction (and a combination of these genres), ravens and alchemy.

Next month  (June 2, 2018), we’ll begin with  Malcolm Gladwell’s debut (and best seller), The Tipping Point, a book and author I’ve never come across before.

Six Degrees of Separation from Memoirs of a Geisha to …

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 Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, a book I haven’t read.

Memoirs of a Geisha

It’s described on Goodreads as the extraordinary story of a geisha -summoning up a quarter century from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan’s dramatic history, and opening a window into a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

Japan is the first link in my chain with An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro.

An Artist of the Floating World (Faber Fiction Classics) by [Ishiguro, Kazuo]

It is set in 1948 as Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War Two. The celebrated artist, Masuji Ono, fills his days attending to his garden, his house repairs, his two grown daughters and his grandson. He spends his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. But his memories continually return to the past – to a life and career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism  and a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity.

The word ‘world‘ takes me to the next link – Eowyn Ivey’s To the Bright Edge of the World a novel about Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester’s journey in 1885 from Perkins Island up the Wolverine River in Alaska. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its rich natural resources to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy. It’s a book full of love, the love of Allen and Sophie, his wife, and the love of the country, the landscape and its people.

A Cold Day for Murder (Kate Shugak #1)

Also set in Alaska is A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow, the first in her Kate Shugak series. This is crime fiction in which Kate Shugak returns to her roots in the far Alaskan north, after leaving the Anchorage D.A.’s office. Her deductive powers are definitely needed when a ranger disappears. Looking for clues among the Aleutian pipeliners, she begins to realise the fine line between lies and loyalties–between justice served and cold murder.

Silver Lies (Silver Rush, #1)

The next link is also to crime fiction – Silver Lies by Ann Parker, historical fiction set in 1879/80 in the silver-mining town of Leadville, Colarado in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Leadville was a colourful place, a boom-town, bustling with life -everything is there – the Silver Queen saloon and the Crystal Belle Saloon, Leadville’s leading parlor house, a brick built opera house, whose patrons ‘swelled the after-midnight crowds’ in the Silver Queen saloon, five banks and a small white church with a steeple.

Pompeii

Pompeii by Robert Harris is also historical fiction, set in August AD 79, recounting the eruption of Vesuvius destroying the town of Pompeii and killing its inhabitants as they tried to flee the pumice, ash and searing heat and flames. My favourite character is the hero of the book, engineer Attilius. Before Vesuvius erupted he realised the danger when the aqueduct Aqua Augusta failed to supply water to the people in the nine towns around the Bay of Naples, and attempted to repair the aqueduct.

Part of the book’s appeal to me was because I visited Pompeii and had a trip up to the summit of Vesuvius some years ago and so I could easily picture the location.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower (Victor Legris, #1)

This leads me on to Murder on the Eiffel Tower by  Claude Izner because this is also a place I’ve visited. It’s also historical fiction featuring a crime – that of the murder of Eugénie Patinot when she takes her nephews and niece to the newly-opened Eiffel Tower in 1889. She collapses and dies, apparently from a bee-sting. This book is full of historical detail but the mystery element is not really convincing.

My chain this month has a lot of crime fiction and historical fiction, but it has travelled through time and space from the first century AD to the 20th century through Japan, Alaska, Canada, Italy and France. It has followed artists, explorers, silver miners and detectives and looked in on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the opening of the Eiffel Tower.

Next month  (May 5, 2018), we’ll begin with Barbara Kingsolver’s bestselling novel, The Poisonwood Bible.