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: Wild Swans to A Dark-Adapted Eye

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 with Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang,

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

a family memoir – the story of three generations of woman in Jung Chang’s family – her grandmother, mother and herself, telling of their lives in China up to and during the years of the violent Cultural Revolution. Her family suffered atrociously, her father and grandmother both dying painful deaths and both her mother and father were imprisoned and tortured.

Falling Leaves Return To Their RootsThe first book in my chain is also about a Chinese daughter. It’s Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter  by Adeline Yen Mah. She grew up during the Communist Revolution, was blamed for her mother’s death, ignored by her millionaire father and unwanted by her Eurasian step mother. A moving story set during extraordinary political events in China and Hong Kong.

The Buttonmaker's Daughter by [Allingham, Merryn]

My next book is about a fictional daughter: The Buttonmaker’s Daughter by Merryn Allingham, historical fiction set in Sussex in the summer of 1914 just before the start of the First World War. It covers just a few months, but those few months contain so much tension and heartbreak as the feud in the Summers family comes to a climax over the question of who Elizabeth Summer should marry and war on the continent becomes inevitable.

The Tiger in the Smoke (Albert Campion Mystery #14)

This leads on to a book by another author named Allingham. It’s The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham in which Jack Havoc is on the loose in post-war London, resulting in murder, mystery and mayhem. Meg’s marriage to self-made millionaire Geoffrey Levett should have been happy, until she began receiving photos of her late husband Martin, presumed dead in WWII. She calls on old friend Albert Campion to get to the bottom of things. For Campion, the case was cut and dry – until a brutal triple murder. I was immediately struck by the imagery – the fog pervades everything.

Our Mutual Friend

And the next book is also set in foggy London – Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens,

… the fog was heavy and dark. Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking,  wheezing, and choking: inanimate London was a sooty spectre … (page 242)

This book has multiple plots, centred on John Harmon who returns to England as his father’s heir. It begins as a boatman, Gaffer Hexham and his daughter, Lizzie, find a corpse in the Thames.

A Dark and Twisted Tide (Lacey Flint #4)

A body found in the Thames provides the next link in my chain to a modern crime fiction novel, A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton.  This is such a terrifying novel, particularly if like me, you have a fear of drowning. Police Constable Lacey Flint thinks she’s safe. Living on the river, she’s never been happier. Until she finds a body floating on the surface, as she wild-swims in the Thames.

This leads to the last book in my chain, another book with the word ‘dark‘ in the title:

A Dark-Adapted Eye

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine. This is psychological crime fiction, you know right from the beginning who the murderer is, but not why or how the murder was committed.

The narrator Faith has spent her life avoiding thinking, talking or reading about the events that led up to her aunt’s hanging for murder. She only develops a “dark-adapted eye” very slowly when asked by a crime writer for her memories.

For once I have read all the books in my chain and they are all books I thoroughly enjoyed, a variety of genres – autobiography, historical fiction, classics and crime fiction. It begins in China and travels to Sussex to London through time from the nineteenth century to the present day.

When I begin a chain I never know where it will end. What about you, where does yours go and where does it end?

Next month (October 7, 2017), the chain begins with a book that I haven’t read (or heard about) – Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.

Six Degrees of Separation: Pride and Prejudice to Digging to America

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 the universally loved classic, Pride and  Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

Pride and Prejudice

This is a long time favourite of mine, a book I first read when I was about 12 after seeing a BBC adaption. It’s full of wit and humour and timeless characters ‘“ foolish people, flirts, bores, snobs, self-centred and dishonest people as well as ‘good’people like Jane Bennet, who is determined to see good in everyone. Since then I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books, apart from her Juvenilia books.

17th July was the 200th anniversary of her death and my first book in the chain is a book published to mark that anniversary. It’s a book I’m currently reading: Jane Austen at Home: a Biography by Lucy Worsley.  it focuses on her family and the places she lived during her short life. It really is a fascinating book for Jane Austen fans.

Jane Austen at Home

This leads nicely onto the second book in my chain – another biography of a favourite author, seen through the places she lived. It’s Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill, an overview of Agatha Christie’s life followed by descriptions of the houses and countryside she loved ‘“ from Ashfield in Torquay her first home, where she was born and brought up, to Greenway, a Georgian mansion above the River Dart, now owned by the National Trust.  A beautiful book, with many photographs.

Agatha Christie at Home

Next a book also by a Hilary, Ink in the Blood: a Hospital Diary by Hilary Mantel, a short memoir which she wrote during the summer after she won the Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, when she was very ill. She had a marathon operation, followed by intense pain, nightmares and hallucinations. Illness she found knocks down our defences, revealing things we should never see, needing moment by moment concentration on breathing, on not being sick and being dependent on others for your well-being.

Ink In The Blood: A Hospital Diary

Blood provides the next link – The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell, crime fiction that absolutely grabbed me apart from the ending. It’s the sort of story that if I was watching it on TV I’d have to peep at through my fingers or even cover my eyes completely until the grisly bits were over. There are bits of graphic violence earlier in the book, which I could just about cope with, but the grisly stuff at the end was a step too far for me. It’s not just crime fiction though as DCI Grant Foster enlists the help of genealogist Nigel Barnes to track down the killer helping to solve the murders using family history.

The Blood Detective (Nigel Barnes #1)

Also crime fiction – and also a bit grisly is The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, the first in the Children’s House thriller series. I loved it and once I started reading I just didn’t want to put it down, even though there are some particularly dark and nasty murder scenes, which would normally guarantee that I’d stop reading. It’s dark, mysterious and very cleverly plotted, full of tension and nerve-wracking suspense about three children, two brothers and their little sister who were adopted.

And so to the last book in my chain, Digging to America by Anne Tyler, also about adopted children. It  captivated me right from the start, with the description of two contrasting families waiting at Baltimore Airport for the arrival of two Korean babies they have adopted. The story develops as the two girls, Jo-Hin and Susan (originally Sooki) are integrated into their families ‘“ one American, the Donaldsons, outgoing and confident and the other the Yazdans, American/Iranian, reserved and restrained.

Digging to AmericaI never know when I begin a chain where it will lead. This one has gone from 18th century England to 20th century America, via Iceland, and passing through biographies, a memoir, and crime fiction. ‘Family’ is a theme in all the books in one way or another and adopted children feature in three of them – in Jane Austen’s own family one of her brothers was ‘adopted’ by a wealthy relation and another went to live with another family because of his epilepsy.

Quite surprising, really. I wonder where other chains will go?

Six Degrees from Picnic at Hanging Rock to A Study in Scarlet

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 with an Australian classic that is celebrating its 50th anniversary ‘“ Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (thanks to Brona for the suggestion).

I haven’t read Picnic at Hanging Rock, but I think it’s a book I would like and I’m adding it to my wishlist:

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared. They never returned. 

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

It’s set in Australia and so is my first link: Morgan’s Run by Colleen McCullough, a book I read before I began this blog.

Morgan's RunThis is historical fiction based on the history of Botany Bay, and centred on the life of Richard Morgan who was transported from Britain to New South Wales in the late 17th century. I loved this book, just as I loved Colleen McCullough’s Rome series.

The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome, #1)

I read all of Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome novels, long before I started my blog, beginning with The First Man in Rome, set in 110 BC. This is the story of Gaius Marius, wealthy but low-born, and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, penniless though aristocratic and debauched. All the Masters of Rome novels are thoroughly researched long and detailed and I couldn’t put them down.

The Hand That First Held Mine

My link to the next book is through the title and the word ‘first‘. It’s The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell, another book I loved. It’s set in two time periods about two families; there’s Lexie Sinclair who we meet at the end of the 1950s and Elina and her boyfriend Ted in the present day. Lexie is young and in love with journalist Innes Kent. Elina is struggling after the traumatic birth of her baby.  it’s a wonderful and moving story that kept me captivated to the end, despite it being written in the present tense (not my favourite).

Present Tense (Best Defense)

It’s the tense that leads me on to the next book, which is Present Tense, a Best Defence Mystery by W H S McIntyre. This is crime fiction and it is written in the past tense. I haven’t read it yet – it’s one of my TBRs – described on the front cover as ‘crime with an edge of dark humour‘. Robbie Munro is a criminal lawyer who takes on Scottish Legal Aid cases, and in this book his client is accused of rape.

The Crimson RoomsAnother book  featuring a lawyer is The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon. It’s set in London in 1924, with Britain still coming to terms with the aftermath of the First World War when Evelyn Gifford, is one of a few pioneer female lawyers. She takes on the case of Leah Marchant, whose children who had been taken into care. She was accused of trying to kidnap her own baby. This is a fascinating book showing the prejudice women had to overcome just to qualify as lawyers, never mind the difficulties of persuading law firms to employ them and clients to accept them.

A Study in ScarletCrimson is a deep red colour which made me think of scarlet, another deep red colour and so my final book in this chain is A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the first Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson mystery, published in 1887. Watson is on nine months convalescent leave from the army when he meets Holmes and very soon they are involved in investigating the murder of Enoch J Drebber, an American found dead in the front room of an empty house at 3 Lauriston Gardens, off the Brixton Road,  with the word ‘RACHE’ scrawled in blood on the wall beside the body.

My chain began with an Australian classic, went back to the early settlers in Australia, then moved further back in time to the early years of the Roman Empire before jumping forward into the 20th century, passing through historical, contemporary and crime fiction and ending up in London in the 1880s with Sherlock Holmes.

I never know where my chain will end. What about you, where would yours end?

Six Degrees of Separation: Shopgirl to Molly Fox’s Birthday

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 Six Degrees begins with Steve Martin’s Shopgirl.

Shopgirl by [Martin, Steve]

  • I haven’t read Shopgirl so my first link is to another book with the word ‘shop’ in the title –

The Old Curiosity Shop

  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens, a book full of weird, grotesque and comic characters, a mix of everyday people and characters of fantasy. It has elements of folklore and myth, as Nell and her grandfather, go on an epic journey, fleeing from the terrifying dwarf, Daniel Quilp and travelling through a variety of scenes, meeting different groups of people on their journey.

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec (Commissaire Adamsberg, #9)

  • Also full of  eccentric and quirky characters is The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas, an intriguing mystery beginning with the death of an old woman, killed with breadcrumbs, then a car is burnt out with someone inside, and a pigeon is found with its legs tied together so it can’t fly. The main plot is based on medieval myths and legends: the ghostly army that gallops along the Chemin de Bonneval, led by the terrifying Lord Hellequin.

The Body in the Ice (Romney Marsh Mystery #2)

  • Fred is the pseudonym of the French historian, archaeologist and writer Frederique Audoin-Rouzeau. A J Mackenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, an Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians. Their book, The Body in the Ice is historical crime fiction set in Romney Marsh in 1796-7. One of the characters is Cordelia is a gothic novelist, who gave a young Jane Austen writing tips, which leads to my next link,

Northanger Abbey

  • which is Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a parody of the Gothic novels of her day and a  love story about Catherine Morland, a naive and impressionable 17 year-old, whose imagination has been filled with visions of diabolical villains and swooning heroines from those Gothic novels.

The Burning (Maeve Kerrigan, #1)

  • Another author named Jane is Jane Casey, the author of the Maeve Kerrigan series. The Burning by  the first in that series. Maeve is on the murder task force investigating the case of the serial killer the media call The Burning Man. Jane Casey is an Irish author.

Molly Fox's Birthday

  • This links to another Irish author Deirdre Madden, whose book Molly Fox’s Birthday is a novel about identity as well as family and friendship, about how we see other people and how they see us.

My chain has gone from Los Angeles to Normandy, Romney Marsh, London and Dublin, from contemporary books to to murder mysteries and the classics.

Where will other chains lead, I wonder?

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Slap to The Cipher Garden

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 The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I haven’t read this book about a man in suburban Melbourne who slaps an unruly three-year old boy at a barbecue. The boy is not his son. It is a single act of violence, but the slap reverberates through the lives of everyone who witnesses it.

The Slap

And after reading a number of reviews I have no desire to read it.

The Gravedigger's DaughterBut I have read the first book in my chain The Gravedigger’s Daughter by
Joyce Carol Oates, a book that also has a photograph of a child on the front cover. The title character of this novel is Rebecca Schwart, born in New York Harbor, the daughter of Jacob and Anna who escaped from Nazi Germany in 1936. Her father, originally a maths teacher can only get work as a gravedigger and caretaker of the cemetery.

The Secret ScriptureThe second link in my chain is also about a gravedigger’s daughter,
Roseanne in The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. Roseanne, an old woman about 100 years old, in a mental hospital in Ireland looks back over her life and begins to wonder just what was real and what was fantasy. It’s a story of Roseanne’s struggle to survive set against the background of religious conflict and political unrest in Ireland and also about the nature of memory and its function in our lives.

A Pale View of HillsThe third link is a book that also considers how reliable our memories can be. It’s A Pale View of Hills by Kasuo Ishiguro about a widow, Etsuko living in Britain, as she reminisces about her past life in Japan shortly after the Second World War, living at the edge of the wasteland of Nagasaki. This is a beautifully written book, describing the countryside around and in Nagasaki after the war, referring to life before the war, and how not only the landscape but also the people and traditions were altered in the aftermath of the atomic bomb.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de ZoetAnother book set in Japan is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. It’s set in 1799 on Dejima in Nagasaki harbour. This is one of my TBRs. As a junior clerk, de Zoet’s task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s malpractice. He becomes intrigued by a rare woman’”a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under the company physician.

AutumnMy fifth book is linked by the titleAutumn by Ali Smith, a novel that looks at modern life, how we got to where we are, and the mood of the country post-Brexit (that word is never mentioned in the book). It begins with a stream of consciousness as Daniel Gluck, a very old man, ponders his life and his approaching death. The main focus of Autumn is the relationship between Daniel and Elisabeth Demand who first met when Elisabeth was a child and she moved into the house next door to Daniel’s.

The Cipher Garden (Lake District Mystery #2)And finally my sixth link is the name of one of the characters – Daniel. In
Martin Edwards’ Lake District Mystery series the central characters are historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett, head of the Cold Case Review Team. One of my favourites in the series is The Cipher Garden in which Daniel and Hannah’s team investigate the murder of Warren Howe, brutally killed in the peaceful village of Old Sawrey, close to Near Sawrey the home of Beatrix Potter.

From Melbourne to New York, Ireland, Nagasaki, and Great Britain my chain links books about children, gravediggers, the nature of memories, meditations on life and death, and a murder mystery – quite a journey.

Where will other chains lead, I wonder?

Six Degrees of Separation: from Room to Wives and Daughters

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.Room by Emma Donoghue

This month’s chain begins with Room by Emma Donoghue – about a five
year old boy and his mother, abducted seven years earlier and living in captivity, confined to an 11 by 11 foot room. I haven’t read this book which was on the Man Booker 2010 shortlist.

The Long Song by Andrea LevyBut I have read the first link in my chain, also on the list that year – The Long Song by Andrea Levy, a book about slavery in Jamaica just as slavery was coming to an end and both the slaves and their former owners were adjusting to their freedom. The narrator is July, at the beginning, a spirited young woman, born in a sugar-cane field, telling her story at her son’s suggestion.

Slavery is the link to the next book – The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, historical fiction about the life of Honor Bright after she emigrated from Dorset to America in 1850 where she joined a Quaker community in Ohio. It intertwines her story with that of the ‘˜Underground Railroad’, helping the runaway slaves from the southern states to escape to Canada.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy'¦Also by Tracy Chevalier is At the Edge of the Orchard the story of a pioneering family on the American frontier, the Goodenough family, James and his wife Sadie and their five surviving children. It begins in 1838 in Black Swamp, Ohio where James and Sadie are arguing over apples and moves west with their son Robert to California.

Apples also feature in my next link – Hallowe’en Party which begins with the party given by Mrs Drake for teenagers. One of the guests, Joyce Reynolds, a boastful thirteen-year old, who likes to draw attention to herself, announces that once she’d witnessed a murder. It seems nobody believed her and yet later on she is found dead, drowned in the tub used for the bobbing for apples game.

Another witness to a murder is Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel in Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill. He witnesses a bizarre murder across the street from his own back garden positive that he saw Philip Swain shoot his wife, but Swain insists it was an accident. He says he was trying to stop her from killing herself and the gun went off. Just what did happen?

Wives and Daughters (Wordsworth Classics) by'¦My final link is through the structure of the title – 3 words linked by ‘and‘. It’s Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, a book I’m currently reading. Set in rural England in the early nineteenth century before the 1832 Reform Act this is the story of two families, centred on Molly Gibson, brought up by her father, a widowed country doctor. When he remarries, a new step-sister enters Molly’s quiet life ‘“ lovable, but worldly and troubling, Cynthia.

So, my chain has gone from a book about a woman and her child (a son) passing through books about slavery, a pioneer family and their apple orchard to murder mysteries featuring apples and witnesses to murders and finally to a another book about parents and children (daughters).

I never know where my chain will end. What about you, where would yours end?