Six Degrees of Separation from True History of the Kelly Gang to Worth Killing For

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

The starting book is True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

I haven’t read True History of the Kelly Gang. According to Amazon: To the authorities in pursuit of him, outlaw Ned Kelly is a horse thief, bank robber and police-killer. But to his fellow ordinary Australians, Kelly is their own Robin Hood. In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey brings the famous bushranger wildly and passionately to life. Set in the desolate settler communities north of Melbourne in the late 19th century, the novel is told in the form of a journal, written by the famous outlaw and “bushranger” Ned Kelly, to a daughter he will never see.

First Link:

True Grit by Charles Portis follows Mattie Ross, a determined 14 year-old, who in the 1870s leaves her mother and younger brother at home whilst she sets out after Tom Chaney, who had worked for her father and had killed him. Chaney had joined a band of outlaws – the Lucky Ned Pepper gang and had gone into hiding in the Indian territory. She hires one of the marshals, Rooster Cogburn to get Tom Chaney.

Second Link:

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry, set in Tennessee in the 1870s, where former soldiers Thomas McNulty and John Cole and Winona, the young Indian girl they had adopted are living on a farm, about seven miles from a little town called Paris. These are dangerous times not just in the town but also in the woods outside the town from Zach Petrie’s gang of ‘nightriders’.

Third Link:

Any of the Rebus books by Ian Rankin, featuring Big Ger Cafferty, the ruthless gangster boss, organiser of crime in Edinburgh. The Black Book is the first book in which he appears.

Fourth Link:

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo. Inspector Macbeth, an ex-drug addict is the head of the SWAT team in an industrial town in the 1970s in Scotland, a town full of drug addicts, where there is a titanic struggle for control between the police force, corrupt politicians, motorbike gangs and  drug dealers.

Fifth Link:

In Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens young Oliver is forced to join a gang of young pickpockets led by the Artful Dodger under the control of Fagin in Victorian London.

Sixth Link:

My final link is Worth Killing For by Ed James. It reminded me of Oliver Twist with a phone-theft gang of young hoodies on bikes, who snatch mobile phones in modern day London. They are led by the mysterious Kamal.

My chain has just one link running through it. It has travelled from north of Melbourne in Western Australia to western Arkansas in America, then to Edinburgh in Scotland and ends in London in England, linked by gangs in each location – gangs of outlaws, ‘nightriders’, organised criminals, drug dealers, motorbike gangs, gangs of pickpockets and mobile phone thieves.

Six Degrees of Separation from Our Wives Under the Sea to Five Little Pigs

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

The starting book is Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield:

I haven’t read Our Wives Under the Sea. It’s about Leah and Miri, a married couple, whose relationship hits difficulties when Leah returns home after a three month absence on a deep sea mission and has changed. It seems to me like a variation on the mermaid folklore tales.

Leah is also a character in The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon set in London in 1924, with Britain still coming to terms with the aftermath of the First World War. Evelyn Gifford, one of the few pioneer female lawyers takes on the case of Leah Marchant, whose children had been taken into care. It’s early days for women to be accepted as lawyers and Evelyn struggles to defend Leah who distrusts her and wants Daniel Breen, Evelyn’s boss to defend her.

Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee, a novel about a painter and his family is also set in the aftermath of the First World War. The back cover reveals that it is a ‘detailed portrayal of an era which refuses to become part of the past, even today.’ I bought this book because I’d read and enjoyed Sue Gee’s novel The Hours of the Night.

In The Hours of the Night, also by Sue Gee, Gillian Traherne and her mother Phoebe lead a remote existence in their grey, stone house on the Welsh borders. Gillian is a loner, an eccentric poet in her thirties, who has a difficult relationship with her very different mother: a well-known and expert gardener. Into their strange and secluded world, described with beautifully observed detail, come strangers from London to disrupt life as Gillian knows it.

Another author with the surname Gee is Maggie Gee.In her novel, My Cleaner, Vanessa, white, middle-class and totally self-absorbed asks Mary, black, and equally selfish, to return from Uganda to help look after Justin, Vanessa’s 22 year old son. Mary had worked as Vanessa’s cleaner 10 years earlier, but their relationship has changed and the balance of power between the two women shifts as the story reaches its climax. 

Another character who is also a cleaner called Mary is in Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. Mary Blakiston was an unpleasant character, who lived in the village of Saxby-on-Avon. She was found dead at the bottom of the stairs at Pye Hall. Magpie Murders is a novel within a novel. The inner story is a whodunnit, a murder mystery and the chapter headings are taken from the rhyme One for Sorrow’ in the same way that Agatha Christie used rhymes for chapter headings in some of her books.

One of Agatha Christie’s books using lines from a nursery rhyme in some of the chapters and in its title is Five Little Pigs – ‘this little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at home …’. In it Poirot investigates a crime that had been committed sixteen years earlier. The convicted murderer’s daughter is convinced her mother was innocent.

My chain began with a novel about an underwater mission that went wrong and ended up with a murder mystery, in which it is claimed the wrong person was found guilty. The books are a mix of historical and crime fiction, and contemporary fiction.

Next month (May 7, 2022), we’ll start with Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang.

Six Degrees of Separation: from the End of the Affair by Graham Greene to Peril at End House

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.

The chain this month begins with  The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, a book I have read. It is a study of love and hate, of desire, of jealousy, of pain, of faithfulness, and of the interaction between God and people. Maurice’s love affair with his friend’s wife, Sarah, had begun in 1944 during the London Blitz. They had met at a party held by Sarah’s husband, Henry. The affair had ended suddenly after his house had been bombed by a V1 and Sarah had not explained why. Two years later Maurice, still obsessed by Sarah employed Parkis, a private detective to find out the truth.

As usual I spent some time thinking about where to start my chain – and came up with several options. In the end I chose The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, about a completely different affair – that of the murder of old Mrs Inglethorp. First published in 1920, this was the novel in which Agatha Christie created Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective and introduced Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp. Mrs Inglethorp died from from strychnine poisoning.

My second link is to Peter Robinson’s crime novel Cold is the Grave in which Emily Riddle is also murdered by strychnine, mixed with cocaine. As Inspector Banks investigates her death, the case gets more complicated with blackmail, another death and a suicide.

Blackmail also features in my third linkThe Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler in which millionaire General Stallwood is being blackmailed. This is a story of sex, drugs, blackmail and high society, set in Los Angeles.

My fourth link: is Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre, a crime thriller also set in Los Angeles. It’s at the end of the last century when people were in the grip of ‘1999 Syndrome’. Brookmyre is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author.

My fifth link is via the genre Noir, this time to Icelandic Noir in the The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. This is the first book in her Children’s House thriller series. After seeing her mother brutally murdered, seven-year old Margrét is taken to the Children’s House where Freyja, a child psychologist is in charge. Freyja and the police officer Huldar in charge of the police investigation, try to get to the truth of what had happened.

My final link, brings the chain round to a full circle with the words ‘house’ and ‘end’ in the title of Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House. Poirot is on holiday in Cornwall where he meets Nick Buckley who lives at End House. She tells him of her “accidental brushes with death”. Convinced he is in grave danger, he just cannot resist investigating who is her would-be killer.

My chain is a circle and apart from the starter are all crime novels beginning and ending with books by Agatha Christie. They are a mix of Golden Age mysteries, modern detective stories ,hard-boiled. fiction and two types of ‘noir’ crime fiction.

Next month (April 2, 2022), we’ll start with a hot favourite to make the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield, which I think looks very strange.

Six Degrees of Separation: from No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood to …

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.

The chain this month begins with  No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, a book I haven’t read.Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.‘ Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2021 and the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021. I don’t think I’ll read it.

As usual I spent some time thinking about where to start my chain – and came up with several options. Maybe another novel shortlisted for the Book Prize of the Women’s Prize for fiction, but instead I came up with another book about talking –

Daniel Isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach, a novel. Daniel is autistic, but at first Stephen his British father refuses to accept that there is anything wrong with him, whilst his American mother, Melanie, struggles to find out what is wrong with him and the best way of looking after him and helping him to talk, play and become as ‘normal’ as possible.

My second link is to another character called Daniel – Daniel Hawthorne in The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz. ex-policeman, Daniel Hawthorne, who had been an adviser for Horowitz’s Foyle’s War series. The police call on Hawthorne as a consultant on out-of-the ordinary cases and he is working on the Diana Cowper murder. He proposes that Horowitz writes a book about him and his investigations into the case.

Magpie Murders also by Anthony Horowitz is my third link. This s a brilliant book by a master story-teller, with a wonderfully intricate plot. It’s a prime example of a puzzle-type of crime fiction combining elements of the vintage-style golden age crime novel with word-play and cryptic clues and allusions to Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s also a novel within a novel, with mystery piled upon mystery.

My fourth link is to another book that contains a story within a story – Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Beginning with Iris’s account of her sister’s tragic death, Atwood then introduces a novel-within-a-novel, entitled The Blind Assassin. It is a science fiction story, a pulp fantasy set on Planet Zycron.

My fifth link is to a novel also set on a planet – a real one, Mars, in The Martian by Andy Weir. I haven’t read this but I have watched the film , which I read is a faithful adaptation. An astronaut is stranded on Mars with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Being a botanist, he creates a garden inside the ‘Hab’ using Martian soil fertilized with the crew’s bio-waste and manufactures water from leftover rocket fuel.

My sixth link: is to Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham writing as John Beynon, was first published in 1936 as Planet Plane They claim Mars to be part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, a claim later disputed by the Russians when a second rocket lands.

My chain started with a book about living a life on social media to living a life on Mars, taking in books about autism, crime fiction and a novel within a novel.

Next month (March 5, 2022), we’ll start with a modern classic and a book that I have read, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair.

Six Degrees of Separation: from Rules of Civility to The Serpent Pool

It’s a New Year – welcome to 2022!

And it’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

The chain this month begins with  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, a book I haven’t read. Set in New York in 1938, it begins, appropriately for today, on New Year’s Day.

My first link is to another book by Amor Towles – A Gentleman in Moscow – another book I haven’t read, but one that is on my TBR list. Both books have received rave reviews, so I’m hoping they aren’t over hyped! The Times describes it as ‘A book to spark joy’. I do hope so.

My second link is The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith, the second book in the Poppy Denby Investigates series. It’s historical fiction is set in London in 1920 with flashbacks to Russia in 1917, beginning with an episode in Moscow in 1917 as an unnamed man in a bearskin coat enters the house of an aristocratic family to find a scene of carnage.

Moving from Moscow my third link is via the name Poppy. This time it is the author’s name, Poppy Adams and her book, The Behaviour of Moths. I thought this was a brilliant book! It’s the story of two sisters, Ginny and Vivi. Vivi, the younger sister left the family mansion 47 years earlier and returns unexpectedly one weekend. Ginny, a reclusive moth expert has rarely left the house in all that time.

My fourth link is to the word ‘moth’, but this time used as a name. Moth is Raynor Winn’s husband and their story is told in her book, The Salt Path. Despite finding out that Moth has a rare terminal illness, the couple decided to walk the South Coast Path. He had been diagnosed with a brain disease for which there is no cure or treatment apart from pain killers and physiotherapy. It’s not just the story of their walk, but also about their determination to live life, about overcoming pain and hardship, and the healing power of nature. 

My fifth link is via the place, Penzance, which is one of the places the Winns went to on their walk. Penzance is the setting of W J Burley’s crime fiction novel, Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death. Wycliffe is mystified by the murder of Matthew Glynn, a respectable bookseller who was found bludgeoned and strangled and there are plenty of suspects, including his brothers and sister and their grown-up children. 

My sixth link: is to another bookseller, Marc Amos, a rare book dealer who owns a secondhand bookshop in Martin Edwards’ Lake District murder mysteries, featuring DCI Hannah Scarlet, in charge of the Cumbria’s Cold Case Team. Amos is her partner and in The Serpent Pool George Saffell, one of Marc’s customers, is stabbed and then burnt to death amidst his collection of rare and valuable books.

My chain started in New York and travelled via Moscow, and in various periods of time and places in England, ending up in the English Lake District. It links together historical fiction, nonfiction and crime fiction.

Next month (February 5, 2022), we’ll start with a book that topped Best of 2021 lists, No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.

Let’s hope this new year will be a happy and healthy one and for those of us who love reading, may we all enjoy lots of good books!

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

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Degrees of Separation: from What Are You Going Through to The Man on a Donkey

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

The chain this month begins with  What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez, a book I’ve not read. Described as a luminous, heartbreaking and life-affirming novel about choosing to die, it is a novel about a woman with terminal cancer. She asks a friend to accompany her on a holiday where she will, without warning one day, take a lethal pill to end her life on her own terms.

My first link: My first thought was to link my chain to books about cancer, beginning with The Spare Room by Helen Garner. Nicola, who is suffering from cancer goes to stay with her friend Helen whilst she undergoes alternative therapy. She refuses to accept that she is dying and Helen struggles to cope with the situation. It is a difficult book to read, not because of the style of writing, which is fluent, but because of the agonising descriptions of Nicola’s condition and the anguish and anger that hits Helen. But I’m glad I read it; it was nowhere nearly as bad as I imagined it would be.

So then I changed my mind and the rest of the chain just happened:

My second link is a bit tenuous and is via the author, Helen Garner, an Australian author, born in Geelong. In the 1959 film of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach the closing scenes were filmed near Barwon Heads, a suburb of Geelong. The novel is set after a world wide nuclear war has destroyed most of the globe, and the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path.

My third link is another novel with the word ‘beach’ in the title, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. Edward and Florence married that morning are on honeymoon at a hotel on Chesil Beach, an 18-mile long shingle barrier beach on the Dorset coast. They are struggling to suppress their fears of their wedding night to come.

My fourth link: is the name ‘Florence’. In Deadheads by Reginald Hill old Mrs Florence Aldermann instructs her great nephew, eleven year old Patrick, how to deadhead roses and explains why it is necessary. When Patrick eventually inherits the splendid Rosemount House and gardens on the death of his aunt he is able to indulge his horticultural passions without restraint. But why do so many of his colleagues keep dropping dead?

My fifth link is to a novel with the word ‘rose’ in the title. It’s one of my favourite books, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, historical fiction set in 1327. Benedictine monks in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.” When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

My sixth link: is to The Man on a Donkey by H F M Prescott, historical fiction that features Benedictines but in this book it’s Benedictine nuns, not monks. It is set in 1536 and is about The Pilgrimage of Grace, a protest against Henry VIII‘s break with the Roman Catholic Church, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the policies of the King’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell.

Beginning with stories about terminal cancer my chain travels to one about Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, via tales about survivors of a nuclear war, a couple’s fears of their wedding night, a man who loves roses accused of murder, and murders in an Italian abbey.

Next month (December 4, 2021), we’ll start with the classic novella, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. For a change the chain begins with a book I have read!

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Lottery to Fallen Angel

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

The chain this month begins with  a (frightening) short story, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

The Lottery is a short story written by Shirley Jackson, first published in the June 25, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, (the link takes you to the story.) The lottery is an annual rite, in which a member of a small farming village is selected by chance. This is a creepy story of casual cruelty, which I first read several years ago. The shocking consequence of being selected in the lottery is revealed only at the end.

Once again I found it difficult starting my chain, and after several attempts I finally settled on an obvious choice of another one of Shirley Jackson’s stories for the first link.

First link: The Haunting of Hill House. Dr. Montague, a doctor of philosophy with a keen interest in the supernatural and psychic manifestations had been looking for a ‘haunted’ house to investigate all his life. So, when he heard the stories about the strange goings on at Hill House he decided he would spend three months living there and see what happened, and he set about finding other people to stay there with him. The house is connected with a number of tragedies – scandal, madness and a suicide. But nothing is what it first appears to be and I felt as if I was sinking into the story in a most unpleasant way.

The Second link: is to another house, in The House by Simon Lelic. It is set in a creepy house, full of junk, with an overgrown garden and with hints of the supernatural. Jack and Syd move in and then Jack found something nasty in the attic. There’s been a murder and this is a story about despair, domestic violence, dark secrets and the effects of the past on the present.

The third link: Simon Lelic also wrote The Search Party in which 16-year-old Sadie Saunders goes missing and five of her friends set out into the woods to find her. At the same time the police’s investigation, led by Detective Robin Fleet and Detective Sergeant Nicola Collins, is underway. When the friends get lost in the woods they make an incoherent phone call to the emergency services. The caller doesn’t know their location other than it is ‘somewhere in the woods‘ near an abandoned building.

The fourth link: Cal Hooper is also searching for a teenager in The Searcher by Tana French. Cal and thirteen-year old Trey Reddy live in Ardnakelty, a remote Irish village. Cal has recently moved to the village, wanting to build a new life after his divorce. He is a loner and wants a quiet life in which nothing much happens. But he finds himself getting involved in the search for Brendan, Trey’s older brother who had gone missing from home.

The fifth link: The Wych Elm also by Tana French Toby Hennessy, the narrator, is twenty eight. He is brutally attacked by burglars in his flat, leaving him in a terrible state, physically and psychologically damaged. He seeks refuge at the family’s ancestral home, the Ivy House. But not long after his arrival, a skull is discovered, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden. As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself. This is a psychological thriller, a standalone book, about a family in crisis, as dark family secrets gradually came to light.

The sixth link: The Temple family in Chris Bookmyre’s Fallen Angel is another family in crisis. The family is spending the summer at its seaside villa in Portugal for a reunion after the death of the head of the family, Max Temple, who was a psychologist. The last time they were all there together was in 2002 when one of the children had disappeared from the villa, and was presumed drowned. None of the family members are very likeable and there’s plenty of tension as they don’t get on well with each other! It’s a novel about a family in crisis, about toxic relationships and about the psychology of conspiracy theories. 

From a short and scary story my chain links two novels about scary houses, or rather the occupants of scary houses, two books about searches, and two about families in crisis.

Next month (November 6, 2021), we’ll start with Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through.

Six Degrees of Separation from Second Place to Sons and Lovers

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the chain begins with Second Place by Rachel Cusk, one of the books longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021. I’ve read a couple of books by Rachel Cusk, Arlington Park which I loved and The Bradshaw Variations, which I enjoyed but not as good, in my opinion, as Arlington Park. So I was interested to see what Second Place was like and have just finished reading it .

Blurb: ‘A  woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape. Over the course of one hot summer, his provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds. With its examination of the possibility that art can both save and destroy us, Second Place is deeply affirming of the human soul, while grappling with its darkest demons.’

My preliminary comments – this book was inspired by a real set of circumstances. In her Acknowledgement at the end of the book Cusk refers to Mabel Dodge Luhan’s 1932 memoir of the time D H Lawrence stayed with her in Taos, New Mexico. She acknowledges that her version of that event is intended as a tribute to her spirit. I’ll write more about Second Place in a later post.

I didn’t find it easy to come up with a chain from Second Place. I started twice, but each time the chain just fizzled out quite quickly. One began with Mabel Luhan’s memoir, Lorenzo in Taos, which is written loosely in the form of letters to and from D. H. Lawrence, Frieda Lawrence, and Robinson Jeffers, the celebrated poet who had been a guest of Mabel’s in Taos, with references to Dorothy Brett and Spud Johnson among others. The second began with A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson, which is also on the longlist for the Booker Prize 2021.

So, I decided to make it very simple!

First linkThe Secret River by Kate Grenville – historical fiction following the life of William Thornhill from his childhood in the slums of London to Australia. He was a Thames waterman transported for stealing timber; his wife and child went with him and they made a new life for themselves. It’s about their struggle for survival as William is eventually pardoned and becomes a waterman on the Hawkesbury River and then a settler with his own land and servants.

Second LinkSee What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt – a novel based on true events. On the 4 August 1892 Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abby, were brutally murdered in their home at 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts and Andrew’s daughter, Lizzie, was charged with the murders. She was tried and was acquitted in June 1893 and speculation about the murders and whether Lizzie was guilty or not continues to the present day.

Third Link The Serpent Pool by Martin Edwards – a Lake District murder mystery featuring DCI Hannah Scarlet, in charge of the Cumbria’s Cold Case Team, her partner Marc Amos, a rare book dealer and Daniel Kind, a historian and the son of Hannah’s former boss, Ben Kind. It begins with the death of George Saffell, one of Marc’s customers, stabbed and then burnt to death amidst his collection of rare and valuable books.

Fourth LinkThe Shining by Stephen King – this tells the story of Jack Torrance and his family as they move into the Overlook Hotel in the Colorada Rockies. The Overlook is closed for the winter and Jack, a recovering alcoholic is the caretaker. Just what impels him towards murder is horrifyingly revealed as the winter weather closes in on the hotel and they are cut off from the rest of the world.

Fifth Link Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie is Miss Marple’s last case, published posthumously in 1976, although Agatha Christie had written it during the Second World War. Miss Marple investigates a murder that had happened 18 years ago.

Sixth Link Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence – a powerful, emotional novel depicting the struggle, strife, and passion of relationships and their intensity, and possessiveness. Throughout the book Lawrence’s vivid descriptions and observation of the English countryside are so beautiful that I couldn’t stop marvelling at his writing.

My chain is made up of books all with titles beginning with the letter ‘S’. The final link, Sons and Lovers makes the chain into a circle as it is also linked to Second Place, which inspired Cusk’s fictionalised version of D H Lawrence’s relationship with Mabel Dodge Luhan – called ‘L’ and ‘M’ in her book.

Next month (October 2, 2021), the chain begins with a (frightening) short story, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

Six Degrees of Separation: from Postcards From the Edge to Mrs Jordan’s Profession

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the Six Degrees chain begins with Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher. It’s a novel about an actress in rehab; Carrie Fisher’s bestselling debut novel, an uproarious commentary on Hollywood – the home of success, sex and insecurity, that has become a beloved cult classic.

I haven’t read this book but the title made me think of Susannah Clapp’s A Card from Angela Carter, in which she uses the postcards Angela had sent to her to ‘form a paper trail through her life.’ It is mainly Susannah’s recollections of Angela, full of stories of her family life, her political views and what the critics made of her work.

Moving on from a book about Angela Carter to one by her my second link is to The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, a collection of tales inspired by traditional fairy tales and legends.

I’m staying with fairy tales for my third link, The Ladies of Grace and Adieu by Susanna Clarke, a collection of stories of mystery, magic, fantasy and faerie tales. The story I enjoyed the most was The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse set in Wall, a village in the world created by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess.

So, Neil Gaiman is my next link – The Graveyard Book, the story of the baby who escapes a murderer intent on killing his entire family, and who stumbles into the local disused graveyard where he is rescued by ghosts.

Ghosts provide my fifth link with Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel. As a child she believed their house was haunted. Her experience of ghosts at the age of 7 was horrifying as she felt as though something came inside her, ‘some formless, borderless evil’.

Staying with Hilary Mantel my final link is to her biography of an actress, Dora Jordan and her life with the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV. It’s Mrs Jordan’s Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King, which also links (somewhat loosely) back to the opening book written by an actress.

My chain begins with a novel about Hollywood linking together books about fantasy, fairy tales ghosts and actresses. It’s a circle which came about quite by chance as I moved from one link to the next, not knowing where it would end! I’ve read all these books, apart from The Bloody Chamber which is waiting in my Kindle to be read.

For the second month in a row, my chain does not include any crime fiction!

Have you read Postcards from the Edge. Where would your chain end up?

Next month, on the 4 September 2021, we’ll start with the 2021 Booker Prize nominee, Second Place by Rachel Cusk.