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?

Pride and Prejudice 200th Anniversary

Title page from the first edition of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice 1813

Today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and to mark the occasion the Jane Austen Centre in Bath is hosting a 12 hour readathon (click this link to go to the readathon site) of the book. It’s taking place at the Centre in Gay Street and will be filmed and broadcast around the world live on the internet.

From 11am this morning Pride and Prejudice will be read in short 10 minute segments by up to 140 celebrities, authors, politicians, musicians, Olympians, school children, competition winners and personalities.

March Prompt – A Classics Challenge

The focus this month in the Classics Challenge is on Setting.

I’ve just finished re-reading (for the umpteenth time) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Each time I read it I still enjoy it immensely. I think knowing what happens next adds to the pleasure. I read it this time looking out for information about the settings – something I haven’t done before, although Pemberley always stands out!

There are many locations, but for this post I’ve chosen Longbourn.

Pride and Prejudice is a novel based on character, plot and is a study of society in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, but above all it is a love story. The settings provide an essential backdrop but in most cases leave a lot to the reader’s imagination; dialogue takes precedence over description – place is really unimportant.

The book begins with no indication of its setting, or time of day, with a conversation between two characters – Mr and Mrs Bennet. And it is only in the third chapter that the location is revealed and then all we learn is that that the family lives in the village of Longbourn, where they are the principal inhabitants. More information about Longbourn is scattered throughout the book. It’s one mile from the village of Meryton, in Hertfordshire, where the militia are quartered for a while, and twenty four miles from London.

Longbourn House is the family home of the Bennets. There is little description of the house. It must be quite large, it has land – an estate, including a farm. The family have the use of a carriage and horses, when they are not needed for farm work. There are servants – a butler, housekeeper, cook and maids, a drawing room, dining-parlour, and dressing rooms as well as bedrooms. There are gardens, with gravel walks, a shrubbery, a hermitage, and what Lady Catherine de Burgh called  ‘a prettyish kind of little wilderness on one side of your lawn.’

Reading the book I haven’t formed a definite picture in my mind what Longbourn House looks like, although I like this one from the 1995 TV series.

Luckington Court the 1995 TV location of Longbourn House © Copyright Paul Ashwin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Looking forward to …

… P D James’s new book – Death Comes to Pemberley, which is due out on 3 November.

I don’t usually like sequels to books written by a different author, but I think I’ll have to make an exception for this one. It’s set six years after the events of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s tale of romance and social advancement and sees Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage thrown into disarray when Lydia Wickham arrives unannounced and declares her husband has been murdered.

For more information see this BBC page after P D James’s talk on Radio 4 the other day, although she declined to give any further details saying, “It’s rather secret at the moment, because it’s something entirely new.”

Teaser Tuesdays – Pride and Prejudice

After writing so many times that I want to re-read Pride and Prejudice I decided it was time to do so,   And as other people have also said the same, or indeed, said that they have never read it, I thought it appropriate that today’s teaser should be from Pride and Prejudice. Here is Mr Darcy thinking about Elizabeth’s eyes:

Mr Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they had next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes.



Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Mizb – the idea is to quote two or three sentences from a book you’re currently reading to entice other people to read it, without giving away any spoilers. I am spoilt for choice reading Pride and Prejudice, so here are another couple of sentences. This is a snippet of conversation between Mr and Mrs Bennet:

“When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”

“In such cases a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”