Six Degrees of Separation – January’s journey in 6 books

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme hosted by Kate over at Books are my Favourite and Best. Every month she chooses a different book as a starting point, and from then on it’s up to everyone to create their own chain of 6 books that follow on from it. The last book doesn’t have to be connected to the first in any way; all that matters is that each book links somehow to the one before. Hop over to the 6 Degrees page to learn more or see previous connections, or follow the hashtag #6Degrees on Twitter – I’m a bit tardy taking part this month but it’s not too late if you want to join in!

The jumping-off point for January is a book I haven’t read yet, but is high on the list for 2021: Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet. So where to go next…..?

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin

Hamnet is a re-imagining of an episode in the life of Shakespeare and his family, so I’m taking the 6 degrees chain straight on to another book featuring a fictional version of The Bard. I’m a sucker for novels featuring real figures from history, and this one in particular is a lot of fun.

The Truants by Kate Weinberg

This gripping novel, like the previous one, explores the relationship between student and teacher – the mood, however, is very different! I started off thinking it was going to be just another campus drama, but in fact the author ended up taking it somewhere quite unexpected. It was one of several debut novels I read in 2020, so this seems like a good opportunity to mention another favourite first novel from last year:

The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley

This dreamlike and – I’m going to say it – slightly weird novel lodged itself in my head long after reading, and I was completely taken by surprise in terms of how much it moved me. It’s a seemingly fragmented tour of Tokyo that starts to link together in more and more intricate ways as the book progresses: all overseen by the enigmatic cat of the title as it stalks the streets. Which leads me to another book featuring a fantastic feline (or two)…..

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T S Eliot

This is actually the first poetry book I remember coming across as a child, although I’m pretty sure I didn’t appreciate it to its full extent, Michael Rosen’s comic verse being much more to my taste! In fact, my abiding memory is of thinking it was pretty odd and not entirely fathomable. What I did appreciate, however, were the much more accessible versions of the stage musical – which leads me to the inevitable, and very non-literary (sorry, but I am going to do it!) connection:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

From singing cats to singing revolutionaries, this is – as you will well know – another book made famous to millions by the all singing all dancing musical version. Apparently it’s also much more entertaining than the book, which I’m told is a bit of a slog. It does, however, lead me nicely to my last book in the 6 degrees chain:

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

As I was writing this I inevitably got sidetracked by Google and starting reading about the genesis of Hugo’s masterpiece. Apparently – pub quiz fact for you – it’s the longest novel ever written in terms of word count (in the original French), so in celebration I decided to finish today’s literary linkage by scouring my shelves for the longest novel I own. Hands down winner is Vikram Seth’s doorstop, a mighty book that reads so much more easily than its intimidating page count would suggest.

If you’ve taken part in 6 Degrees this month do let me know below: I’d love to see your connections!