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!

Six Degrees of Separation – July’s journey in six books

Six Degrees of Separation is possibly my favourite book tag, and is hosted by Kate over at Books are my Favourite and Best. Each month, she chooses a different book as a starting point, then it’s up to each participant to create a chain of 6 more books, each one linked to the one before. The connections can be thematic, personal, or even visual – the beauty is that everyone’s six degrees will be wildly different! If you want to join in (and it’s a lot of fun) check out the 6 Degrees page on the host blog for inspiration, or follow the #6Degrees hashtag on Twitter.

The jumping off point for July is What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. It’s a book I haven’t read (although it’s one of those I really feel I should have done) but no matter: I know exactly where I’m going with my first connection!

4321 by Paul Auster

My first book is written by Siri Hustvedt’s husband, Paul Auster, whose earlier books I count among some of my favourite novels. This one, however, I just could not finish: I found it too repetitive and even though his writing style had lost none of its flair and fluidity, that sadly wasn’t enough to hold my attention. It’s always an immense disappointment to feel let down by a novel for which you had high expectations, and it’s that sense of deflation that links me to my next choice,

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers is one of my most beloved books of all time but this one? My word, it was slow going. Like 4321 I had to admit defeat before the end; I suspect part of the problem was that I came to the book after the film (the version with Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce) which is a firm favourite and one I never get tired of. It’s very rare for me – or any bookworm I reckon – to prefer the movie over the book, but there’s one other novel that jumps straight into to my head as being the perfect example of this:

The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

Yes, I know it’s a classic and an unsurpassed example of fantasy world-building blah blah blah but my over-riding impression of it? A lot of walking interspersed with tedious elvish council meetings and digressions into the history of Middle Earth that feel, well, pretty self-indulgent. Sorry. Give me the movie trilogy any day of the week. I even own all the extended editions on DVD but in book form, not for me I’m afraid (although in case you’re sensing a theme emerging, I did actually finish it!) But I’m going to move away from the personal now and give you a bit of a different connection to my next book, this time via the author. Tolkien served in the trenches during World War I, and the creator of this next story went through the same experience.

Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne

Milne, like Tolkien, was at the Somme during WWI, but survived to write one of the most wondrous works of children’s literature ever created. One of my most enduring childhood memories is listening to the audiobook night after night – I can still hear Alan Bennett’s voice in my head when I read it today. When I was still quite young, my family and I went to the Ashdown Forest, which of course provided the inspiration for the book’s setting and many of its famous episodes – Pooh-sticks on the bridge being a particular highlight. It’s this connection between a real-life setting and my own personal experience that leads me to the penultimate book:

The Widow’s Confession by Sophia Tobin

Much of this novel is set in Broadstairs on the Kent coast, not a million miles away from where I live. And this is where being a bookseller certainly has its perks: I was lucky enough to attend the novel’s launch party, which took place in the hotel that forms the backdrop to some of the novel’s key events. This hotel, The Royal Albion, was built in the late 18th century, and boasts none other than Charles Dickens among its clientele. Dickens had connections to numerous part of my home county of Kent, so it seems fitting to end with a book of his that draws on the surroundings of his childhood home.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

One of the funniest episodes of this joyful novel is the excursion taken by Mr. Pickwick and his friends around Rochester, Chatham and the Medway area of Kent. There’s something about the way the hapless companions fall into scrape after scrape and yet somehow always manage to emerge with their joie de vivre unscathed that leaves you with an enormous smile and feeling a little bit better about the world.

So that’s my six degrees for July – if you’ve joined in this month, please do comment and let me know; I’d love to see where your literary journey takes you.

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Six Degrees of Separation – this month’s journey in 6 books

The Six Degrees of Separation challenge has got to be one of the most fun things I’ve discovered while running my book blog. It’s hosted by Books are my favourite and best and it’s really easy to join in. Each month, the hosts choose a different book as a starting point and you simply have to create a chain of six books, with each one connected in some way to the one before. The link could be a shared theme or setting, or something more personal, such as another book recommended by the same friend. It’s fascinating to see how different each person’s chain looks; if you want to check out some other bloggers’ connections, have a look at the 6 Degrees page on the host’s blog, or follow the #6Degrees hashtag on Twitter. Even better, have a go yourself, post the link to your blog on the 6 Degrees comments section and join the conversation!

This month’s starting book is Normal People by Sally Rooney. Now, I’m fully expecting there to be universal outrage at what I’m going to say next, but I tried this and absolutely hated it, giving up on it pretty quickly and remaining to this day completely mystified as to why so many people loved it so much! Safest then to brush that one under the carpet and move rapidly on to my 6 degrees…..

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

I moved on to this book via a very simple connection: the fact that Sally Rooney and Maggie O’Farrell both hail from Ireland (ok, one from the Republic of Ireland and one from Northern Ireland but I hope you’ll allow me that as I was struggling to get off the ground!) I loooooove Maggie O’Farrell and it was a tough choice between this and This Must be the Place; having plumped for this one though, I next moved on to

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

I only finished reading The Makioka Sisters a few weeks ago, and adored it. Like The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, the relationship between sisters is fundamental to the plot and forms the heart of the novel. From here it’s a very small hop to another Japanese novel:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicleby Haruki Murakami

Out of all the Japanese novels I could have chosen to form my next connection, I picked this one because it’s another book that’s recently been reissued by Vintage in the same series as The Makioka Sisters. This series comprises 5 Japanese classics, all with gorgeous new cover illustrations – if you haven’t seen them yet, do have a look next time you’re in your local bookshop. I have to confess (again) I didn’t particularly enjoy The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; however, when I started working as a bookseller in the early 2000s, it was on a list of recommendations given to me by my new colleagues of contemporary fiction every bookseller should read! Up to that point I was very much a classics girl, but it was some of the books from this list that got me into the hitherto alien world of modern fiction. I’ve never looked back. Another one from that list – but one that blew my socks off – was

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I don’t know many people who haven’t read this, but if you’re one of them – make it your next read! It’s a sinister story of death, betrayal and fracturing friendships among a clique of elite students at an American university. A very similar set of characters is to be found in…..

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

….only this time the action is set in England, at Cambridge University. Again, it features a privileged group of young intellectuals, over whom the precocious – and increasingly erratic – Eden Bellwether holds sway. It’s uncomfortable, unsettling and also really enjoyable. And it brings me to my final link in this month’s 6 degrees of separation:

All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison

It’s an award that links these final two books: both were nominated for the EU Prize for Literature. Benjamin Wood didn’t win, but All Among the Barley was the UK winner last year. It’s been on my TBR pile for quite a while; someone told me in passing that it was a really heartbreaking read, and quite honestly I don’t feel up for that right now!

I really hope you enjoyed my 6 degrees! You’ve got a whole month to join in if you’d like to; I for one would love to see what you come up with.

Thanks for reading.

Six Degrees of Separation – a journey in 6 books!

Something new on This Girl’s Book Room today! The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best and it’s really easy to join in. Each month you get given a book as a starting point, and from there you create a chain of 6 more books, each with a link to the previous one. The connection can be anything you like – it can be related to the book itself, such as a theme or setting, or something more personal, such as another book you read on the same holiday or that was recommended by the same friend. This month was the first time I’ve taken part and honestly, I had so so much fun rifling through the bookshelves to make my book chain! If you fancy having a go, you can leave a link to your 6 Degrees blog post in the comments section over on Kate’s page here, and you can join in on Twitter too using the hashtag #6Degrees. So without further ado, here are my 6 degrees of separation.

This month’s starting book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’ve never read it, so I thought I’d use the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize to take me to my next title, which is…..

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This is one of my all time favourite books! Like The Road, it also won the Pullitzer Prize a few years ago, and is set primarily in France during the Second World War. The Paris setting inspired me to go for my next choice, which is….

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper

This novel follows the lives of a group of residents in a Paris apartment block; however, beyond the personal stories of love and loss, it also deals with the wider themes of culture and belonging, in particular in relation to the growing anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic feeling festering behind the closed doors of Number 37 and across the city. This notion of culture clash, and of being treated as an outsider in your home country leads me to….

The Immigrant by Manju Kapur

This tells the story of a woman from India who moves to Canada following an arranged marriage. It’s a brilliant, although often quite sad, story of feeling torn between two opposing cultures and identities. I took the book’s theme of moving across the world to start a new life to take me to my next choice….

The Colour by Rose Tremain

This tells the story of a couple who emigrate from England to New Zealand in the hope of making their fortune from the goldrush that gripped the country in the nineteenth century. From here, there was only really one book that I could pick next!

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

This is also set in goldrush New Zealand; I found it a pretty challenging read I have to admit, in terms of its length and also its labyrinth of plots and characters, but it was certainly highly rated, and went on to win the Man Booker Prize. Which brings me neatly to my last book….

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

Once I got as far as The Luminaries I knew another Booker prize winner would give me a nice long list of titles to choose from – but which one? In the end, I simply decided to go for one I’d really enjoyed, and this was it.

So there we are – from The Road to The Sea, The Sea in 6 books! Please do comment and let me know if you’ve taken part; it’s really fascinating to see which direction everyone takes and where they end up!