Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. On the first Saturday of every 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.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Froer. I read this book when I saw it was the starting point for this chain because I thought it sounded rather different and possibly challenging as it isn’t traditional storytelling. It’s about a boy whose father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre. Oskar is is trying to discover the facts about his father’s death and also to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. I liked it enormously.
Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski is the first book in this chain – in this a father is looking for his son. I loved this book about life after the Second World War when Hilary Wainwright is searching for his son, lost during the War. Hilary had left France just after his wife, Lisa, had given birth to John. Lisa, unable to leave France, worked for the Resistance, but was killed by the Gestapo and her son disappeared. A friend tells him he may have found the boy, living in an orphanage in rural France and Hilary sets out to discover if the boy is really his son. It is emotional, heart-wrenching and nerve-wracking, full of tension, but never sentimental.
That leads me on to One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes – a beautiful, poetic novel also set after the Second World War, this time about England in 1946. Mollie Panter-Downes so beautifully captures the essence of the English countryside and the changes in society in the aftermath of war.
Another book with lovely descriptions of the English countryside is Watership Down by Richard Adams, which I read many years ago. It’s about a community of rabbits who sensing danger in their warren decide to leave in search of a peaceful home and they encounter many dangers and obstacles on the way to their unknown destination.
Awakening by S G Bolton, also features animals. This is crime fiction about Clare Benning, a wildlife vet who would rather be with animals than with people. A a man dies following a supposed snake bite and Clare who is an expert on snakes helps discover the truth about his death. If you don’t like snakes this book won’t help you get over your phobia! The setting is very dark and atmospheric.
Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie is also crime fiction, but it’s a kind of locked room mystery, the ‘locked room’ being a plane on a flight from Paris to Croydon, in which Hercule Poirot is one of the passengers. In mid-air, Madame Giselle, is found dead in her seat. It appears at first that she has died as a result of a wasp sting (a wasp was flying around in the cabin) but when Poirot discovers a thorn with a discoloured tip it seems that she was killed by a poisoned dart, aimed by a blowpipe.
Wasps provide the last link – it has to be The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, described as ‘a Gothic horror story of quite exceptional quality … quite impossible to put down‘. This book has been on my TBR shelves for a few years – it’s time I read it, but I’m not sure I’ll like it. By all accounts it’s a book you either hate or think is brilliant. I’m a bit squeamish, so I may have to abandon it. Here’s the blurb from the back cover:
‘Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim. That’s my score to date. Three. I haven’t killed anybody for years, and don’t intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through.’
Enter – if you can bear it – the extraordinary private world of Frank, just sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.
I really enjoyed making this chain (actually there were a couple of other ways I could have made it). There are books about a father and his son, books set just after the Second World War, books featuring animals (rabbits and snakes), and two books with wasps; books set in New York, England and France; and in different genres. I’ve read all of them, except for The Wasp Factory, which I may or may not read!
And thank you Kate for introducing me to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a book I hadn’t heard of and think is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read.