Six Degrees from Picnic at Hanging Rock to A Study in Scarlet

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 the chain begins with an Australian classic that is celebrating its 50th anniversary – Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (thanks to Brona for the suggestion).

I haven’t read Picnic at Hanging Rock, but I think it’s a book I would like and I’m adding it to my wishlist:

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared. They never returned. 

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

It’s set in Australia and so is my first link: Morgan’s Run by Colleen McCullough, a book I read before I began this blog.

Morgan's RunThis is historical fiction based on the history of Botany Bay, and centred on the life of Richard Morgan who was transported from Britain to New South Wales in the late 17th century. I loved this book, just as I loved Colleen McCullough’s Rome series.

The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome, #1)

I read all of Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome novels, long before I started my blog, beginning with The First Man in Rome, set in 110 BC. This is the story of Gaius Marius, wealthy but low-born, and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, penniless though aristocratic and debauched. All the Masters of Rome novels are thoroughly researched long and detailed and I couldn’t put them down.

The Hand That First Held Mine

My link to the next book is through the title and the word ‘first‘. It’s The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell, another book I loved. It’s set in two time periods about two families; there’s Lexie Sinclair who we meet at the end of the 1950s and Elina and her boyfriend Ted in the present day. Lexie is young and in love with journalist Innes Kent. Elina is struggling after the traumatic birth of her baby.  it’s a wonderful and moving story that kept me captivated to the end, despite it being written in the present tense (not my favourite).

Present Tense (Best Defense)

It’s the tense that leads me on to the next book, which is Present Tense, a Best Defence Mystery by W H S McIntyre. This is crime fiction and it is written in the past tense. I haven’t read it yet – it’s one of my TBRs – described on the front cover as ‘crime with an edge of dark humour‘. Robbie Munro is a criminal lawyer who takes on Scottish Legal Aid cases, and in this book his client is accused of rape.

The Crimson RoomsAnother book  featuring a lawyer is The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon. It’s set in London in 1924, with Britain still coming to terms with the aftermath of the First World War when Evelyn Gifford, is one of a few pioneer female lawyers. She takes on the case of Leah Marchant, whose children who had been taken into care. She was accused of trying to kidnap her own baby. This is a fascinating book showing the prejudice women had to overcome just to qualify as lawyers, never mind the difficulties of persuading law firms to employ them and clients to accept them.

A Study in ScarletCrimson is a deep red colour which made me think of scarlet, another deep red colour and so my final book in this chain is A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the first Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson mystery, published in 1887. Watson is on nine months convalescent leave from the army when he meets Holmes and very soon they are involved in investigating the murder of Enoch J Drebber, an American found dead in the front room of an empty house at 3 Lauriston Gardens, off the Brixton Road,  with the word “RACHE” scrawled in blood on the wall beside the body.

My chain began with an Australian classic, went back to the early settlers in Australia, then moved further back in time to the early years of the Roman Empire before jumping forward into the 20th century, passing through historical, contemporary and crime fiction and ending up in London in the 1880s with Sherlock Holmes.

I never know where my chain will end. What about you, where would yours end?

Six Degrees of Separation: Shopgirl to Molly Fox’s Birthday

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 Six Degrees begins with Steve Martin’s Shopgirl.

Shopgirl by [Martin, Steve]

  • I haven’t read Shopgirl so my first link is to another book with the word ‘shop’ in the title –

The Old Curiosity Shop

  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens, a book full of weird, grotesque and comic characters, a mix of everyday people and characters of fantasy. It has elements of folklore and myth, as Nell and her grandfather, go on an epic journey, fleeing from the terrifying dwarf, Daniel Quilp and travelling through a variety of scenes, meeting different groups of people on their journey.

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec (Commissaire Adamsberg, #9)

  • Also full of  eccentric and quirky characters is The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas, an intriguing mystery beginning with the death of an old woman, killed with breadcrumbs, then a car is burnt out with someone inside, and a pigeon is found with its legs tied together so it can’t fly. The main plot is based on medieval myths and legends: the ghostly army that gallops along the Chemin de Bonneval, led by the terrifying Lord Hellequin.

The Body in the Ice (Romney Marsh Mystery #2)

  • Fred is the pseudonym of the French historian, archaeologist and writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau. A J Mackenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, an Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians. Their book, The Body in the Ice is historical crime fiction set in Romney Marsh in 1796-7. One of the characters is Cordelia is a gothic novelist, who gave a young Jane Austen writing tips, which leads to my next link,

Northanger Abbey

  • which is Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a parody of the Gothic novels of her day and a  love story about Catherine Morland, a naive and impressionable 17 year-old, whose imagination has been filled with visions of diabolical villains and swooning heroines from those Gothic novels.

The Burning (Maeve Kerrigan, #1)

  • Another author named Jane is Jane Casey, the author of the Maeve Kerrigan series. The Burning by  the first in that series. Maeve is on the murder task force investigating the case of the serial killer the media call The Burning Man. Jane Casey is an Irish author.

Molly Fox's Birthday

  • This links to another Irish author Deirdre Madden, whose book Molly Fox’s Birthday is a novel about identity as well as family and friendship, about how we see other people and how they see us.

My chain has gone from Los Angeles to Normandy, Romney Marsh, London and Dublin, from contemporary books to to murder mysteries and the classics.

Where will other chains lead, I wonder?

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Slap to The Cipher Garden

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 Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I haven’t read this book about a man in suburban Melbourne who slaps an unruly three-year old boy at a barbecue. The boy is not his son. It is a single act of violence, but the slap reverberates through the lives of everyone who witnesses it.

The Slap

And after reading a number of reviews I have no desire to read it.

The Gravedigger's DaughterBut I have read the first book in my chain The Gravedigger’s Daughter by
Joyce Carol Oates, a book that also has a photograph of a child on the front cover. The title character of this novel is Rebecca Schwart, born in New York Harbor, the daughter of Jacob and Anna who escaped from Nazi Germany in 1936. Her father, originally a maths teacher can only get work as a gravedigger and caretaker of the cemetery.

The Secret ScriptureThe second link in my chain is also about a gravedigger’s daughter,
Roseanne in The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. Roseanne, an old woman about 100 years old, in a mental hospital in Ireland looks back over her life and begins to wonder just what was real and what was fantasy. It’s a story of Roseanne’s struggle to survive set against the background of religious conflict and political unrest in Ireland and also about the nature of memory and its function in our lives.

A Pale View of HillsThe third link is a book that also considers how reliable our memories can be. It’s A Pale View of Hills by Kasuo Ishiguro about a widow, Etsuko living in Britain, as she reminisces about her past life in Japan shortly after the Second World War, living at the edge of the wasteland of Nagasaki. This is a beautifully written book, describing the countryside around and in Nagasaki after the war, referring to life before the war, and how not only the landscape but also the people and traditions were altered in the aftermath of the atomic bomb.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de ZoetAnother book set in Japan is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. It’s set in 1799 on Dejima in Nagasaki harbour. This is one of my TBRs. As a junior clerk, de Zoet’s task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s malpractice. He becomes intrigued by a rare woman—a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under the company physician.

AutumnMy fifth book is linked by the titleAutumn by Ali Smith, a novel that looks at modern life, how we got to where we are, and the mood of the country post-Brexit (that word is never mentioned in the book). It begins with a stream of consciousness as Daniel Gluck, a very old man, ponders his life and his approaching death. The main focus of Autumn is the relationship between Daniel and Elisabeth Demand who first met when Elisabeth was a child and she moved into the house next door to Daniel’s.

The Cipher Garden (Lake District Mystery #2)And finally my sixth link is the name of one of the characters – Daniel. In
Martin Edwards’ Lake District Mystery series the central characters are historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett, head of the Cold Case Review Team. One of my favourites in the series is The Cipher Garden in which Daniel and Hannah’s team investigate the murder of Warren Howe, brutally killed in the peaceful village of Old Sawrey, close to Near Sawrey the home of Beatrix Potter.

From Melbourne to New York, Ireland, Nagasaki, and Great Britain my chain links books about children, gravediggers, the nature of memories, meditations on life and death, and a murder mystery – quite a journey.

Where will other chains lead, I wonder?

Six Degrees of Separation: from Room to Wives and Daughters

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.Room by Emma Donoghue

This month’s chain begins with Room by Emma Donoghue – about a five
year old boy and his mother, abducted seven years earlier and living in captivity, confined to an 11 by 11 foot room. I haven’t read this book which was on the Man Booker 2010 shortlist.

The Long Song by Andrea LevyBut I have read the first link in my chain, also on the list that year – The Long Song by Andrea Levy, a book about slavery in Jamaica just as slavery was coming to an end and both the slaves and their former owners were adjusting to their freedom. The narrator is July, at the beginning, a spirited young woman, born in a sugar-cane field, telling her story at her son’s suggestion.

Slavery is the link to the next book – The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, historical fiction about the life of Honor Bright after she emigrated from Dorset to America in 1850 where she joined a Quaker community in Ohio. It intertwines her story with that of the ‘Underground Railroad’, helping the runaway slaves from the southern states to escape to Canada.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy…Also by Tracy Chevalier is At the Edge of the Orchard the story of a pioneering family on the American frontier, the Goodenough family, James and his wife Sadie and their five surviving children. It begins in 1838 in Black Swamp, Ohio where James and Sadie are arguing over apples and moves west with their son Robert to California.

Apples also feature in my next link – Hallowe’en Party which begins with the party given by Mrs Drake for teenagers. One of the guests, Joyce Reynolds, a boastful thirteen-year old, who likes to draw attention to herself, announces that once she’d witnessed a murder. It seems nobody believed her and yet later on she is found dead, drowned in the tub used for the bobbing for apples game.

Another witness to a murder is Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel in Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill. He witnesses a bizarre murder across the street from his own back garden positive that he saw Philip Swain shoot his wife, but Swain insists it was an accident. He says he was trying to stop her from killing herself and the gun went off. Just what did happen?

Wives and Daughters (Wordsworth Classics) by…My final link is through the structure of the title – 3 words linked by ‘and‘. It’s Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, a book I’m currently reading. Set in rural England in the early nineteenth century before the 1832 Reform Act this is the story of two families, centred on Molly Gibson, brought up by her father, a widowed country doctor. When he remarries, a new step-sister enters Molly’s quiet life – lovable, but worldly and troubling, Cynthia.

So, my chain has gone from a book about a woman and her child (a son) passing through books about slavery, a pioneer family and their apple orchard to murder mysteries featuring apples and witnesses to murders and finally to a another book about parents and children (daughters).

I never know where my chain will end. What about you, where would yours end?

Six Degrees of Separation: from Fever Pitch to Life After Life

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.

Fever Pitch

This month’s chain begins with Nick Hornby’s memoir (or love letter to soccer), Fever Pitch, which I haven’t read. I know it’s about football and wondered whether my first link would be to one of the other books my husband has about football and footballers, or to another book of memoirs.

A Death in the Dales (Kate Shackleton #7)But in the end I went for a link to the word fever. So my first link is to A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody, book 7 in her Kate Shackleton series, in which one of the characters, 14 year old Harriet has been in a fever hospital recovering from diphtheria. It’s a murder mystery set in Derbyshire.

A Place of ExecutionDerbyshire is the setting for my second link in the chain – A Place of Execution by Val McDermid. It’s a freezing day in December 1963, when 13-year-old Alison Carter vanishes from the isolated Derbyshire village of Scardale. This is another book I haven’t read -yet. Unlike Fever Pitch it’s on my TBR list.

Winter in MadridThe third link is also a book set in winter – Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom, an action packed thrilling war/spy story set just after the Spanish Civil War. It’s also a moving love story and historical drama all rolled into this tense and gripping novel.

Gone with the WindAn obvious civil war link takes me to Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell about the American Civil War and its aftermath. I loved this book so much more than I ever thought I would.  It is, of course, a book that was made into a film, which leads me to my fifth link …

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell (I have two links here – film and author’s surname). I tried to read the book first and failed, several times. It was watching the film that brought it to life. I then read and enjoyed the book. Cloud Atlas covers a time period from the 19th century to a post apocalyptic future using six loosely linked narratives. There are differences between the book and the film – they are are two different creations that complement each other.

Life After Life

My last book in the chain is also one I have started to read several times – it’s Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, but so far I haven’t finished it. I’ve read several of Kate Atkinson’s books and enjoyed them, but somehow the first few chapters of Life After Life about Ursula Todd just didn’t appeal. But at the end of last year I read A God in Ruins about Ursula’s brother Teddy, and loved it. So I will get round to reading Life After Life sooner or later.

I never know where my chain will go when I start it. This one begins and ends with books I haven’t read and it moves in place and time from England to Spain, America and back to England, linked by words, settings, genre, film adaptations and books I’ve found it hard to get into for one reason or another.

If you’ve also made a chain, or have read any of the books I’ve mentioned, especially the ones I haven’t read, please let me know in the comments.

Next month (April 1, 2017), the chain will begin with Emma Donoghue’s bestseller, Room – another book I haven’t read.

Six Degrees of Separation from Fates and Furies to The Graveyard Book

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.

Fates and Furies

This month’s chain begins with Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies.  I haven’t read it but apparently it is a novel about a marriage.

14486772So my first book in the chain is also a book about a married couple. It is Before the Fact by Francis Iles. First published in 1932 this is a Golden Age crime fiction novel that is a psychological character study of its two main characters, Lina and Johnnie.  ‘Some women give birth to murderers, some go to bed with them, and some marry them. Lina Aysgarth had lived with her husband for nearly eight years before she realized that she was married to a murderer.’

The Marriage LieThe Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle is another psychological thriller and is also about a marriage. Iris thought her marriage to Will was perfect until a plane en route to Seattle crashed. Everyone on board was killed and, according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers – but he had told her he was going to Florida. Why did he lie? This is one of those books that gripped me and kept me guessing all the way through. It has one of the most convoluted and complex plots I’ve read in a while. The pace is terrific and the tension just builds and builds.

WreckageWreckage by Emily Bleeker is also about a plane crash. Lillian Linden and Dave Hall spent two years on a deserted island in the South Pacific after their plane crashed into the sea. Like The Marriage Lie, this book revolves around lies. After their rescue Lillian and Dave are desperate to keep what really happened on the island a secret from their families. This is also a book about marriage.


The Sea DetectiveWreckage
leads to the next book in the chain in which the sea and an island play a major role. It’s The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Hume (a Scottish author) set on the fictional island of Eilean Iasgaich. Cal McGill uses his knowledge of tides, winds and currents to solve mysteries, which helps in the investigation of the appearance of severed feet in trainers that had been washed on shore on islands miles apart.

The Ghosts of Altona (Jan Fabel, #7)The Ghosts of Altona is also by a Scottish author – Craig Russell. It’s the 7th book featuring Jan Fabel, the head of Hamburg’s Murder Commission and is set in Altona, one of the city boroughs. It’s a modern Gothic tale as well as being a crime thriller. Fabel’s first case as a detective is resurrected when the body of Monika Krone is found under a car park, fifteen years after she disappeared. And then there are more murders which Fabel thinks are linked to the discovery of Monika’s remains, all of men who were in the same Gothic set at university.

The Graveyard BookGhosts are the last link in the chain with The Graveyard Book  by Neil Gaiman. This is 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. He is named by the ghosts, Nobody Owens, or Bod for short, and he grows up looked after by his adoptive parents Master and Mistress Owens who had been dead for a few hundred years and numerous other occupants of the graveyard. It’s scary and creepy, but never gory.

The links are that they are all mysteries of different types, with three of them about marriage. They are all about life and death and the fight between good and evil. And I had no idea when I began the chain that it would end in a ghostly graveyard.

Next month (March 4, 2017), the chain will begin with Nick Hornby’s memoir (or love letter to soccer), Fever Pitch – I think I have this book, but haven’t read it.

Six Degrees of Separation

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.

girl-with-dragon-tattoo-chain

This month’s chain begins with: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, a book that has been on my TBR list since 2009. I’ve been put off reading it by all the hype and by the mixed reviews it has received. Maybe this year I should give it a go and see for myself what it is like.

Another book that has been on my TBR list since 2009 and I still haven’t read it is The Water Horse by Julia Gregson, based on the true story of a young Welsh woman who ran away to nurse in the Crimea alongside Florence Nightingale. This made me think of the next book in the chain …

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon, this time a book I have read, also about the Crimea but in which a young Englishwoman, travels to the Crimea determined to work as a nurse.

Another book with ‘Rose’ in the title is The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, a fantastic historical crime mystery novel set in a Franciscan monastery in 14th century Italy. William of Baskerville and his assistant Adso are sent to the monastery to investigate a series of murders. I’ve read this book twice – probably time for another re-read!

I love historical fiction and one of my favourites is A Whispered Name by William Brodrick, his 3rd Father Anselm book, set during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, as an Irish soldier faced a court martial for desertion. On the panel was a young captain, Herbert Moore, charged with a responsibility that would change him for ever. It kept me glued to the pages as I read about the First World War and the effects it had on those who took part, those left at home and on future generations. 

Monks are my link to the next book in my chain with Dissolution by C J Sansom, a wonderful historical crime fiction novel set in 1537 about Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. It’s the first in the Matthew Shardlake series in which he investigates the murder of Commissioner Robin Singleton.

Which leads me to my last link, Raven Black by Ann Cleeves, also the first in a series – Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series, in which Inspector Jimmy Perez investigates the murder of a teenager, found dead in the snow, strangled with her own scarf, a few days after New Year.

My chain has taken me from Sweden to Shetland via the Crimea, Italy, Belgium and England, from the 20th century to the 19th century, and back to the medieval period and the 16th century. The covers I’ve picked are also linked, all having a shade of red.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Revolutionary Road to On Chesil Beach

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.

revolutionary-road-chain

This month’s chain begins with:

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, set in America in 1955, focussing on the hopes and aspirations of Frank and April Wheeler, self-assured Connecticut suburbanites.

I haven’t read Revolutionary Road, so knowing very little about it I’m using the title as the link to: The Ghost Road by Pat Barker. I haven’t read this one either but I’ve had a copy on my shelves for a few years. It’s set in 1918 during the last months of the First World War.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is also set during the First World War and is yet another book I haven’t read yet. In 2012 I watched the two-part television adaptation, starring Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford, the main character. I loved the story, so I’m looking forward to reading the book.

Eddie Redmayne was also in the film The Theory of Everything. This is a beautiful film based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen and another book I own that I haven’t read yet!

This leads me on to another biography and to another TBR that has sat partly read on my shelves for several years. It’s Thomas Hardy:The Time Torn Man by Claire Tomalin. Hardy is one of my favourite authors.

And this is one of my favourite books of his –  The Mayor of Casterbridge, which I first read at school. It’s set in Hardy’s Wessex, a fictional area covering the small area of Dorset in which Hardy grew up. Casterbridge is the name he used for Dorchester, his home town. Michael Henchard, a man of violent passions who sells his wife and child, subsequently becomes  the rich and respected Mayor, but ends his life in ruin and degradation. (the cover I’ve shown above is of the paperback I first read).

The chain ends with On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, a book also set in Dorset – in a hotel at Chesil Beach on the Dorset coast in 1962, where a newly married couple struggle to suppress their fears of their wedding night to come.

My chain goes from books I haven’t read to books I’ve loved and from 1950s America via the First World War and the life and work  of Stephen Hawking to that of Thomas Hardy and finally to Dorset in 1962.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Never Let Me Go to A Fear of Dark Water

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:

Never Let Me Go

When I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro in 2006 I thought it was very chilling and disturbing in its implications. I didn’t know what it was all about before I read it, so when I realised it quite took my breath away. I noted this quotation ‘… you’ve been told and not been told.’ And as I don’t want to give away the plot all I’m saying is that this book is about love, friendship and memory.
The Remains of the Day

My first book is another book by  Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day, a book that I liked much more than Never Let Me Go. I read it years ago and have also seen the film of the book, with Anthony Hopkins as Stevens, the aging butler at Darlington Hall, looking back on his life. It’s a sad and moving book about life between the two World Wars. Stevens reminisces about his relationship with Darlington Hall’s housekeeper, Miss Kenton and his unspoken feelings for her.

Another book with the word ‘day’ in the title is The Day of the Lie by William Broderick. This is the fourth of his Father Anselm books – a series I love, although this is not my favourite book of the series. It is set in post-Second World War Poland, covering  the early 1950s, the early 1980s and the present day. Father Anselm’s old friend John has asked him to investigate who had betrayed  Roza Mojeska. She had been part of an underground resistance movement, had been arrested and tortured by the secret police. Like his other books this is a complicated and layered book, delving into the past, uncovering secrets and revealing crimes.

Schindler's ListSchindler’s List by Thomas Keneally is also set in Poland – Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War. I haven’t read this book yet, although I have watched the film directed by Steven Spielberg more than once. It’s an unforgettable story, all the more extraordinary for being true. Oskar Schindler, a German business man risked his life to protect and save the lives of more than a thousand Jews. The book based on numerous eyewitness accounts. It won the Booker Prize in 1982.

The Secret RiverThe Secret River by Kate Grenville was  shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2006. It completely captivated me when I read it in 2012. It’s 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 in 1806. It’s about his struggle for survival after he was pardoned and became a waterman on the Hawkesbury River and then a settler with his own land and servants. It’s beautifully written and raises several issues – about crime and punishment, about landownership, defence of property, power, class and colonisation.

Standing WaterAnother book set in Australia, but this time in the present day is Standing Water by Terri Armstrong. It’s a fascinating story set in and near the fictional town of Marrup in the Western Australia Wheatbelt, an area suffering from drought – there’s been no rain for a couple of years. I was completely engrossed in this book, which is about friendships, sibling rivalry, parent/child relationships, and love and betrayal. The characters are convincing and the setting is superb. I could feel the heat, see the landscape, the farms, the plants, birds and the Dog Rock, a huge rock overlooking a panorama of flat land below its sixty foot height, with tiny caves at its base.

A Fear Of Dark Water (Jan Fabel, #6)Which leads me to A Fear of Dark Water by Craig Russell, the last link in the chain. The water in this book is the result of a massive storm that hit Hamburg, flooding the city, just as a major environmental summit is about to start. This is crime fiction – a serial rapist and murderer is still at large in the city and when the flood waters recede a headless torso is found washed up. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced and complex, multi-layered crime novel that kept me guessing right to the end.

From Never Let Me Go to A Fear of Dark Water took me from a disturbing view of the future to a disturbing view of the present via the UK, Poland, Australia and Germany. Where does your chain take you?

 

Six Degrees of Separation: From Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to The Wasp Factory

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.

This month’s chain begins with:

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.

My chain:

extremely-loud

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.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Flowers in the Attic to We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by 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 ones next to them in the chain.

Flowers in the Attic chain

This month’s chain begins with:

Flowers in the Attic by V C Andrews, a book I haven’t read. From the synopsis I see that it’s about Chris, Cathy, and the twins, Cory and Carrie who are kept hidden until their grandfather dies so that their mother will receive a sizeable inheritance.

It continues with:

  • Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger, also about twins, a ghost story about love, loss and identity. When Elspeth Noblin dies, she leaves her beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina Poole. I liked all the information about Highgate Cemetery, but overall this book was disappointing.
  • I much preferred Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier, also set in part in Highgate Cemetery in 1901-1908, the early years of the suffragette movement. Two families visit neighbouring graves in Highgate Cemetery. One is decorated with a sentimental angel, the other with an elaborate urn.
  • Another book I loved, also about an angel, but a very different one, is Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers – this combines two stories, that of Julia Garnet, a retired school teacher, who goes to Venice prompted by the death of a friend, and that of  Tobias and the Angel, which she sees in the Guardi panels in the Chiesa dell’ Angelo Raffaele.
  • The next link in the chain is also set in Venice: Wilful Behaviour by Donna Leon – crime fiction, in which Commissario Brunetti looks into the possibility of a pardon for a crime committed by a student’s grandfather during World War 2 and then investigates that student’s murder.
  • Also set in part during World War 2 is Atonement by Ian McEwan, a complex story, split into four parts and told from several points of view. This is a love story and also a mystery. It provides the link to the next book in my chain as revolves around the lives of  two sisters, Briony and her older sister, Cecelia. A book that I loved.
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is also a fantastic book – a weirdly wonderful book about sisters, Merricat and her sister Constance. They live in a grand house, away from the village, behind locked gates, feared and hated by the villagers. Merricat is an obsessive-compulsive, both she and Constance have rituals that they have to perform in an attempt to control their fears.

This chain has taken me from siblings in New York to twin sisters in London, via Highgate Cemetery, angels, Venice, World War 2, back to sisters in America.

Six Degrees Of Separation: Year of Wonders to Blood Harvest

I found this meme on Debbie’s ExUrbanis blog. It is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, “Chains”, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

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. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book, for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

You make your own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.

This is my first chain:

Year of Wonders chain

The chain this month begins with Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, one of my favourite authors, although I haven’t read this book – yet. It’s set in a small village in Derbyshire, during the year of 1666 ravaged by the plague. The story was inspired by the true story of the villagers of Eyam, Derbyshire and their own historical account of the plague.

This leads on to the following books:

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland, also a novel of the plague, but set in 1348 as a group of people flee across England as the plague moves inland from the ports. The members of the group, a conjurer, a one-armed storyteller, a musician and his apprentice, a young couple on the run, a mid-wife and a strange child who can read the runes, are all liars with secrets that are gradually exposed as they journey on.

Secrets are also a major part of In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward, in which two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later, Yvonne, Sophie’s mother commits suicide, which prompts Rachel, to try to remember what had happened. She is a genealogist and her research into her own family history proves to be invaluable, as devastating family secrets are revealed. This also links back to Year of Wonders as it is set in Derbyshire.

In The Blood Detective genealogist Nigel Barnes helps DCI Grant Foster to track down a killer who has left cryptic clues carved into his victims’ bodies. Although this has some really gruesome scenes, which I normally avoid, this a fascinating fast-paced book linking the crimes of the past – the events of 1879 – to a series of murders in the present.  It is set in London and the topography of London through the years also helps Barnes to solve the crimes.

Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine is also set in London. It begins in 1905 when Asta Westerby and her husband Rasmus come to East London from Denmark with their two little boys.  Asta keeps loneliness and isolation at bay by writing a diary. These diaries, published over seventy years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal. For they seem to hold the key to an unsolved murder and to the mystery of a missing child. It falls to Asta’s granddaughter Ann to unearth the buried secrets of nearly a century before.

Denmark and family secrets are the links to this next book, Anna Märklin’s Family Chronicles, a psychological mystery by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen, a Danish author.  Set in Denmark in the present day with flashbacks to Sweden during the early part of at the beginning of the twentieth century, Anna finds herself with beset with problems. Her father is seriously ill and strangely secretive about his family background.  Anna longs to know more and when she finds her grandmother’s journal she is enthralled. But digging into the past can reveal secrets that you might not want to know.

The final link in this chain is another psychological mystery, Blood Harvest by Sharon Bolton. I could have chosen any one of her books but this one stands out for me.  Evi, a psychiatrist has a new patient, Gillian, unemployed, divorced and alcoholic, who can’t accept that her daughter died in the fire that burnt down her home. Meanwhile, the new vicar in town is feeling unwelcome and hears voices in the church, but can’t find anyone there And a young boy keeps seeing a strange, solitary girl playing in the churchyard. Who is she and what is she trying to tell him? It’s a dark, scary book and one that I found disturbing, but thoroughly absorbing.

My chain goes from a seventeenth century English village devastated by plague to a twentieth century English village in six links, via books revealing murder, mayhem and mystery in their pages. Apart from Year of Wonders these are all books I’ve read and enjoyed, even The Blood Detective, a grisly tale.