Six Degrees of Separation: From The Beauty Myth to Death in Venice

It’s the first Saturday of the month, which means it’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation hosted by Kate of Books are my Favourite and Best. The idea is that Kate chooses a book to use as a starting point and then we have to link it to six other books of our choice to form a chain. A book doesn’t have to be connected to all of the others on the list – only to the one next to it in the chain.

The first book this month is The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. For the first time since I started taking part in Six Degrees in January, I haven’t read the starting book in the chain – and I have to confess that I hadn’t even heard of it. It seems that The Beauty Myth was originally published in 1990 and was “the bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity.” It sounds interesting, but is probably not a book I will ever read.

I struggled for a while trying to decide where to take the chain next, but in the end I went with another book with a ‘beautiful’ title: For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser. This is a novel based on Homer’s Iliad, retelling the story from a feminine perspective and focusing on two female characters – Krisayis and Briseis.

It’s the first of three books which form the Golden Apple trilogy, which brings me to my next link: books with an apple connection. I had two to choose from here – one was The Wilding by Maria McCann, about a 17th century cider-maker, but the book I’m going to include in my chain is At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier, the story of a family trying to establish an orchard in the Black Swamp of Ohio.

Another book with an orchard in the title (not one containing apples, though) is The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed. This is a novel set in 1980s Somalia, following the lives of three women as the country heads towards civil war.

In 2013, Nadifa Mohamed was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. Also nominated in the same year was Joanna Kavenna, who wrote The Birth of Love, a novel about childbirth and motherhood. This turned out not to be my sort of book, but I think a lot of readers would love it.

Staying on the subject of childbirth, the next link in my chain is to The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich. Set in 16th century Venice and Malta, this is the story of Hannah Levi, a Jewish midwife accused of witchcraft after assisting at a difficult birth.

Venice is a wonderful place to visit and to read about. The book I have chosen to finish my chain is Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. I read it for German Literature Month in 2015 and although I didn’t love the book, I did love the atmospheric descriptions of Venice.


Have you read any of the books in my chain? What did you think of them?

Next month’s chain will begin with Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, another book I haven’t read.

25 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From The Beauty Myth to Death in Venice

  1. Judy Krueger says:

    Once again, I love when you do these. I have not read any of the books in your chain but I am currently reading, a few pages at a time, the new Emily Wilson translation of the Odyssey. I have read a novel about the Illiad tale told from a woman’s POV and I think, but am not sure, it was by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Memoirs of a Geisha is a great novel in my opinion, informs, entertains, and I could not put it down.

    • Helen says:

      I have read the Odyssey, but it was an old translation by TE Lawrence. I hope the new Emily Wilson translation is a good one! Memoirs of a Geisha is a book I feel I should have read but haven’t – I’m glad you liked it.

  2. cirtnecce says:

    I love how you have linked all of it together! I have The Beauty Myth lying in the stack I call books-I-must-one-day-read! I am very interested in finding a copy of For the Most Beautiful. I could not get through Death in Venice….it just did not work for me!!

    • Helen says:

      I wasn’t a fan of Death in Venice either. I don’t think Thomas Mann is an author for me, although I might still try one of his other books one day.

  3. Kay says:

    Lovely chain! I have not read any of the books, but I have such a good time visiting others and seeing where their chains end up. All so very different. And I actually have read next month’s beginning book.

  4. Sandra says:

    I love your chain, Helen – and all the covers are so beautiful! I’d like to read all of these but especially the two ‘orchard’ books. I’m telling myself that this is the year when I’ll get up to date with Chevalier!

    • Helen says:

      The two orchard books are very different, but I enjoyed both. I need to read more Chevalier too – I’ve read three or four of her books but she has written so many others!

  5. Carmen says:

    Nicely done, Helen. I can’t believe it has been a month already since the previous one. 🙂 I haven’t read any of the books in your chain, but when you mentioned the apples/orchard connection I thought of Tracy Chevalier’s book and you went with that. 😉

    • Helen says:

      Yes, these posts come around quickly! I loved At the Edge of the Orchard so that was the first book to come to mind when I thought of apples. 🙂

  6. Margaret says:

    Great chain! I’ve enjoyed reading At the Edge of the Orchard, but haven’t read the other books. The ones that interest me most are For the Most Beautiful and The Midwife of Venice.

    • Helen says:

      I would recommend For the Most Beautiful – I love Emily Hauser’s books and she has a new one coming out later this year. I remember enjoying The Midwife of Venice too, although I never went on to read the sequel.

  7. Kate W says:

    I haven’t read any of the books in your chain although For the Most Beautiful sounds good – I’ve had great experiences with ‘re-tellings’ lately (they can be a disaster, can’t they?!).

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I’ve read some terrible retellings, as well as some great ones. Emily Hauser’s books are good because they focus on little-known female characters from the Greek myths.

  8. FictionFan says:

    I haven’t read any of these, which is what often makes these chains so fatal to the TBR! I like the sound of The Midwife of Venice, while Death in Venice is one of those books I feel I *ought* to read, rather than actually wanting to…

    • Helen says:

      Yes, these chains should come with a warning! The Midwife of Venice was fun, but you haven’t missed much by not reading Death in Venice, in my opinion.

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