Six Degrees of Separation: From Tales of the City to Wolf Hall

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 starting point this month is Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. I haven’t read it, but it seems that it is set in San Francisco.

Sometimes when I’m not familiar with the first book, I find it very difficult to get started with the chain, but this time I could think of several different directions to take. I eventually decided to go with books set in San Francisco; I can think of a few options, but the one I’ve chosen is Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. I remember really enjoying this novel, based on a true crime which happened in the 1870s.

The story takes place during a heatwave. We are in the middle of one now here in the UK. It’s been too hot for me, actually, but it is nice to be able to sit outside and read for a while when I get home from work. Thinking of other books that are set during long, hot summers, the first that comes to mind is Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, one of her Jackson Brodie mysteries in which a child goes missing while sleeping in a tent in the garden.

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Kate Atkinson so far. The first book I read by her was Life After Life, in which Ursula Todd begins her life over and over again. The name Ursula makes me think of one of my recent reads, The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst, the story of a young woman in Restoration England – and that is the next book in my chain.

The Illumination of Ursula Flight has an unusual structure, with part of the story being told in the form of scripts from plays. I don’t read plays very often, but one that I did enjoy was French poet and playwright Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. At one point during the first act, Cyrano fights a duel while composing a ballad at the same time.

I love a good fictional swordfight! Thinking of others that I’ve read, one of the most memorable is the one that takes place towards the end of The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. Unfortunately I can’t say any more about that wonderful scene, as to tell you who it involves or how it came about would most certainly mean spoiling the story!

The Game of Kings appeared on my list of favourite books read in 2012. Looking back at my 2012 list, it seems that I read some great books that year – and, in particular, some great historical fiction novels. One of these was Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the first of her excellent novels on the life of Thomas Cromwell, and this brings my chain for this month to an end.

Have you read any of the books in my chain? Did you take part yourself this month?

In August, we are going to begin with Atonement by Ian McEwan.

21 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Tales of the City to Wolf Hall

  1. Liz says:

    What a fascinating and entertaining list! I recently re-read Wolf Hall in the lead up to the Golden Booker vote and perhaps enjoyed it even more this time round. And I have had The Game of Kings on my TBR list for ages and really must find time to promote it! 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I have only read Wolf Hall once but it’s a book I would like to read again one day, so I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed it even more the second time. The Game of Kings is a wonderful book, as are all the others in that series – I can’t recommend Dorothy Dunnett’s novels highly enough.

  2. MarinaSofia says:

    Very unusual connections there! I remember my older son had to learn the speech of the nose from Cyrano de Bergerac when he went to school in France and we had good old fun with that (and watching the film version too).

  3. cirtnecce says:

    I love these lists of yours. I loved Life After Life but am one of those very few people who have yet to read Wolf Hall. I own a copy and I have attempted it several times, but had not much success. I will return to it soon, I guess! I hope the Heatwave recedes soon! It is very very hot and very humid in my part of the world, so I can quite understand your state!

    • Helen says:

      I’m sure it must be much hotter where you are, but we are not used to it in the UK so it seems very hot here to us! I loved Wolf Hall, but I know not everyone does. Hopefully you will have better luck with it the next time you try it.

  4. elainethomp says:

    I tried WOLF HALL, I don’t think I finished it, but don’t remember. The writing did not succeed in holding my interest.

    Loved seeing CYRANO on stage, have put URSULA FLIGHT on my ‘give it a try’ list due to your review, and love Dunnett’s GAME OF KINGS (and sequels).

    • Helen says:

      I think Wolf Hall is written in a style you either connect with or you don’t. I can understand why you didn’t like it enough to finish it. Cyrano de Bergerac was great in book format – I’m sure it is even better on stage!

  5. Carmen says:

    I always enjoy your connections as I don’t know in what direction you may take the links. I predicted the first (a book set in San Francisco), perhaps because it was too obvious a direction. 😉 I haven’t read any of them, though I have Wolf Hall in my TBR. However, at the speed I’m reading, who knows when I’ll get to it. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I never know what direction I will be going in myself when I first start the chain! I hope you enjoy Wolf Hall, whenever you get to it.

  6. Judy Krueger says:

    My favorite blogger meme currently! I once started Tales of the City but put it down for some reason and never returned. I have read Frog Music and also enjoyed it. Of course I loved Wolf Hall. I saw today that Hilary Mantel won the Golden Booker award for Wolf Hall!

    • Helen says:

      I loved both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies – I hope we don’t have to wait too much longer for the final book in the trilogy. I’m glad you enjoyed Frog Music too.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I’ve read ‘Game of Kings’ and ‘Wolf Hall’. I love them both. I want to read ‘Frog Music’ and ‘Case Histories’. I’m wondering if I will live for another 60+ years, to fit in all of the reading I’d like to complete …. 😉

    • Helen says:

      There just aren’t enough hours in the day, are there? I really enjoyed Frog Music and Case Histories, so I hope you have the time to read them both.

  8. Kate W says:

    I’ve had Frog Music and Kate Atkinson in my TBR stack for ever so long! One that isn’t in my stack is Wolf Hall. I really tried to get on with this book but about a quarter of the way through I gave up – my book group loved it Which had me thinking perhaps I should revisit it. When the television series came on, I thought it was just the way to get me enthusiastic about reading it – alas, the series was dreary! Too many other books to read, so won’t be attempting Wolf Hall again 😬

    • Helen says:

      I loved both the book and the TV series of Wolf Hall, but I’m particularly interested in Tudor history, so they were perfect for me. I agree, though – life is too short to spend time struggling through books that just aren’t working for us. Hopefully you’ll have better luck with the Emma Donoghue and Kate Atkinson books when you get round to reading them. 🙂

  9. Jessie says:

    Very interesting chain, Helen! I’ve been curious about Frog Music and am really looking forward to reading The Illumination of Ursula Flight. I have Wolf Hall on my shelf, but must admit that I’m a bit intimidated by it.

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