Six Degrees of Separation: From Atonement to Something Wicked This Way Comes

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 Atonement by Ian McEwan. As usual, I haven’t read it – but I do at least own a copy, which is a step in the right direction. Even without having read it, I know that it is often described as ‘metafiction’, which Wikipedia defines as ‘a form of literature that emphasizes its own constructedness in a way that continually reminds the reader to be aware that they are reading or viewing a fictional work’.

Taking metafiction novels as the first link in my chain this month, I could think of plenty of other examples, but the one I have chosen is The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman is set in Lyme Regis, which is where Louisa Musgrove in Jane Austen’s Persuasion falls and injures herself on the harbour steps. I struggled to think of where to take the chain next from Persuasion, though, so I decided to pick another book with a Lyme Regis setting instead – and that book is Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures is a fictional account of the lives and careers of two real-life 19th century fossil-collectors, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. Another 19th century woman, fictional this time, who is trying to make her way in the male-dominated world of natural sciences, is Cora Seaborne, the amateur naturalist in Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. Mary Anning is one of Cora’s heroines, forming a strong link between these two books!

Moving on from The Essex Serpent, I have selected another novel with the word ‘serpent’ in the title. The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy is also historical fiction, but it’s a very different type of story, following the adventures of young warrior Beobrand, who sets out to avenge his brother’s death in 7th century Northumbria.

Northumbria was the name of the medieval kingdom which once encompassed a large part of northern England and the south-east of Scotland, and included the area now known as Northumberland. My next choice is a crime novel set in contemporary Northumberland: Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton.

Dead Woman Walking opens with a group of people enjoying an early morning flight in a hot air balloon over the Northumberland National Park. And that leads me to my final link in the chain – Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, in which a very creepy character known as the Dust Witch flies above the rooftops of Green Town in a balloon.

And that’s my chain for August! Have you read any of these books?

Next month we will be starting with Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson.

27 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Atonement to Something Wicked This Way Comes

  1. Margaret says:

    I’ve read Atonement and The French Lieutenant’s Woman and I have Dead Woman Walking, but haven’t read it yet. Something Wicked This Way Comes interests me – or at least the title does and Agatha Christie used the first half of the quotation in one of her books – By the Pricking of My Thumbs in one of her Tommy and Tuppence books!

    • Helen says:

      The title was what made me want to read Something Wicked This Way Comes – and I did enjoy the story too. I haven’t read that Agatha Christie book yet, but I’m sure I will eventually!

  2. Yvonne says:

    I love all your links – well thought out. The French Lieutenant’s Woman is the only book I’ve read. I have The Essex Serpent and Remarkable Creatures in my TBR pile. This is another fun meme and I’m happy to have joined in this time.

    • Helen says:

      I enjoyed both The Essex Serpent and Remarkable Creatures, so I hope you like them too. I’m glad you’ve joined in this month – I’ll come across and have a look at your chain!

  3. Calmgrove says:

    I agree with Yvonne: what a fine chain of connections you have made! I’ve only read ‘Something Wicked’ but have ‘The Essex Serpent’ waiting to be read, and I did start another nonfiction book featuring Mary Anning called ‘The Dragon Seekers’ (with a bookmark still displaying my perpetual shame at not having completed it yet).

    • Helen says:

      I have only encountered Mary Anning in fiction, but she sounds as though she had a fascinating life and career. I hope you enjoy The Essex Serpent when you get to it.

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    Oh the suspense! I was wondering how you would get from Atonement to Something Wicked. Very clever. I have read the first three books in your chain and the last. In fact, Something Wicked is my favorite Bradbury book. You must read Atonement. It, I believe, would fit right in with many of the historical novels you love. Don’t bother with the movie, or if you have seen it, don’t let it discourage you.

    • Helen says:

      I never know which book I’ll end up with when I start one of these chains! I will definitely read Atonement at some point. I can’t believe I haven’t read it already!

  5. J.E. Fountain says:

    I swear I didn’t look at yours first…but I also have The French Lieutenant’s Woman as the first link (similar but exactly the same reason). From there of course we took a different track.

  6. FictionFan says:

    I wonder if you’ll like Atonement when you get to it – it seems to be dividing all the Six Degrees people who’ve read it. I loved it, and the film. The only other of your choices I’ve read is Dead Woman Walking which I also loved! And Something Wicked is on my Classics Club list so I’ll definitely be reading that one sometime in the not too distant future.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve been a bit hesitant about reading Atonement, probably because it does seem to divide opinion so much. I hope I’ll be one of those readers who love it! Something Wicked would be a great autumn read, I think. I’ll look forward to your thoughts on it whenever you get round to reading it. 🙂

  7. Karen K. says:

    I also linked Atonement to The French Lieutenant’s Woman, but in a different way — I forgot that Atonement is also metafiction. And I did end up at Persuasion — great minds think alike.

  8. Carmen says:

    That’s a crazy good chain, Helen, as always! 🙂 I haven’t read Atonement either but I have it on my TBR, as I do The Essex Serpent, per your review. When I saw the Lyme Regis connection I immediately thought of Remarkable Creatures. That’s an obvious one, I think. I read that one and liked it a great deal. For the Northumberland connection I thought of Shakespeare’s Henry IV play, which I haven’t read, but saw it last year adapted for the TV series “The Hollow Crown”.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks, Carmen! I had a choice of Persuasion or Remarkable Creatures for the Lyme Regis link, but went with Remarkable Creatures as it led straight to The Essex Serpent. Yes, Henry IV would have been a good Northumberland connection – although I try to limit myself to books I have actually read and reviewed on my blog, which makes things even harder!

  9. Kate W says:

    Interesting about the reference to metafiction for Atonement – when I read it (many years ago), I wasn’t really aware of that and nor do I have a memory of that when I think about the book now, yet I can see why it’s described as metafiction. Makes me want to read it again!

    Great choices on your list, especially Remarkable Creatures.

    • Helen says:

      I loved The Essex Serpent too. Remarkable Creatures is a very different book, but has some similar themes – I think you would find it interesting.

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