Six Degrees of Separation: From Vanity Fair to The Red Lily Crown

It’s the first weekend of a new 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 Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, for once a book that I’ve actually read! I used Vanity Fair in a previous chain a few months ago and linked it to Little Women, which has a chapter entitled “Meg Goes to Vanity Fair”. I don’t want to use the same link again, so I’ve come up with a different one this time.

Vanity Fair is a Victorian novel published in 1848, but set in the earlier Regency period. Another novel written in the Victorian era but with an earlier setting (much earlier in this case) is George Eliot’s Romola, a long and detailed story of Renaissance Italy. I found it a challenging book to read but definitely worth the effort.

My next link is easy. I love reading about Renaissance Italy and have read a lot of novels with that setting. Like Romola, Sarah Dunant’s The Birth of Venus is set in 15th century Florence just after the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici and therefore covers some of the same historical events – although the story is very different.

The title, The Birth of Venus, is the name of a painting by Botticelli (although that’s not what the story is about). Another novel which uses the name of a famous painting as its title is Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, set in Delft in the 1660s.

Scarlett Johansson played the title character in the film version of this book with Colin Firth as the artist Vermeer. Colin Firth has also appeared in several other adaptations of books and plays, including Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in which he starred as Jack Worthing. I don’t often read plays but I loved that one so I’m going to use it as the next book in my chain.

Oscar Wilde is known for his humour and The Importance of Being Earnest has a lot of great lines. I don’t always find books funny that are supposed to be funny, but one that I do think is hilarious is Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. I sometimes find myself reaching for it to re-read favourite scenes when I need to cheer myself up.

One of those favourite scenes involves Harris getting lost in the Hampton Court Maze. I love mazes and labyrinths and I’ve actually just finished a book that would have been the perfect choice to link to next. I prefer to choose books that I’ve already reviewed here on my blog, though, so instead I am linking to The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas, which features a labyrinth in the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Florence, of course, was also the setting for the second and third books in my chain.

And that’s it for this month! My links have included Renaissance Italy, paintings, actors, funny books and mazes. Have you read any of my choices?

Next month we will be starting with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

29 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Vanity Fair to The Red Lily Crown

  1. Calmgrove says:

    I read the Oscar Wilde as a callow youth, probably as a school text, but apart from the Edith Evans handbag phrase in the film I remember little about the ins and outs. The Thackeray I very much want to read, having been like many of us glued to the TV dramatisation, and of course Romola, but Middlemarch has precedence!

  2. Liz says:

    This is a great chain, Helen! I love the illustration on the front of your copy of Vanity Fair. And I also like the idea of reading about the same period via two different books, so may well check out Romola and The Birth of Venus, neither of which I had come across before. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I really like that Vanity Fair cover too. I enjoyed both of the books set in Florence, although Romola needed a lot of time and effort. I love seeing how different authors portray the same historical figures and events.

  3. Margaret says:

    I’ve read a couple of these – enjoyed The Girl with the Pearl Earring more than The Birth of Venus but it was years ago and I don’t remember much about them. I don’t often find books funny that are supposed to be funny, so I think I really must read Three Men in a Boat.

    • Helen says:

      I think I preferred Girl with the Pearl Earring too, although I did enjoy both books. I think Three Men in a Boat is hilarious, but of course everyone’s sense of humour is different. I hope you like it if you do read it!

  4. FictionFan says:

    Great links this month! The only ones I’ve read are Vanity Fair itself, which I loved, and Three Men in a Boat which I feel the same way about as you – perfect for chasing away a grey day! I like the bit about the maze, but I think my favourite bit is them trying to open the tin of pineapple…

    • Helen says:

      There are so many great moments from Three Men in a Boat! I could have chosen the tin of pineapple, but then I might have struggled with my next link…

  5. Literary Feline says:

    I enjoyed seeing how you connected each book. I have only read Birth of Venus (which I loved) and The Importance of Being Earnest on your list. I read another of Tracy Chevalier’s books, but haven’t read The Girl With the Pearl Earring. One of these days perhaps. I hope you have a great weekend!

    • Helen says:

      Thanks! I enjoyed The Birth of Venus too and really want to read more of Sarah Dunant’s books. I love Tracy Chevalier – I would definitely recommend Girl With a Pearl Earring. 🙂

  6. Kay says:

    You did well with your connections. I love seeing where all of them meander. Only book I’ve read is The Girl With the Pearl Earring. I liked it, but don’t have a lot of memory of it except that ‘I liked it’. Ha! Next month will be fun – all the Christmas.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks. Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing next month’s chains – starting with A Christmas Carol should give us all plenty of options for the first link!

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you loved The Birth of Venus. I still haven’t read anything else by Sarah Dunant but am looking forward to reading more. The Girl With a Pearl Earring is great too.

    • Helen says:

      I’m sure you’re not! Everyone’s sense of humour is different and we all find different things funny. I do love Three Men in a Boat, though, and can always rely on it to make me smile. 🙂

  7. Carmen says:

    What a clever chain! 🙂 Italy, paintings, bards… I have read The Birth of Venus and Girl with a Pearl Earring. Also, Oscar Wilde’s short stories, but unfortunately not The Importance of Being Earnest. I have that Colin Firth’s adaptation on my wishlist.

    • Helen says:

      I read some of Oscar Wilde’s short stories years ago, but for a long time I had no interest in reading his plays. I’m so glad I eventually read The Importance of Being Earnest – it’s a great play and I’m looking forward to reading more.

    • Helen says:

      It does seem to have been a good starting point – I’ve seen chains going in all sorts of interesting directions. I’m looking forward to A Christmas Carol next month. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Thanks. I enjoyed The Edge of the Orchard, but I think I know which character you mean – I couldn’t stand her either. I still have some of Tracy Chevalier’s books left to read and am looking forward to them!

  8. MarinaSofia says:

    An absolutely entrancing set of links, I enjoyed that very much indeed – and you chose a Sarah Dunant book too. I actually had the pleasure of having Sarah as a tutor on a short Faber course and she was AMAZING!

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