Six Degrees of Separation: The Christmas Edition

It’s the first Saturday 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 book we’re going to begin with this month is, appropriately for December, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I still have the beautiful hardback copy I was given as a child with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. I talked about my memories of A Christmas Carol in a Classics Club monthly meme from a few years ao.

There were many different directions I could have taken from this starting point, but I decided to get into the festive spirit with a chain made entirely of Christmas-themed books. Shortly after I first started blogging in 2009, I took part in a Christmas reading challenge for which I read two books: the one above and The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder.

This is an unusual novel (like most of Gaarder’s), in which the story of an ancient pilgrimage to Bethlehem unfolds through scraps of paper found behind the doors of an Advent calendar. In the present day, meanwhile, a mystery begins to emerge involving the creation of the calendar itself.

Now, from one Christmas mystery to a whole collection of them…

Murder Under the Christmas Tree contains stories by classic crime authors such as Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers and Arthur Conan Doyle. One author whose work doesn’t appear in that collection is Agatha Christie, but she did write a few books with a Christmas theme…including the next book in my chain, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas.

The book involves the murder of an old man who is found dead in his home while his family gather to celebrate Christmas. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a favourite Christie and I didn’t find it very Christmassy either. Another book with a very similar plot, published three years later, is Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer.

Envious Casca has also been published under the title A Christmas Party. However, the family featured in the novel were such a nasty, unpleasant group of people, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being a guest at that particular party! Another mystery set at Christmas with a dysfunctional family at its heart is I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, the fourth in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series.

In I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, eleven-year-old Flavia tries to catch Santa Claus on his way down the chimney. In the final book in my chain, Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood is also trying to catch a man on Christmas Eve – a criminal who lives on a remote farm in the Appalachian Mountains.

For the first time since I’ve started taking part in Six Degrees of Separation, I am able to bring the chain full circle. The title of my final book contains the words ‘Christmas Past’ – and the first book features the Ghost of Christmas Past!

Have you read any of these? What are your favourite Christmas-themed books?

Next month (January) we will be starting our chains with The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles.

26 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: The Christmas Edition

  1. Margaret says:

    Great chain! I thought mine would be Christmas themed too, but it didn’t turn out that way.

    Sadly, I’ve misplaced the copy of A Christmas Carol that I had as a child -you obviously took better care of yours! I’ve read the Gaarder book (a magical book) and Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas which I also thought wasn’t very Christmassy.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks – I thought I might struggle to keep the Christmas theme going throughout the chain, but it was easier than I expected. I’m sure I had two different editions of A Christmas Carol as a child, but I don’t know what’s happened to the other one.

  2. Carmen says:

    Clever way to use a Christmas theme for your chain, very appropriate as well since It’s the Season. 😉 I liked it that you brought the chain full circle. I haven’t read any of them unfortunately.

    • Helen says:

      I used to love Gaarder but, apart from The Christmas Mystery, it’s been a long time since I read any of his books. My favourites were Sophie’s World and The Solitaire Mystery.

  3. Café Society says:

    I too part in this for the first time this month and had to begin by admitting that I had never read A Christmas Carol; shame on me! But I finished with one of Jostein Gaarder’s novels, Sophie’s Choice. You don’t think about a writer for years and then they turn up twice in a day.

    • Helen says:

      Well, A Christmas Carol is one of those books where we all know the story anyway, whether we’ve read it or not, so I don’t think there’s too much shame in not having read it! I’m glad you’ve decided to join in this month – I always enjoy putting my posts together for this meme.

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you like the Christmas theme! I enjoyed the short story collection, although it was a bit uneven (and there were a few modern authors mixed in with the vintage ones, which just didn’t feel right).

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    One of my reading groups used to read a Christmas themed book each December. One year we read The Christmas Cookie Killer by Livia J Washburn. It wasn’t too bad but it also had some great Christmas cookie recipes. The book now lives on my cookbook shelves!

  5. tracybham says:

    I like all the mysteries in your chain, and how you got back to Christmas. I read Envious Casca last year and loved it, and Hercule Poirot’s Christmas a few years before that.

    • Helen says:

      I approached this in a different way to my usual chains – I thought of six Christmas themed books first, then tried to link them together. I’m glad I’ve reminded you of Heyer! Her Regency romances are my favourites, but I do enjoy her mysteries too.

  6. frogflamingo says:

    Yes, the only one I’ve read to have all Christmas books! Nicely done. I read the first Flavia de Luce book ages ago, and quite enjoyed it but never managed to get around to the rest. Are they worth it?

    • Helen says:

      I actually found it surprisingly easy to put a Christmas themed chain together once I discovered that I had reviewed exactly six Christmas books on my blog. 🙂 Usually I’m in denial about Christmas too, so I can sympathise!

  7. Liz says:

    What a lovely seasonal chain, Helen. I really enjoy reading books at the ‘right’ time of year – isn’t it great that there are so many brilliant christmas-related titles to choose from!

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