Six Degrees of Separation: From The French Lieutenant’s Woman to Death in Cyprus

It’s the first Saturday of the month (and of the year!) 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 are starting with this month is The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, a book I read a few years ago and didn’t enjoy as much as I had thought I would. Published in 1969 but set in 1867, the style is an unusual blend of the Victorian and the modern, which didn’t quite work for me.

When I have read the first book in the chain, it usually makes it easier to get started, but not this time! I included The French Lieutenant’s Woman in a previous chain a few months ago where I linked it from another metafiction novel and to another book set in Lyme Regis. As I didn’t want to use the same links again, I had to think of something different and all I’ve been able to come up with is books with ‘French’ in the title. This leads me to Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier.

The Frenchman of the title is the pirate Jean-Benoit Aubéry. A novel I read last year which also involves pirates (although these pirates are not as charming as Jean-Benoit) is The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson. Set in the 17th century, the novel tells the story of a group of people abducted during a Barbary pirate raid on Iceland and taken in captivity to Algeria.

Iceland and Algeria are both fascinating countries to read about and I enjoyed the contrast between both settings in The Sealwoman’s Gift. I’ve read a few other books set in Iceland and the one I’m going to link to here is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, a beautifully written novel about an Icelandic woman, Agnes Magnúsdóttir, who is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

Thinking about Burial Rites reminds me of Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Alias Grace is set in Canada, not Iceland, but otherwise the two books have a lot in common. They both give fictional accounts of real women who were convicted of murder (Grace Marks, in the case of Atwood’s novel).

I have read a few of Atwood’s other books, most recently Hag-Seed, which is a clever re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Also inspired, at least in a small part, by The Tempest is This Rough Magic, one of my favourite books by Mary Stewart. The title comes from a line spoken by Prospero in the play (“this rough magic I here abjure”).

Mary Stewart’s books (apart from her Arthurian series) are a combination of suspense, romance and mystery and feature young heroines in exotic or atmospheric settings. M.M. Kaye’s Death In… novels from the same era remind me of Stewart’s in many ways, although I find them slightly darker. I have read three, including Death in Cyprus, and still have the rest to look forward to.

And that’s my chain for this month…Frenchmen, pirates, Iceland, female prisoners, The Tempest and romantic suspense!

In February, we will be starting with Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

31 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From The French Lieutenant’s Woman to Death in Cyprus

  1. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed your links and have read half the books you included so nice reminders of those books, especially Alias Grace . Years ago I read a few of M M Kaye’sDeath in… books but not Death in Cyprus – so another one to look out for.

  2. Judy Krueger says:

    Good one! I have read The French Lieutenant’s Woman, years and years ago when I did not know enough to be bothered by the modern tone. Alias Grace is a top Atwood novel I think. This Rough Magic is the last Mary Stewart I read and it was great too.

  3. FictionFan says:

    A particularly appealing chain of books this time. I’ve loved Burial Rites and enjoyed Alias Grace, and would like to read… hmm, I was going to list the ones I’d like to read, but basically it’s all of them!! I have acquired a Mary Stewart finally – Nine Coaches Waiting, Now it’s just a matter of finding time to read it… 😀

    • Helen says:

      I thought there were a lot of similarities between Burial Rites and Alias Grace, so I’m surprised more people wouldn’t have made the connection.

  4. cirtnecce says:

    I did not enjoy The French Lieutenant’s Woman or the Frenchman’s Creek, but I really liked Alias Grace and all the Death Novels. I am of partial to anything written by MM Kaye. I have never read a Mary Stewart and in fact read The Moonspinners as part of my TBR challenge this month! I am also adding The Sealwoman’s Gift to my TBR! I know these posts are hard, but I love the connections you build!

    • Helen says:

      I liked Frenchman’s Creek, but it’s not one of my favourite du Maurier novels. I’m hoping to read more MM Kaye this year – I still have the other three Death In books to read, as well as Trade Wind.

    • Helen says:

      It had sounded like the sort of book I would usually enjoy, but I didn’t like the writing style or the way it was structured. I’m glad it wasn’t just me!

  5. Carmen says:

    Clever chain, as usual. I have not read any of the books, but I assumed that you would go for French something in the title. Pirates, female prisoners, exotic locales… Now that’s a chain worth reading about! 😉

  6. MarinaSofia says:

    I’ve never come across M.M. Kaye’s Death in Cyprus before, but I am intrigued (I’ve got a love of all things Greek – well, all except my ex-husband, who is Greek).

    • Helen says:

      Oh dear – at least he hasn’t put you off Greece in general! Death in Cyprus is fun, but my favourite in the M.M. Kaye series is probably Death in Kashmir.

    • Helen says:

      I remember finding Death in Kashmir quite atmospheric and eerie, but maybe I’m just a coward! I think they are darker than Mary Stewart’s books anyway.

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