Six Degrees of Separation: From The Dry to The Red House Mystery

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.

This month we are beginning with The Dry by Jane Harper. I haven’t read that book, but I know that a lot of bloggers whose opinions I trust have enjoyed it so I would like to give it a try. The story is set in a fictional Australian community during a drought. The opposite of a drought is a flood, so for my first link I have chosen Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh. This was the third book – and probably my favourite – in Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy, set in India, China and at sea during the period of the First Opium War.

Opium provides the link to the next book in my chain, which is The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. In the opening scene of the book, we see Edwin Drood’s uncle, the choirmaster John Jasper, visiting a London opium den run by a mysterious woman known as Princess Puffer.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was the novel Dickens was working on when he died and was unfortunately left unfinished. I enjoyed it and do recommend reading it, but the fact that it ends before the mystery is solved is as frustrating as you would expect! Another classic novel that was unfinished at the time of the author’s death is Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, although I found the ending of that one much more satisfying.

I want to move the chain away from classic Victorian novels now, so I have selected a very different type of book for my next link, but one which also has ‘Wives’ in the title: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin. The novel describes a polygamous marriage through the stories of Nigerian businessman Baba Segi and his four wives, who each take their turn as narrator.

I’ve read a few other books set in Nigeria, the most memorable being Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a beautiful, emotional novel which follows the lives of several characters before and during the Nigerian-Biafran War of 1967-1970.

To bring my chain to an end, I have chosen another book with a colour in the title, not yellow this time but red. That book is The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne. Although Milne is best known for the Winnie the Pooh stories, he also wrote this detective novel, published in 1922, which I thought was great fun to read!

And that is my chain for this month. My links included droughts and floods, opium dens, unfinished novels, wives, Nigeria and colours!

In June we’ll be starting with Murmur by Will Eaves, another book I haven’t read.

28 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From The Dry to The Red House Mystery

  1. Café Society says:

    I read Sea of Poppies, the first of the Ghosh trilogy, when it was originally published and then never got round to reading the other two. You remind me I should do something about that.

  2. Liz says:

    I have really enjoyed this chain, Helen. I loved Americanah, so much get around to reading Half of a Yellow Sun. And the Ibis Trilogy sounds fascinating!

    • Helen says:

      I enjoyed Americanah too, but I preferred Half of a Yellow Sun, which is a very different type of book. The Ibis Trilogy is great!

  3. Margaret says:

    Great chain, Helen! I enjoyed reading it and was interested in Amitav Ghosh’s trilogy. I have the first two books but haven’t read them yet.

    I have read three of the books in your chain. Edwin Drood really surprised me by how much I enjoyed it given that it is unfinished. I agree about Wives and Daughters – the fact that Elizabeth Gaskell did not finish the book didn’t spoil it at all for me. She had all but drawn all the threads together so that the editor’s concluding remarks coincided with the way I had hoped everything would be resolved. And Half of a Yellow Sun is fantastic – an emotional book that is never sentimental.

    I haven’t read Murmur either – or even heard about it before.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I thought the way Wives and Daughters ended made it clear which direction the story was going in and that it would all be resolved satisfactorily. The ending of Edwin Drood was frustrating, but I did enjoy everything that came before!

      As for Murmur, I’m getting used to not having read the starting books in these chains, but it does sometimes make it difficult to come up with that first link.

  4. Sandra says:

    What a great chain, Helen; isn’t it amazing how far the links can take us! I enjoyed Half of a Yellow Sun and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives sounds promising. Talking of promising – I keep promising myself that I’ll read The Dry and also The Red House Mystery. One day!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I never have any idea where the chain will end up when I first start to put it together. I found The Red House Mystery very entertaining – I definitely recommend it!

  5. Jane says:

    What a great chain! I gave up at the end of the second part of the Ibis trilogy, so interesting that the third part is your favourite, I’ll have to go back to it!

    • Helen says:

      I enjoyed all three of the Ibis Trilogy books, but I thought the third one was the best as it pulled all the threads of the story together.

  6. cirtnecce says:

    I love these posts of yours! I too loved the last of Ghosh’s trilogy! I still have Wives and Daughter in my TBR and I am holding on it because once I am done with this, I would have read all of Gaskell’s work and that would not be all together a good thing ….yes, I am crazy! lol!

    • Helen says:

      Wives and Daughters is a great book, and no, I don’t think you’re crazy! I don’t like to be finished with a favourite author’s work either – I try to hold on to one or two of their books for as long as possible so I still have them to look forward to. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Yes, it’s always interesting to see everyone else’s chains and how we all go in such different directions from the same starting point!

  7. FictionFan says:

    I loved The Red House Mystery too – wish he’d written more mysteries! The Dry really is very good – I think you’d enjoy it. I hadn’t realised Wives and Daughters was unfinished – I shall ensure I don’t make it my first Gaskell (yeah, I know – shameful, isn’t it?). And Half of a Yellow Sun is lingering on my TBR – I really didn’t enjoy Americanah which has made me reluctant to get to it, but I will one day…

    • Helen says:

      The fact that Wives and Daughters was unfinished wasn’t really a problem, but I do think either North and South or Cranford would probably be a better place to start with Gaskell. And Half of a Yellow Sun is a completely different type of book from Americanah, so maybe you would have more luck with that one!

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