Six Degrees of Separation: From Three Women to The Mysteries of Udolpho

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 starting with Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, a book I haven’t read. Goodreads tells me that it’s ‘a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions’. I don’t think I’m interested in reading it, but I know a lot of people have enjoyed it.

Although I haven’t read Three Women, the title immediately makes me think of one of the books I am currently reading – Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang (1), a biography of the three Soong sisters who became three of the most powerful women in 20th century China. I chose to read this book because I loved Jung Chang’s earlier biography, Wild Swans, which was also about three women (herself, her mother and her grandmother). So far I am enjoying this new one as well, although I think it will take me a while to finish it.

The word sister provides my next link and leads me to The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (2), a novel set in 1850s Oregon and California and telling the story of two hired killers, Charlie and Eli Sisters. I liked this book much more than I had expected to and was so glad I didn’t let the ‘western’ label put me off.

It’s fair to say that I don’t usually choose to read westerns but sometimes it’s good to try something different. Another genre I don’t often read is science fiction, but I’ve enjoyed a few of John Wyndham’s books in the last few years – most recently, Chocky (3), a short but fascinating novel about a boy who appears to have an imaginary friend, which I read for Karen and Simon’s ‘1968 Club’ back in 2017.

Another book I’ve read published in 1968 is Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer (4). Like many of Heyer’s novels, this one is set in the Regency period but has a slightly different feel from most of the others because of the Gothic elements, which include storms, locked doors, noises in the night and family secrets waiting to be uncovered.

Looking back at my review of Cousin Kate, I said it reminded me of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (5) which has some of the same elements – and a heroine, Catherine Morland, who loves reading Gothic novels. At one point in Northanger Abbey, Catherine is given a list of seven ‘horrid novels’. I haven’t read any of the horrid novels, which is a shame as I could have used one of them as my next link!

I have, however, read another book which is alluded to several times in Northanger Abbey – Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (6). Published in the 18th century and set in France and Italy, it is the story of Emily St Aubert, a French orphan who is imprisoned in the remote and gloomy castle of Udolpho where she is subjected to lots of seemingly supernatural terrors. I read this before I started blogging, but if you want to see my thoughts on some other Ann Radcliffe books, I have reviewed both A Sicilian Romance and The Romance of the Forest.

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Well, that’s my chain for this month, with links including three women, the word sister, books outside my comfort zone, 1968 and gothic novels. Next month we will be starting with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

20 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Three Women to The Mysteries of Udolpho

  1. Sandra says:

    I am particularly enjoying the chains this month, Helen and yours is no exception. Great links! I wasn’t aware of the Chang book and will certainly be looking out for that one. Chocky was not my favourite Wyndham but I found all his books to be good and have my old copies from years back. I have yet to read Udolpho. Maybe for next years RIP!

    • Helen says:

      Thank you! My favourite Wyndham so far is The Midwich Cuckoos, although I still have a few of his books left to read. Udolpho, or any Radcliffe novel, would be perfect for next year’s RIP!

  2. Carmen says:

    Your chain choices are creative as usual, which I love, because sometimes I can’t think of any connections between books saved obvious ones. 🙂 I saw a TV series in my youth that I believe was an adaptation of Choky because a child had an imaginary friend named Choky; it gave me the creeps! 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Thank you. Sometimes I struggle to think of connections, but I found this month’s chain easier to put together. I haven’t seen any adaptations of Chocky – the book version is unsettling, though not really creepy.

  3. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    Great list. I remember reading Wild Swans years ago, it really left an impression, so I will need to see if I can get hold of Chang’s other book. I should also get round to reading the Mysteries of Udolpho, as it has been on my TBR since the first time I read Northanger Abbey.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, Wild Swans is unforgettable, isn’t it? I quite enjoyed The Mysteries of Udolpho, although I remember it being slow in places, with lots of long descriptions of scenery. I think The Italian is Radcliffe’s best book.

  4. FictionFan says:

    From obsessive desire to sensation novels seems to have a neat logic! I loved Chocky – one of my favourite Wyndhams, but then nearly all of his books are “one of my favourites”!

    • Helen says:

      I loved Chocky too. I really need to read more of John Wyndham’s books soon – I keep putting The Chrysalids on my Classics Spin lists but it never comes up.

  5. Kate W says:

    I’ve enjoyed the fact that many bloggers have used the idea of ‘three women’ as their first link and it has highlight so many different stories about groups of three.

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