Six Degrees of Separation: From Sanditon to The Song of Achilles

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 Sanditon by Jane Austen. I haven’t read it – I do like Austen but am not as big a fan as many people are and haven’t yet ventured past her main six novels. However, I do know that Sanditon was unfinished at the time of her death.

Thinking about other unfinished novels, The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens immediately came to mind, but I used that one in another Six Degrees post quite recently, along with another, Elizabeth Gaskell’s unfinished Wives and Daughters. This made me think a bit harder and then I remembered Lord Byron’s Fragment of a Novel (1), his attempt at writing a vampire story which he never completed. I’m particularly pleased with this link because apparently Sanditon was also first published under the title Fragment of a Novel.

The stories of Byron and his fellow Romantic Poets, Keats and Shelley, are told in Passion by Jude Morgan (2). I love Morgan’s writing and I thought this was an excellent book, focusing on the roles women such as Mary Shelley, Caroline Lamb and Augusta Leigh played in the poets’ lives.

Another book about poets is Possession by AS Byatt (3), although the poets in this one – Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte – are fictional. The novel follows two modern day academics as they study the lives of Ash and LaMotte, delving into letters, poems, fairy tales and journal entries, which Byatt presents as if they were authentic Victorian documents.

My copy of Possession has butterflies on the cover. So does The Specimen by Martha Lea (4), a book which had many of the elements I usually enjoy in a book – a mystery to be solved, a Victorian setting, strong female characters – yet it turned out to be disappointing. You can’t love every book you read, I suppose.

The main character in The Specimen is a young woman called Gwen who travels to Brazil to study and draw plants and insects. Another book about a woman trying to break into the male-dominated field of natural sciences is Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull (5), set in Portugal and the Berlengas islands in the middle of the 18th century. I did love that book!

For my final link, I’m taking the word ‘song’ in the title. I had a few books to choose from here, but decided on The Song of Achilles (6), Madeline Miller’s beautiful retelling of the Iliad, told from the perspective of Patroclus, who is portrayed in the novel as Achilles’ lover.


Well, that’s my chain for this month. My links included unfinished novels, poets, butterflies and songs. In January, we’ll be starting with Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid which, coincidentally, I just started to read yesterday.

28 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Sanditon to The Song of Achilles

    • Helen says:

      I hope you enjoy Wives and Daughters. The fact that it’s unfinished isn’t really a problem as the book ends at a point where it’s quite easy to see how she was planning to finish it.

  1. Kate W says:

    I love the fact that everyone who has taken the ‘unfinished manuscript’ path has found a different link 🙂

    Hope you enjoy Daisy Jones – I think you’ll see that it’s a book that offers loads of #6degrees starting points.

  2. Judy Krueger says:

    That cover of Possession is really something! I hope you enjoy Daisy Jones. I will be reading Frankenstein soon so that’s my Mary Shelley connection for today.

  3. cirtnecce says:

    I am one those who love Jane Austen but I have not read Sandition and I am not reading it. I have a mindblock against unfinished novels and well, same reason, why Wives and Daughters has been lying in my collection for so long and well, still unread. I too loved Song of the Sea Maid! Great post as well Helen!

    • Helen says:

      I think Wives and Daughters is worth reading even though it’s unfinished. I did get frustrated with The Mystery of Edwin Drood, though – I really wanted to know what happened next! I’m glad you loved Song of the Sea Maid too. 🙂

  4. FictionFan says:

    Ooh, thanks for the reminder about Jude Morgan! I loved his book about Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway and meant to read more of his stuff but somehow he then slipped from my radar. This one sounds great, as is your Fragment of a Novel link… 😀

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