Six Degrees of Separation: From Normal People to The Ivy Tree

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, the book we are starting with is Normal People by Sally Rooney. I haven’t read this book and probably won’t, but here is the blurb:

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.

Normal People is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find they can’t.

Thinking of another book with the word ‘people’ in the title leads me to The Good People by Hannah Kent (1), a novel set in Ireland in the 1820s and steeped in legend, folklore and ancient beliefs.

Stories of fairies, changelings and people being swept away to fairyland feature heavily in The Good People, as they do in one of my recent reads, The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson (2), although this book has a different setting – Scotland during the construction of the Loch Katrine Waterworks.

One of the main characters in The Ninth Child is Isabel, a doctor’s wife. This immediately made me think of the title character in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s The Doctor’s Wife (3), whose name is also Isabel.

The Doctor’s Wife is a Victorian novel which explores the feelings of a woman who is trapped in a boring, unexciting marriage and dreams of adventure and romance. One of her heroines is Edith Dombey, who appears in Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (4), the next link in my chain. I read Dombey earlier this year and will try to post a review soon!

I have written in the past about the number of books with ‘daughter’ in the title. Other than Dombey and Son, I can only think of a few books I’ve read with ‘son’ in the title and one of them is The Devil and Her Son (5) by Maxwell March, a pseudonym of Margery Allingham.

The Devil and Her Son is an entertaining novel about a young woman who switches identities with a friend, only to find herself the victim of an even bigger deception. Another book about impersonations and stolen identities is The Ivy Tree (6) by one of my favourite authors, Mary Stewart – a good choice to bring this month’s chain to an end!


And that’s my chain for June. My links have included the word ‘people’, fairies, doctor’s wives, Edith Dombey, the word ‘son’ and identity switches.

Next month we will be starting with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.

16 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Normal People to The Ivy Tree

  1. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    Great link with some interesting titles. I’ll need to try and get hold of the Doctor’s Wife, as I’ve enjoyed Braddon before. And Edith Dombey is a great character, Dickens could actually write about strong, interesting women when he put his mind to it.

    • Helen says:

      The Doctor’s Wife is great – if you’ve enjoyed other Braddon books I think you’ll enjoy that one too. And yes, Edith Dombey is one of Dickens’ better female characters!

  2. Café Society says:

    It’s interesting what you say about the number of book titles with daughter in them, mentioning Dombey and Son as an exception. I can’t remember where I was reading it the other day but somebody who was talking about the book pointed out that really ought to be called Dombey and Daughter.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I had similar thoughts while I was reading Dombey and Son. It’s really a book about the relationship between father and daughter.

  3. Karen K. says:

    I’m also a fan of ME Braddon, I’ve been meaning to get to The Doctor’s Wife. I love the cover image again but it does not bode well for poor Isabel. I do love Victorian sensation novels!

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    I have read the first and last books in your chain. Good one as always. i am just finishing up a collection of Irish fairy and folk tales, so I have been hanging out with fairies a bit.

  5. FictionFan says:

    Great links! I’m looking forward to hearing wht you think of Dombey and Son. It’s ages since I read it last, but I kinda feel it’s one of the more underrated ones,

  6. Sandra says:

    What a good chain, Helen, with several titles that tempt me. I have been reading Dombey & Son for months. The delay is not because I’m not enjoying it; I was reading a chapter a day but in our present circumstances I’ve lost the motivation for that type of reading. Strange really and perhaps this will encourage me to pick it up again. I’ll look forward to your thoughts in time; I agree that although I’m enjoying it, it’s not one of my favourites.

    • Helen says:

      It’s difficult to concentrate on certain types of books at the moment, isn’t it? I’ve had a similar experience with the new Hilary Mantel book, which I started reading at the beginning of lockdown and am still only halfway through. I hope you manage to finish Dombey and Son eventually!

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