Six Degrees of Separation: From What I Loved to Britannia Mews

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 What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. It’s not a book that I’ve read, but here’s the blurb:

In 1975 art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a New York gallery. He buys the work, tracks down its creator, Bill Weschler, and the two men embark on a life-long friendship.

This is the story of their intense and trouble relationship, of the women in their lives and their work, of art and hysteria, love and seduction and their sons – born the same year but whose lives take very different paths.

Like Leo, the heroine of Nicola Cornick’s supernatural time-slip novel, The Phantom Tree (1) finds a painting in a gallery which changes her life. The painting is of Mary Seymour, the daughter of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr, and Thomas Seymour, whom Katherine married following Henry’s death.

Mary Seymour, born in 1548, disappears from historical records after 1550, but in The Phantom Tree, Cornick imagines that she was raised at Wolf Hall with her Seymour cousins. This provides an obvious link to Wolf Hall (2), the first book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy of Tudor novels about Thomas Cromwell.

The word ‘wolf’ makes me think of Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada (3), a novel first published in 1937. Set in Germany, it follows a group of people struggling to survive in the aftermath of the First World War with hyperinflation leaving the economy in ruins.

Wolf Among Wolves is translated from the original German. Another German novel I’ve read in translation is The Beggar King by Oliver Pötzsch (4), the third in a series of historical mysteries following the adventures of a 17th century Bavarian hangman and his daughter.

This leads me to The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag (5), one of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce novels, starring an eleven-year-old detective and chemistry genius. In this book, Flavia is investigating a murder which takes place during a puppet show.

In Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp (6), our heroine marries a man who creates wonderful hand-made puppets and she later opens a successful puppet theatre in a coach house in her street, Britannia Mews. I highly recommend this book; I loved watching the changing nature of Britannia Mews and its inhabitants over the course of the novel.

And that’s my chain for July. My links have included paintings in galleries, the Seymours of Wolf Hall, the word ‘wolf’, German translations, hangmen and puppets.

In August we will be starting with How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell.

29 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From What I Loved to Britannia Mews

  1. Karen K. says:

    Excellent chain! I have several of these author on TBR list, though I’ve only read Brittania Mews. I love Margery Sharp and I really enjoyed the puppets in the plot. I still have a couple of her books unread, The Foolish Gentlewoman and one of the Martha novels, and a later one called The Sun in Scorpio. I’m always looking for her books in used bookstores.

    I’ve wanted to read one of the Oliver Potszch novels, I don’t read enough books in translation. There are so many books written about Germany by American and British authors, we don’t get nearly enough translated from German.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve only read three or four of Margery Sharp’s books, but Britannia Mews is my favourite so far. I really need to read more of her books soon. And no, I don’t read enough books in translation either – while I was putting this chain together I could only think of a few I’d read that were translated from German.

    • Helen says:

      I remember having one or two problems with the translation of the Potzsch novel (I thought some of the dialogue felt too modern for the 17th century, although that could have been the case with the original text as well) but otherwise it was an interesting story.

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