Six Degrees of Separation: From Rodham to Cold Comfort Farm

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 Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld. I haven’t read it, but I know that it’s an alternate history imagining what might have happened if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton.

However, I have read one of Curtis Sittenfeld’s earlier novels, Prep (1), which follows four years in the life of Lee Fiora, a teenage girl with social anxiety who attends a boarding school in Massachusetts. This seems to be a book that people either love or hate; I think whether or not you enjoy it probably depends on how strongly you can relate to the main character.

Another girl who goes to boarding school, in Canada this time, is Flavia de Luce in Alan Bradley’s As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (2). This is the seventh book in a series of mysteries starring Flavia and in this one she is investigating the disappearances of three girls at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy. Not my favourite in the series, but I do love the Flavia books overall.

The title of that book comes from the lines from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline: “Golden lads and girls all must, As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.” Another book which also takes its inspiration from the same source is Golden Lads by Daphne du Maurier (3), a biography of two important Elizabethan figures, Francis and Anthony Bacon.

My next link is to another book with the word ‘Golden’ in the title: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (4). I found this a very entertaining novel set in 18th century New York, in those days still a small community just beginning to expand into the city we know today.

Stella Tillyard’s Call Upon the Water (5) is also set, at least partly, in the same location – but a century earlier, when the settlement was known as New Amsterdam. The rest of the novel is set in England and follows a Dutch engineer working on the draining of the marshlands in the Fens.

Finally, I’m going to link to a book written by another Stella – Stella Gibbons. Gibbons wrote many novels, as well as some short stories and poetry, but the only one I have read is her most famous one, Cold Comfort Farm (6). Because I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’d hoped to, I haven’t attempted any of her other work yet but maybe I will one day.


And that’s my chain for this month! My links included school stories, Cymbeline, the word ‘golden’, old New York and the name Stella. In October, we will be starting with The Turn of the Screw by Henry James – finally a book that I’ve read!

34 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Rodham to Cold Comfort Farm

  1. Judy Krueger says:

    You are without doubt my favorite creator of these chains. I own a copy of Rodham and intend to read it soon, certainly before the dreaded election, so you will have a review from me at some point. Prep was the novel that got me going on Sittenfeld and except for her short stories, I have read all her books.

    • Helen says:

      Most people love Cold Comfort Farm, so you might have a better experience with it than I did! I just didn’t connect with the humour and didn’t find it as funny as I’d hoped.

  2. Yvonne says:

    Golden Hill was so good. I thought Call Upon the Water was a new Stella Tillyard that I’d missed until I found it was The Great Level released under a different title. Enjoyed that book too.

  3. Marian Librarian says:

    My List: 1. Eleanor vs. Ike, by Robin Gerber, is a what-if novel that has Eleanor Roosevelt running against Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower for the 1952 US presidential election. A 6-yr old Hilary Rodham and her mother have a very brief cameo. 2. The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes, is a historical novel of women on horseback bringing books and magazines to rural inhabitants in Kentucky in 1937-38 as part of the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky program Eleanor Roosevelt was responsible for starting. The main character is an English woman who had recently married an American. 3. On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service, by Rhys Bowen, features an American who married two Englishmen: Wallis Simpson. In 1935 Queen Mary sends a distant relative to the crown to keep an eye on Wallis and the Prince of Wales at a house party in Italy. Winston Churchill was one of many who tried to work out some possible solution to the Prince’s relationship to Wallis. 4. Lady Clementine: A Novel, by Marie Benedict, is the story of the wife of Winston Churchill, who counseled and guided him throughout his adult life. 5. The Gown, by Jennifer Robson, Is “novel of the royal wedding” of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in 1947. The story focuses on the embroidering of the wedding gown in the fashion house of Norman Hartnell by two embroiderers, and also on the search by the granddaughter of one in 2016 to find out why her deceased grandmother had left her some hand-stitched flowers that match the ones on the princess’s gown and train. George VI became king because the Prince of Wales abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson.

  4. margaret21 says:

    I adored Golden Hill, and it stays with me though it’s some years since I’ve read it, His Red Plenty is also a rewarding read. This is a great chain- perhaps the one I’ll immediately take from it is Call upon the Water. Like you, I no longer have to bother with Cold Comfort Farm!

  5. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    As always, I enjoyed your chain, and I have the starting point, Rodham on my own TBR. That’s interesting you didn’t get on very well with Cold Comfort Farm. I put it on my TBR ages ago as it is one of these books everyone seems to rave about, but my record with such books isn’t great, so I’m keeping my expectations fairly nutral.

    • Helen says:

      I had heard people say that Cold Comfort Farm was hilarious, so I was disappointed when I didn’t find it very funny. A sense of humour is a very individual thing, I suppose. Maybe you will enjoy it more than I did!

  6. cirtnecce says:

    I love and admire how you create this links! I am very curious about Rodham. I did like Cold Comfort Farm but I am not a gushing fan and that is the reason I have not explored her other works!

    • Helen says:

      Rodham sounds interesting, although it’s not the sort of book I would usually read. I’m glad I’m not the only one who wasn’t a huge fan of Cold Comfort Farm!

  7. Sandra says:

    I have Cold Comfort Farm as a high priority but mostly because I already own Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm and feel I ought to read them in order. I’ll keep your reaction in mind though, Helen, and remember not everyone loves that book! Love your chain – you’ve included a du Maurier titel that I’ve not met before.

    • Helen says:

      I am definitely in the minority where Cold Comfort Farm is concerned, so maybe you will enjoy it more than I did. I didn’t dislike it, but was disappointed that I didn’t find it as funny as everyone else seems to. And yes, that’s a very obscure du Maurier!

  8. FictionFan says:

    Oh dear, I have Cold Comfort Farm on the TBR, and I know it’s lingering because I have a sneaking suspicion I won’t get on with it either. Otherwise your chain looks interesting – I didn’t know du Maurier did biographies!

    • Helen says:

      If you connect with the humour in Cold Comfort Farm I’m sure you’ll love it. I didn’t and was left feeling disappointed after hearing how hilarious it was supposed to be! And yes, du Maurier wrote quite a few biographies, mainly of her own family members. She also wrote a great one on Branwell Bronte.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I always enjoy taking part in Six Degrees and seeing all the different directions people go in with their chains. The Flavia books are great. I highly recommend trying one!

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