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 is slightly different as we’ve been given the freedom of starting with any book with which we ended a previous chain. As I’ve been taking part in Six Degrees of Separation most months for nearly three years, I had plenty of options but decided to choose the book that ended my chain this time last year, in November 2019. That book was Uprooted by Naomi Novik, a fantasy novel set in a world closely resembling sixteenth century Poland. Our narrator, Agnieszka, lives in a village on the edge of a dark, forbidden forest until her seventeeth birthday when she is selected by a great wizard known as the Dragon who takes her away with him to his tower.
Thinking of the name of the wizard in Uprooted leads me to a book with the word ‘Dragon’ in the title: Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley (1). This is not one of my favourite Kearsley novels, but I did enjoy it. It’s set in modern day Wales but steeped in Arthurian myths and legends.
Staying with those myths and legends, my next link is to Mary Stewart’s series of Arthurian novels which begins with The Crystal Cave (2). The title refers to a magical, crystal-filled cave near Merlin’s home in Wales where Merlin retreats on several occasions throughout the series to receive visions and revelations.
Another novel in which some of the characters live in caves is The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley (3). This is the fifth book in Riley’s Seven Sisters series and is set in both present day Scotland and in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. There are some wonderful descriptions of the caves of Sacromonte, the traditional home of the Spanish gitano community.
That Lady by Kate O’Brien (4) is also set in Spain, but in a much earlier period. Beginning in 1576, it tells the story of Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Eboli, and her relationship with King Philip II. As you can see from the portrait on the book cover, Ana wore an eye patch which, according to the novel, was because she lost an eye fighting a duel.
Someone else who lived in the same century as Ana and also wore a patch after losing an eye was Francis Bryan, the subject of a non-fiction book by Sarah Beth-Watkins which I read earlier in the year. Sir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Ambassador (5) gives a short and factual account of Bryan’s life at the Tudor court. Bryan was nicknamed ‘the Vicar of Hell’ and this takes me to the final book in my chain.
Jamaica Inn (6), Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic novel of smugglers and shipwrecks on the Cornish coast also features a ‘vicar’ whose name is Francis: Francis Davey, the Vicar of Altarnun. I first read Jamaica Inn many years ago, immediately after reading Rebecca, and found it disappointing in comparison; I read it again more recently and really enjoyed it the second time.
And that’s my chain for this month! My links have included dragons, Arthurian legends, cave-dwellers, Spanish history, eye patches and vicars called Francis.
In December we are starting with a book I remember from my childhood: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.