Six Degrees of Separation: From Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to A Long Petal of the Sea

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 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I read a lot of Judy Blume books in my childhood/early teens and this is one I particularly remember – not every detail of the plot, but certain scenes and lines. Here’s the blurb:

Life isn’t easy for Margaret. She’s moved away from her childhood home, she’s starting a new school, finding new friends – and she’s convinced she’s not normal. For a start she hasn’t got a clue whether she wants to be Jewish like her father or Christian like her mother. Everyone else seems really sure of who they are. And, worst of all, she’s a ‘late developer’. She just knows that all her friends are going to need a bra before she does. It’s too embarrassing to talk to her parents about these things. So she talks to God instead – and waits for an answer…

For my first link I have chosen another novel with a question as the title: Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart (1). Of all of the Stewart suspense novels I’ve read, I think this one and Nine Coaches Waiting are two of the best. Published in 1955, this was her first novel and features some beautiful descriptions of the French countryside where our heroine, Charity, is trying to protect a thirteen-year-old boy whose father has been acquitted of murder.

In Madam, Will You Talk? the characters visit the Château d’If, made famous as the fortress off the coast of Marseille where Edmond Dantes is unjustly imprisoned near the beginning of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (2). If I was forced to choose my absolute favourite classic novel, this would probably be it. At nearly 1,000 pages it has an incredibly complex plot, but it can be described quite simply as a tale of revenge. This leads me to..

Hamlet, Revenge! by Michael Innes (3), the second in his series of novels featuring Inspector John Appleby. This Golden Age mystery from 1937 is set in an English country house where a guest is murdered during an amateur performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It was the first of the Appleby novels I read and I enjoyed it so much I have since read another seven of them, although with more mixed results.

Another book in which the characters are staging a production of a Shakespeare play is Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (4). The play in this case is The Tempest and the novel follows Felix Phillips as he helps a group of prisoners to study the play and improve their literacy. I really enjoyed this book – it has so many different layers and even includes an element of revenge, so has a double link to book 3 in my chain!

Phillip Tempest is the name of the villain in Louisa May Alcott’s A Long Fatal Love Chase (5). Having only been familiar with Alcott as the author of Little Women and its sequels, I remember being very surprised to discover that she had written a book like this which has much more in common with the Victorian sensation novels of authors like Wilkie Collins than it does with Little Women!

To finish my chain, I’m linking to another book with a title beginning ‘A Long’ – A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (6). I don’t think I’m ever going to be a fan of Allende’s writing; I have tried two of her books and didn’t love either of them, but they always sound interesting and I might be tempted to give her one more chance. A Long Petal of the Sea is set in Spain during the Civil War and then in Chile in the decades that follow.


And that’s my chain for this month! My links have included titles that are questions, the Château d’If, tales of revenge, Shakespeare’s plays, tempests and titles beginning with ‘A Long’.

In January we are starting with Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

37 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to A Long Petal of the Sea

  1. margaret21 says:

    Well, your Michael Innes might tie in nicely with Hamnet perhaps, and Hag-seed too. This is a great chain and with links I shall be following up. Mary Stewart is someone I’ve never quite got round to, so I might start there. Thanks!

    • Helen says:

      I would have saved the two books with a Shakespeare connection for next month, but had already put this chain together before I saw that we would be starting with Hamnet! Mary Stewart is one of my favourite authors, so I would definitely recommend giving her a try.

  2. whisperinggums says:

    Haha, Helen, like your opening question title. I have never read Mary Stewart, but she was very popular with my friends when we were all at high school. I wasn’t really interested in crime, but the setting of this one now has me intrigued.

      • whisperinggums says:

        Which of course adds to why I never read them ! Mystery, suspense, gothic – none are my thing and never have been from my earliest days of reading. It’s interesting really, how early our tastes are established I think.

  3. Lexlingua says:

    Excellent picks. I’m a huge fan of Stewart and Monte Cristo (one of the best revenge stories ever!) too. Haven’t heard of Hamlet, Revenge! before, it looks really interesting and I’ve been hunting for some cozy mysteries. Off to read your reviews!

    • Helen says:

      It’s nice to hear from another Mary Stewart and Monte Cristo fan! Hamlet, Revenge! is great – I was disappointed by some of Michael Innes’ other books but really enjoyed that one.

  4. Margaret says:

    I haven’t read any of these but they’re all, except for Allende’s book, either on my wishlist or are TBRs. I’ve read Allende’s Portrait in Sepia, which I quite liked but have never got round to reading any more of her books.

  5. Marian Librarian says:

    My six all have a person’s first name. (1) “Whatever Happened to Janie” is the second of a series of 6 by Caroline Cooney. It’s best read in order; in the first, “The Face on the Milk Carton,” Janie, a high-school student, recognizes herself in the picture of missing child on a milk carton. The series follows what happens with Janie, her birth family, the family she has grown up in, and Janie’s boyfriend and how he reacts. (2) In the novelette “All About Emily” by Connie Willis, Emily wants to be a Rockette dancer (in the Rockefeller Center theater in New York City) but is made to change her wish. An aging-actress stands up for her. The ending is not a revenge, but a wonderful scene of Broadway female dancers and the Rockettes coming out for Emily. (3) “A Letter of Mary” is one of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery series. The Mary in the title is from a very old manuscript that might have been written by Mary Magdalene, presented to Mary and Sherlock the day before the giver is killed by a car. Russell and Holmes work on the death and the authenticity of the manuscript. (4) “Kim” by Rudyard Kipling, is the story of an orphaned English child in nineteenth-century India, who grows up among Hindus until he’s discovered by the British. He dislikes the British school he is put into (in India), and ultimately becomes a spy for the “great game” while also spiritually attached to a lama. Laurie King’s “The Game”, set in India in 1924, is also part of the “great game. (5) Amanda Cross’s “No Word from Winifred” has Professor Kate Fansler involved in the disappearance of Winifred, the honorary niece of the deceased novelist Charlotte Stanton. This is one of Cross’s many books set in Fansler’s academic settings; this includes her reading diaries and novels. (6) “Celia’s House” is a D.E. Stevenson family saga, starting in 1903 with Celia Dunne changing her will to leave the family estate to her grandnephew, provided that he name a daughter Celia, who must be left the estate under the grandnephew’s will. The large family is followed through the 1930s, then has a quick end in 1942, which brings together a grandson of the first Celia’s sister.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks for sharing your chain, Marian. I’m sure I read The Face on the Milk Carton years ago, although I can’t remember much about it and I don’t think I read any of the others in the series. I enjoyed the first two Russell and Holmes mysteries and am hoping to read A Letter of Mary soon!

  6. rosemarykaye says:

    I really like this chain and all of your links were so cleverly thought out – I never think of different ways to do this!

    I am a huge fan of Mary Stewart and I love Charity Selbourne, she’s so feisty and full of enthusiasm. And as you say, Stewart’s books have such great settings – I recently read Wildfire at Midnight, which is set in a remote part of Skye, though having been to Skye two summers ago, I doubt if there is any remote part left, it was so over-run with visitors.

    And who’d have thought it of Louisa May Alcott?! A Long Fatal Love Chase sounds like a book to look out for!

    • Helen says:

      Thank you – I enjoyed putting this chain together! Wildfire at Midnight is one of the few Mary Stewart novels I haven’t read yet, but I like the sound of the Skye setting and will try to get round to reading it soon.

      A Long Fatal Love Chase is great! Not what I’d expected from Alcott, but very entertaining.

  7. Mareli Thalwitzer says:

    I loved Madam will you talk? by Mary Steward! I actually love all her books and have quite a few on my shelf.

    Still want to read Hag-Seed and I know A long petal of the sea is in our Book Club at the moment. I’m also not the greatest fan of Isabel Allende.

    I am terribly late with my Six Degrees post this month, but rather late than never I guess! Here it is! Six Degrees – From Margaret to Anna

    • Helen says:

      Mary Stewart’s books are great! I’m glad you love them too. I hope you enjoy Hag-Seed – and A Long Petal of the Sea, especially if you’re not really an Allende fan either.

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