Six Degrees of Separation: From Redhead by the Side of the Road to The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

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 Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. It’s a book I haven’t read and know nothing about, but here is the description from Goodreads:

Micah Mortimer isn’t the most polished person you’ll ever meet. His numerous sisters and in-laws regard him oddly but very fondly, but he has his ways and means of navigating the world. He measures out his days running errands for work – his TECH HERMIT sign cheerily displayed on the roof of his car – maintaining an impeccable cleaning regime and going for runs (7:15, every morning). He is content with the steady balance of his life.

But then the order of things starts to tilt. His woman friend Cassia (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a ‘girlfriend’) tells him she’s facing eviction because of a cat. And when a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son, Micah is confronted with another surprise he seems poorly equipped to handle.

Redhead by the Side of the Road is an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who sometimes finds those around him just out of reach – and a love story about the differences that make us all unique.


I struggled to think of a first link (some months it’s much more difficult than others, particularly if you haven’t read the book), so I’m afraid I’m going to be unimaginative and just link to another book with the word ‘road’ in the title: The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (1). In this non-fiction book, first published in 1937, Orwell writes about the poor living conditions of working-class people in the north of England, with a particular focus on miners and their families. In one chapter, Orwell describes how he went down a coal mine himself to observe the working conditions.

Another book from the 1930s – fictional this time – which is set in a coal mining community is How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (2). The story is narrated by Huw Morgan who is looking back on his childhood growing up in the valleys of South Wales, watching his elder brothers go off one by one to join their father in the mines. I loved this poignant and beautifully written novel.

My next link is to another novel set in Wales, but in a much earlier period. Here Be Dragons (3) is the first book in Sharon Penman’s Welsh Princes Trilogy and tells the story of Joanna, daughter of King John of England, and her marriage to Llewelyn ab Iorweth, Prince of Gwynedd. I loved this book and the second one, Falls the Shadow, and was sorry to hear of Sharon Penman’s death a few weeks ago. I must get round to reading the final book in the trilogy soon.

The title ‘Here Be Dragons’ refers to a term used to describe unexplored territories on maps; there are no actual dragons in the story! My next book, however, does involve dragons. Temeraire by Naomi Novik (4) is the first in a series of historical fantasy novels set during an alternate version of the Napoleonic Wars in which dragons provide military support to the British and French navies. I really enjoyed it and loved the relationship between Captain Will Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire, so I don’t know why I still haven’t continued with the second book in the series.

I have read quite a lot of other books set during the Napoleonic Wars but the one I’m going to link to here is Watch the Wall, My Darling by Jane Aiken Hodge (5), a gothic suspense novel from 1966 complete with smugglers, spies, a haunted house and plenty of family secrets! The unusual title, ‘Watch the wall, my darling’, is a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, A Smuggler’s Song.

There are many books that have titles inspired by poetry, so I’m going to finish my chain with Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (6). The title of this Miss Marple mystery is taken from Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott – “Out flew the web and floated wide – The mirror crack’d from side to side; ‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried The Lady of Shalott”.


And that’s my chain for February. My links have included: the word ‘road’, coal miners, Wales, dragons, the Napoleonic Wars and lines from poems. I have even managed to bring the chain full circle with the word ‘side’ in both the first and last title!

Next month we’re starting with Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.

29 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Redhead by the Side of the Road to The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

  1. GoAnnelies - In Another Era says:

    I had also heard about Penman’s death but only read about it in one news article so I wasn’t completely sure. But it’s quite sad to know there will be no more books from her. I still need to read the ‘here be dragons’ trilogy though.

  2. Karen K. says:

    Interesting chain! I’ve only read The Mirror Crack’d but I’ve been meaning to read How Green Was My Valley — and it’s on free audio download through my library, so thanks for inspiring me, I’ve been looking for a good audiobook. I’ve always wanted to see Wales, so this is a nice bit of armchair traveling because who knows when I’ll finally get there?

  3. Judy Krueger says:

    I loved How Green Was My Valley! I just got a library copy of Here Be Dragons. I am excited to get started with Sharon Penman. I have been meaning to read her books and am embarrassed that it took her demise to get me started at last.

  4. hopewellslibraryoflife says:

    How creative! Well done! I read Wiggan Pier in a British History class in college. I still remember him being handed bread and lard or dripping or whatever and the landlord put his filthy thumb in the middle of it. Blech….

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I remember that part. And thank you – I struggled to think of my first link for this month’s chain, but I enjoyed putting it together after that.

  5. Davida Chazan says:

    Yes, it isn’t easy finding your first link when you don’t know the book, but I think you did a fine job. I didn’t know that Orwell wrote a non-fiction book. Excellent chain!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I think he wrote two or three non-fiction books, although I haven’t read the others. I’m glad you like the chain as it wasn’t an easy one for me!

    • Helen says:

      I think Christie probably appears in my chains more than any other author. She wrote so many books you can always find a way to link to one of them!

  6. Constance says:

    I was quite deflated to hear Tyler’s redhead was a fire hydrant! Oh well.

    I like your chain because I know most of them. I loved Here Be Dragons and enjoyed Temeraire, although, like you, I don’t think I continued with the series (I gave one of her other books to my sister for Christmas). I have read that Jane Aiken Hodge multiple times (I even sent her a fan letter once) and that Christie is one of the few that I can remember the plot without starting to reread. I get How Green Was My Valley and Lorna Doone mixed up but keep meaning to read both.

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed some of the books in my chain. That was the first Jane Aiken Hodge book I read and still one of my favourites. I loved both How Green Was My Valley and Lorna Doone – they are quite different books but I would highly recommend both!

  7. Lexlingua says:

    The Lady of Shalott is one of my favorites, as is Naomi Novik (although, more for Spinning Silver and Uprooted). And whenever I think of The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, it always reminds me how different it was from Christie’s other mysteries. Perhaps that’s why the story has stayed on in my mind.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I enjoyed Uprooted by Naomi Novik too, although I still haven’t read Spinning Silver. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side isn’t one of my favourite Christies, but I agree that it’s a memorable one!

      • Lexlingua says:

        In that case, I highly recommend the audiobook version for Spinning Silver. Lisa Flanagan has done an awesome job of making each character sound different but true to the book.

    • Helen says:

      The Sunne in Splendour is my favourite Penman novel, but I agree that her Welsh trilogy is wonderful too – although I have only read the first two books and really need to get round to reading the third one!

Please leave a comment. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.