Six Degrees of Separation: From Beezus and Ramona to The Duke’s Children

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.

Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn’t always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus’s birthday party. Newbery Medal winner Beverly Cleary delivers a humorous tale of the ups and downs of sisterhood. Both the younger and older siblings of the family will enjoy this book.

This month we are starting with Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, who sadly died in March this year. This book was the first in her Ramona Quimby series for children and was published in 1955. I read some of the Ramona books as a child and although I can’t remember anything about them now, I know I used to enjoy them!

I’m sure I won’t be the only Six Degrees participant to use books about sisters as my first link this month, but as there are so many to choose from I’m hoping that nobody else will have linked to this one: Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang (1). This is a biography of the three Soong sisters, all of whom played an important role in 20th century Chinese politics. Ei-ling or ‘big sister’ became one of China’s richest women through her marriage to the banker HH Kung, ‘little sister’ May-ling was First Lady of the Republic of China, and ‘red sister’ Ching-ling was a supporter of the Communist Party and the wife of revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen.

I’m sure I have used books with ‘red’ in the title in a previous chain, so I’m going to link now to a book with a different colour in the title. There were lots of options here, but I’ve gone with blue and The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (2). This is a Poirot novel in which an heiress is murdered for her jewels during a train journey through France. I don’t think it’s one of Christie’s stronger novels (and in fact it was apparently her own least favourite), but it’s still quite enjoyable.

This makes me think of another novel set on a train, The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White (3), the book on which Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes was based. There are a lot of differences between the book and the film but they share the same basic plot: a young woman makes a new friend during a train journey who later disappears, only for the rest of the passengers to deny that she ever existed.

The idea of a wheel spinning leads me to Fortune’s Wheel (4), one of Rhoda Edwards’ two novels about Richard III. This book covers the earlier part of Richard’s life, taking us through the reign of his elder brother, Edward IV, and ending with Richard’s marriage to Anne Neville in 1472. I enjoyed it, but thought the second novel, Some Touch of Pity, was much better.

There’s a picture of a crown on the cover of Fortune’s Wheel and also on the cover of The Poisoned Crown by Maurice Druon (5). First published in French in 1956, this is the third book in the Accursed Kings series telling the story of Philip IV of France and his descendants, a line of kings “cursed to the thirteenth generation” by the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, whom Philip sent to burn at the stake. George R.R. Martin has described this series as the inspiration for his A Game of Thrones.

I haven’t finished The Accursed Kings yet; there are seven books in the series and so far I have only read the first five of them. It’s not the only series I’ve started and haven’t finished – I still need to read the final book in Anthony Trollope’s Palliser series, The Duke’s Children (6). I nearly always love Trollope but the length of his books sometimes puts me off. This one is on my Classics Club list, so I’m hoping to get to it soon.

And that’s my chain for this month! My links have included: sisters, colours, trains and wheels, pictures of crowns and an unfinished series.

In June we are starting with The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. Will you be joining us?

26 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Beezus and Ramona to The Duke’s Children

  1. Jane says:

    what interesting links, I haven’t read any of them not even Beezus and Ramona. I hope the Trollope’s a good one, I read my first one for the classics club and loved it, can’t wait to read more!

  2. Constance says:

    These all sound great but the only one I have read (besides Beezus and Ramona) is The Blue Train, and I can’t say I remember it at all. I wanted to read The Wheel Spins for the 1936 Club but the library didn’t own it. Have you read others by this author? Maybe I should find one.

    I read some Trollope after the wonderful BBC miniseries but must admit I really prefer Angela Thirkell.

    • Helen says:

      The Blue Train isn’t one of Christie’s most memorable novels! I’m sorry your library didn’t have The Wheel Spins. It’s the only book I’ve read by Ethel Lina White so far, but I’m hoping to read more.

  3. Marg says:

    I never even thought of doing sisters as a starting point! Isn’t that one of the joys of this meme in that we all think differently!

  4. Davida Chazan says:

    Yes, several others have used the sisters links. It didn’t even occur to me to use that, but now that I think of it, I could have done so! Lovely chain here!

    • Helen says:

      Thank you! The sisters link was the first thing I thought of and luckily I had plenty of books about sisters reviewed on my blog to choose from.

  5. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed reading your chain, such a good variety of books and the only one I’ve read is the Agatha Christie. I agree it’s not one of her stronger books, but it’s still a good read. I’ve read just a few of Trollope’s books and find the length of them is very off-putting!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, even Christie’s weaker novels are entertaining reads! I’ve loved most of the Trollope books I’ve read but I need to be in the right mood for them.

  6. Lexlingua says:

    I’ve chosen to focus on the sibling theme too this month, but I don’t think our book picks overlap. Fortune’s Wheel looks very interesting, I need to go check out the Goodreads page for it. And the drama adaptation for Pallisers has been on my watchlist for a while now. ~Lex

    • Helen says:

      A lot of us have used the sibling theme this month, but it seems that we’ve all still managed to produce completely different chains! I would like to watch the Pallisers adaptation too.

  7. Karen K. says:

    Amazing that you linked Beverly Cleary and Anthony Trollope, two of my favorite authors who are so completely different! I hope you like The Duke’s Children, it’s wonderful and a great ending to the Pallisers series. There is a newly restored unabridged edition which is now widely available, I hope you get to read that one because sadly Trollope was forced to cut quite a bit when it was first published.

    • Helen says:

      I never know where I’m going to end up when I start putting one of these chains together! I’ve enjoyed all of the other books in the Pallisers series so I’m sure I will like The Duke’s Children too. Thanks for the advice about the unabridged edition!

  8. MarinaSofia says:

    Clever links, as always, Helen! When I was in my early teens, everyone was reading The Accursed Kings (this is in Romania, though, probably not in the English-speaking world) but now everyone has switched to Game of Thrones. My older son is now reading the series and loves it. He also pointed out the similarities with GoT – ‘except this is historical, Mum’.

    • Helen says:

      I hadn’t even heard of The Accursed Kings until the books were reissued a few years ago. I’m glad your son is enjoying them!

  9. Sandra says:

    Lovely chain, Helen. I couldn’t not start with the sisters link along with several others but how different the chains have been from there. Wild Swans was such a seminal read for me but I haven’t heard of this one by Jung Chang. One to seek out I think.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, a lot of us have gone down the sister route, but in very different ways. I didn’t like the Jung Chang book as much as the wonderful Wild Swans, but it was still a fascinating read.

  10. rosemarykaye says:

    I’ve not read any of these, but I very much admire the way you have made your connections. Your description of the Jung Chang book made me think of the Mitford sisters, who all seem to have achieved something major – so now I wish they’d come to mind when I was doing my own chain!

    I’ve always meant to read some Trollope, but have been daunted by the length of the books, which is ridiculous when I’ve read several Dickens’ novels; it’s a mental block I need to deal with!

    My chain is here: https://sconesandchaiseslongues.blogspot.com/2021/05/six-degrees-of-separation-may-2021.html

    • Helen says:

      Yes, the Mitford sisters would have been a perfect choice for this month’s chain! I have the same mental block with Trollope – although I’m happy to read other equally long books, his always seem more daunting somehow. However, I’ve always enjoyed them once I get into them!

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