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’re starting with The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. I haven’t read this book, but it sounds like one I might enjoy:
Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries watched over the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries the fates of three women are linked: to this place, to each other.
In the early 1700s, Sarah, accused of being a witch, flees for her life.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, Ruth navigates a new house, a new husband and the strange waters of the local community.
Six decades later, the house stands empty. Viv, mourning the death of her father, catalogues Ruth’s belongings and discovers her place in the past – and perhaps a way forward.
Each woman’s choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men in their lives. But in sisterhood there is the hope of survival and new life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, The Bass Rock burns bright with anger and love.
I’m not feeling very creative this month, so I have chosen an obvious link to start with: witchcraft. Thornyhold by Mary Stewart (1) is the story of Gilly Ramsey, who inherits a cottage in the countryside which belonged to her mother’s cousin. On arriving at the cottage, Thornyhold, Gilly discovers that Cousin Geillis had a reputation as a witch and has left behind her collection of magic spells and herbology books. Despite the witchcraft theme, though, this is a lovely, gentle read!
Lesley Frewen, the heroine of The Flowering Thorn by Margery Sharp (2) also relocates to the countryside. Lesley is a London socialite who finds herself volunteering to adopt Patrick, a four-year-old orphan, and decides to start a new life for them both in a cottage in Buckinghamshire. I had already linked to this book through the country cottage setting before I noticed that the title also contains the word ‘thorn’ – a double link!
The next book in my chain is by another author called Margery. The Oaken Heart (3) is crime writer Margery Allingham’s memoir in which she writes about life in her village (Tolleshunt D’Arcy in Essex, renamed ‘Auburn’ in the book) during World War II. I found it particularly interesting that the book was written in 1941, so Allingham would have had no idea while she was writing it how much longer the war would last and what else might happen to the people of Auburn before it was over.
I don’t read a lot of authors’ memoirs, but another that does come to mind is Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee (4), the first in Lee’s autobiographical trilogy. I still haven’t read the other two books, but in this first volume he looks back on his childhood, his school, his friends and family and the village of Slad in which he grew up. It’s a beautiful portrayal of a world on the brink of change and a way of life about to disappear forever.
The cover of Cider with Rosie reminded me of the cover of The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (5) – similar colours, pictures of nature, figures in silhouette. The war referred to in the title is the First World War and the novel follows the story of Beatrice Nash, a young woman who starts a new job as a school Latin teacher in the summer of 1914.
The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn (6) is also set during that same idyllic summer with war just on the horizon. Through the story of seventeen-year-old Clarissa Granville, the novel shows us the effects the outbreak of war will have on society, class structure and the life Clarissa has always known. Although I didn’t do it deliberately, it has just occurred to me that all of the books in my chain this month are about people starting new lives or seeing the world around them beginning to change.
And that’s my chain for June! My links have included: witchcraft, moving to the countryside, the name Margery, memoirs, similar covers and the summer of 1914.
Next month we’ll be starting with Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.