Six Degrees of Separation: From Rules of Civility to Giant’s Bread

It’s the first Saturday of the month – and of 2022 – 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 Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I haven’t read it, but I did enjoy Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, so maybe I should try this one. Here’s what it’s about:

This sophisticated and entertaining first novel presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society — where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.

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I had trouble getting started with this month’s chain, but finally settled on New York as my first link. I can think of several books I’ve read that are set in New York, but I’ve chosen the most obvious one: New York by Edward Rutherfurd (1). This very long but fascinating novel tells the story of New York from its early years as a 17th century Dutch trading post right through to the present day, exploring some of the key events and important historical figures from the city’s history.

In New York, Rutherfurd focuses on several generations of one fictional family, the Masters, who are merchants and bankers. Another novel about a banking family is House of Gold by Natasha Solomons (2). The family in this book, which is set in Europe before and during World War I, are the Goldbaums, who are fictional but loosely based on the real-life Rothschilds. I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to reading more of Natasha Solomons’ books (I have only read this one and The Novel in the Viola so far).

Gold makes me think of silver and leads me to The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis (3), the first book in the Marcus Didius Falco mystery series. This book is set in Rome and Britannia in the year 70 AD and follows Falco as he investigates a conspiracy involving a secret stockpile of silver ingots known as ‘silver pigs’. Ancient Rome is not one of my favourite historical periods and I wasn’t thrilled with the audiobook version I listened to either, but I found it interesting enough to want to continue with the series (in print format, I think).

The Silver Pigs has a silver coin on the cover. Using that as my next link takes me to the Hesperus Press edition of A Rogue’s Life by Wilkie Collins (4), which has lots of coins on the cover. Collins is one of my favourite Victorian authors and although this novella-length book about the money-making schemes of a loveable young rogue is not the best example of his work, I still thought it was a lot of fun to read.

The word ‘rogue’ brings me to my next book, Rogues’ Holiday by Maxwell March (5). This book is great fun too; first published in 1935, it’s a thriller in which a Scotland Yard Inspector stumbles upon a group of criminals while taking a two-week break in a seaside hotel. Maxwell March is a pseudonym of Margery Allingham, the Golden Age crime novelist best known for her Albert Campion mystery series.

Agatha Christie was another Golden Age Queen of Crime who wrote under a pseudonym. Giant’s Bread (6) is one of six novels published under the name Mary Westmacott. I found this story about a young man’s love of music entirely different from Christie’s detective novels, but just as enjoyable in its own way. I’m sure I’ll be reading more of her Mary Westmacott books.

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And that’s my first chain of the year! My links this month included: New York, bankers, precious metals, coins, rogues and authors with pseudonyms.

In February we will be starting with No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.

19 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Rules of Civility to Giant’s Bread

  1. Margaret says:

    Fascinating chain that makes me keen to read one of Rutherfurd’s books. I have three of them on Kindle, but not New York – they’re all so long I’ve been a bit reluctant to start one of them! I’ve been wondering about reading one of Lindsey Davis’s books too, and I have The Giant’s Bread on my TBR shelves – maybe I’ll get round to reading these some time this year.

  2. margaret21 says:

    I’ve tried – and enjoyed – a Lindsay Davies, but all your other choices are new to me. Why not begin 2022 with a tottering TBR pile, eh? Happy New (reading) Year!

  3. tracybham says:

    You have included lots of books I would like to try (and had not heard of). A Rogue’s Life and Rogues’ Holiday both sound good. I did not know that Margery Allingham had written as Maxwell March. Although I did know of Agatha Christie’s novels written as Mary Westmacott, I have never tried one.

    TracyK

    • Helen says:

      I have read three books Allingham wrote under the Maxwell March name and enjoyed them all. The Mary Westmacott book I read was very different from the usual Christie novels, but it was still an interesting read.

  4. residentjudge says:

    It had never even occurred to me that there were mystery novels set in Ancient Rome! My knowledge of Ancient Rome is woeful, so during 2021 I decided to listen to podcasts about Ancient Rome and I’m hooked! I enjoyed your chain, thank you

    • Helen says:

      I don’t read many books set in Ancient Rome, but I think it’s a great setting for a mystery novel. I must read the next book in the Falco series soon!

  5. cirtnecce says:

    Such a great chain of books! I personally loved Rules of Civility; I read it at one of the lowest moments in my life and it brought me hope and helped me get up and move on and most importantly put things in perspective! I started with New York but unlike other Edward Rutherford novels, lost my interest. I will pick it up one of these days, when I feel the time is right! Otherwise I love Rutherford books! As I love the Falco series! They are just brilliant and so entertaining!

  6. Yvonne says:

    I’m not a fan of Ancient Rome either. I’ve enjoyed Edward Rutherford’s books in the past so would like to read New York, but as London is sitting in my TBR, I’ll read that first.
    All the best for 2022!

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