Six Degrees of Separation: From Wintering to The Strangers in the House

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 Wintering by Katherine May – yet another book that I haven’t read! This is what it’s about:

In Wintering, Katherine May recounts her own year-long journey through winter, sparked by a sudden illness in her family that plunged her into a time of uncertainty and seclusion. When life felt at is most frozen, she managed to find strength and inspiration from the incredible wintering experiences of others as well as from the remarkable transformations that nature makes to survive the cold.

This beautiful, perspective-shifting memoir teaches us to draw from the healing powers of the natural world and to embrace the winters of our own lives.

Although I haven’t read Wintering, it seems that Katherine May is using the idea of ‘winter’ as a metaphor for depression. In Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt (1), depression is represented by a black dog. The ‘black dog’ is how Winston Churchill referred to his own periods of depression and in this very unusual novel, Rebecca Hunt brings the dog to life, giving him the name Mr Chartwell and describing his visits to Churchill’s home.

My next link is simply to another book with an author whose surname is Hunt: The Seas by Samantha Hunt (2), a novel about a young woman who lives in an isolated town by the sea and believes she is a mermaid. This is a beautifully written novel which combines mermaid mythology with the Iraq War, post traumatic stress disorder and the creation of a new dictionary, but it was a bit too strange for me and not a book I particularly enjoyed.

The sea also plays a part in the plot of The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter (3). This is a novel set in two different countries and two different time periods: India in 1971 where a newly married couple are separated by a tsunami, and England during World War II, where the village of Imber is evacuated for use by the Army (and remains uninhabited to this day).

Some of the events of The Sea Change take place in 1971, so my next link is to a book that was published in 1971: Nemesis by Agatha Christie (4). This is a late Miss Marple novel in which Marple agrees to investigate a crime for an old friend – without having any idea of what the crime is or what she will need to do. During a coach tour of Britain’s historic houses and gardens, the details of her mission begin to unfold.

Strangers in Company by Jane Aiken Hodge (5) is also a mystery that takes place on a bus tour – this time it’s a tour of Greece’s famous archaeological sites. I’ve read quite a lot of Hodge’s novels now and this is the only contemporary one (the others I’ve read have been Gothic or Regency novels). It reminded me of Mary Stewart’s or M.M. Kaye’s romantic suspense novels, although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as those.

My final link takes us to another book with ‘Strangers’ in the title: The Strangers in the House by Georges Simenon (6). This is one of Simenon’s romans dur, or ‘hard novels’; I have read a few of them over the last year or two and enjoyed them (I’m actually reading another one at the moment which I’ll be reviewing soon). The Strangers in the House is about a lawyer who fell into a depression and became an alcoholic after his wife left him. When his daughter becomes implicated in a murder investigation, he finds that he has a chance to redeem himself and repair his damaged relationships.

The theme of depression and finding a way to heal links back to Wintering, so I’ve managed to bring the chain full circle this month!

In August we’ll be starting with the winner of the 2022 Women’s Prize, The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki.

21 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Wintering to The Strangers in the House

  1. mallikabooks15 says:

    Interesting how it came back full circle. The only one from your chain I’ve read is Nemesis, which I enjoyed as I do most Christies even if it wasn’t my favourite Marple. Mr Chartwell looks a really interesting read, and one I’m going to have to look up

  2. margaret21 says:

    This is quite a tantalising chain in that it contains authors whom I either don’t know at all, or barely. The Rebecca Hunt may be a good place to start. And Simenon! He’s someone who’s always been there – my father used to read him – and therefore he somehow never climbs to the top of the must-read list. Time to change the habits of a lifetime! Thanks for popping me on your list of Posts you Like.

  3. WordsAndPeace says:

    Great connections!
    I have read all of Hercule Poirot, but very little else, so not Nemesis yet.
    And as for the huge bibliography by Simenon, I have been reading his Maigret series with one of my French students (17 books so far), but nothing else by him! He wrote so so much!

    • Helen says:

      I prefer the Poirot books to the Marples, but haven’t read all of them yet. And yes, Simenon wrote such a lot! I’ve only read a few of his standalone novels so far – I haven’t started the Maigret series yet.

  4. CLM (@ConMartin) says:

    Interesting chain! I have read Nemesis, although I don’t remember it well. I am a huge Jane Aiken Hodge fan but I definitely don’t feel Strangers in Company is one of her best – she is really better with historical settings. I can’t remember if I ever tried Simenon or not; if so, it was a very long time ago. The first three sound good, especially Sea Change. I will check if my library has that.

    • Helen says:

      I haven’t read as much Jane Aiken Hodge as you have yet, but Strangers in Company is definitely not as good as most of the historical ones I’ve read. My favourite so far is probably Marry in Haste. I’ve enjoyed the few books I’ve read by Simenon – particularly the one I’ve just finished, The Venice Train.

  5. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) says:

    What a super chain, and well done for bringing it back around. I haven’t read any of them, but I do have the Samantha Hunt on my shelves. I love the Simenon romans durs too, but haven’t read that one.

    • Helen says:

      I hope you enjoy the Samantha Hunt when you get round to it. I’ve only read three or four of the Simenon romans durs but they’ve all been good. I still haven’t tried any of the Maigrets!

  6. Margaret says:

    It’s so satisfying to make the chain into a complete circle! I’ve read Nemesis and agree it’s not one of Christie’s best books, but I did enjoy it. And I enjoyed The Sea Change too. I’ve read several Maigret books, but none of Simenon’s other books, so I’m keen to try one – also Mr Hunt and one of Jane Aiken Hodge’s books too – which would be a good one to start with?

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