Six Degrees of Separation: From Born to Run to Bellarion

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 Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. I’m not much of a Springsteen fan so have no interest in reading his book, but here’s what it’s about:

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began. Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humour and originality found in his songs.

He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger and darkness that fuelled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as ‘The Big Bang’: seeing Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candour, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song ‘Born to Run’ reveals more than we previously realized.

There are lots of pretty, multi-coloured book covers around at the moment, but I think monochrome can often be just as striking. Another book I’ve read and reviewed with a black and white cover is The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (1). I’ve enjoyed a lot of Orwell’s fiction, but this is the only one of his non-fiction books I’ve read so far. Published in 1937, it documents Orwell’s observations of the lives of working class people living in the North of England, describing the shocking levels of poverty, the poor standard of housing and the dangerous working conditions.

Another book with the word ‘pier’ in the title is The Last Pier by Roma Tearne (2). It tells the story of Cecily, a teenage girl growing up on a farm in rural England just before the start of World War II and her relationship with the Italian family who live nearby. There’s an element of mystery as something tragic happens to Cecily’s sister, for which she gets the blame, but what I found particularly interesting was the exploration of the fate of Italian people living in Britain during the war, something I hadn’t read much about before.

The Last Pier is set in Suffolk. Sandlands by Rosy Thornton (3) is a collection of sixteen short stories all set in and around a small Suffolk village. I don’t always enjoy short stories and usually prefer fiction in longer forms, but I did find these very satisfying, with something to interest me in each of the sixteen. It’s a very varied collection – some are set in the present and some in the past, some are romantic, some are funny and others have a touch of the supernatural.

The title ‘Sandlands’ leads me to Blood and Sand by Rosemary Sutcliff (4). Sutcliff is better known for her books for younger readers, but this is one of several she wrote for adults. It’s based on the true story of Thomas Keith, a Scottish soldier who is taken captive in Egypt during the Napoleonic Wars and later converts to Islam, becoming Governor of Medina – a fascinating man I had previously known nothing about!

Beau Sabreur by PC Wren (5) is also set in the deserts of North Africa. It’s the sequel to Beau Geste, a book I absolutely loved, and follows the adventures of one of the characters from that book, Henri de Beaujolais. However, I found this one slightly disappointing in comparison; the first half is excellent, but a plot twist in the middle changes the entire tone and feel of the novel. I’m still planning to read the third book in the trilogy, Beau Ideal.

Beau Sabreur was published in 1926, as was Bellarion by Rafael Sabatini (6). This is not my favourite Sabatini novel (you should definitely start with Scaramouche, which is wonderful) but I did still enjoy it. It’s set in Renaissance Italy; I described it in my review as “a world of warring city states, tyrannical dukes and beautiful princesses, of powerful condottieri and bands of mercenary soldiers, of sieges and battles, poisonings and conspiracies.” Great fun, like most of Sabatini’s novels!

And that’s my chain for April. My links included: monochrome covers, piers, the county of Suffolk, the word ‘sand’, desert settings and books published in 1926.

In May we’ll be starting with Hydra by Adriane Howell.

10 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Born to Run to Bellarion

  1. mallikabooks15 says:

    I love that you used the book cover as your starting point. I had no idea Beau Geste had any sequels, but it is one book I mean to read at some point. Scaramouche IS wonderful and I enjoyed its sequel too. Great chain!

    • Helen says:

      I would definitely recommend Beau Geste – it’s very entertaining, even though the second book isn’t as good. I’m glad you liked Scaramouche too. I really need to read the sequel!

  2. Lisa of Hopewell says:

    What an interesting chain! Road to Wigan Pier stands out as one of the most memorable books I read as an undergrad and you link to it was inspired in more ways than just the cover. Good job!

  3. FictionFan says:

    Great links! You’ve reminded me that I really must read Sabatini sometime. The only one of your choices that I’ve read is Sandlands which I also thoroughly enjoyed, especially the ghost story about the haunted pub!

    • Helen says:

      Sabatini is great – you should definitely try to start with Scaramouche, or maybe The Sea-Hawk. I can’t remember much about the individual stories in Sandlands now, but I know I really enjoyed almost all of them.

  4. Marg says:

    I have owned a Rosy Thornton book for years, and never, ever read it! The short story collection you mentioned does sound interesting!

    Great chain!

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