Six Degrees of Separation: From Hydra to Cleopatra’s Daughter

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 Hydra by Adriane Howell. Not a book I’ve read, but here’s what it’s about:

Anja is a young, ambitious antiquarian, passionate for the clean and balanced lines of mid-century furniture. She is intent on classifying objects based on emotional response and when her career goes awry, Anja finds herself adrift. Like a close friend, she confesses her intimacies and rage to us with candour, tenderness, and humour.
Cast out from the world of antiques, she stumbles upon a beachside cottage that the neighbouring naval base is offering for a 100-year lease. The property is derelict, isolated, and surrounded by scrub. Despite of, or because of, its wildness and solitude, Anja uses the last of the inheritance from her mother to lease the property. Yet a presence – human, ghost, other – seemingly inhabits the grounds.

I’m using the reference to furniture and antiques as my first link. Great House by Nicole Krauss (1) features four separate but interconnected stories, linked by an antique writing desk that once belonged to a Chilean poet. Although the desk touches the lives of all of the characters in some way, it barely appears in some of the stories and you need to read all four before you can put the pieces of the puzzle together and see all of the connections.

I’ve read a lot of other books with the word ‘house’ in the title, but as Daphne du Maurier Reading Week is starting on Monday I’ve chosen The House on the Strand (2). This is a wonderful time travel novel moving between the 1960s and the 14th century and is one of my favourites by du Maurier.

Like many of du Maurier’s novels, The House on the Strand is set in Cornwall, where she lived and worked for so many years. The White Hare by Jane Johnson (3) is also set in Cornwall, in a fictional valley which is beautifully and vividly described. Johnson works the legend of the white hare into the novel – a legend which really is a part of Cornish forklore.

I’m linking from hares to rabbits now – not the same animal, I know, but I think they’re close enough! When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman (4) is the story of Elly Portman and her family across four decades from the 1960s to the 1990s (God is the name of the pet rabbit she has as a child).

Another book with a title beginning with the word ‘when’ is When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney (5). This is a non-fiction book which explores the lives of six female rulers from Ancient Egypt – Merneith, Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret and Cleopatra. I found it interesting because I knew nothing at all about some of these women, but I also felt that Cooney spent too much time drawing parallels with modern day world leaders, which seemed to be the main focus of the book.

I’m going to finish my chain with Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran (6), a novel about Kleopatra Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, who joins the household of Octavian’s sister in Rome. I read this book twelve years ago and although I thought it lacked depth, I learned a lot from it as I’d previously read very little about Ancient Rome (something I’ve tried to rectify since then).


And that’s my chain for May! My links have included: furniture, the word ‘house’, Cornwall, rabbit, titles beginning with ‘when’ and Cleopatra.

In June we’ll be starting with Friendaholic by Elizabeth Day.

11 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Hydra to Cleopatra’s Daughter

  1. margaret21 says:

    Oops! My comment has not appeared. I think I didn’t press ‘send’ … You’ve sold The White Hare to me, and I may perhaps re-read When God was a Rabbit. I didn’t much enjoy it, I remember, yet I love Winman’s writing now.

    • Helen says:

      I remember having mixed feelings about When God was a Rabbit – I enjoyed it overall but felt it was too fast paced and needed more depth. I preferred Still Life, I think.

  2. conmartin13 says:

    I’ve had Great House on my mental TBR for a while! I see what you mean about furniture.

    There is another book by Sarah Winman I keep seeing but not actually selecting.

    The House on the Strand has one of the best endings ever!

    WordPress is giving me fits just to comment.

    • Helen says:

      Apart from When God was a Rabbit, the only other book I’ve read by Winman is Still Life, which I think I slightly preferred. I agree about The House on the Strand – du Maurier’s books often have great endings, but that is one of her best!

      Sorry you’re having problems commenting. I think a few people have mentioned that, so I’ll look into it.

Please leave a comment. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.