Six Degrees of Separation: From True History of the Kelly Gang to The Moonlit Cage

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 True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. I haven’t read it and it doesn’t really appeal to me, but here’s what it’s about:

To the authorities in pursuit of him, Ned Kelly is a horse thief, bank robber and police-killer. But to his fellow Australians, Kelly is their own Robin Hood. In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel of adventure and heroism brings the famous bushranger wildly and passionately to life.

The title of the Peter Carey book immediately made me think of The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric (1). This unusual novel tells the story of Manticory Swiney and her six sisters who escape from poverty in 19th century Ireland to find fame on stage with their song and dance act, ending each performance by letting down their ankle-length hair. The book is not quite the ‘true history’ it claims to be, as the Swineys are fictional characters – but they are based on the real-life American singing group, the Sutherland Sisters, who really were famous for their very long hair.

And long hair is my next link! Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth (2) is a retelling of the fairy tale, Rapunzel. Rapunzel, of course, is famously locked in a high tower by a witch and throws her long hair out of the window to form a rope that the witch can climb up and down. In Bitter Greens, she is given the name Margherita and her story alternates with the story of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, the real historical woman who wrote Persinette, the original fairy tale on which Rapunzel was based. Even if you don’t like fantasy, I think this novel is still worth reading for the fascinating details of Charlotte-Rose’s life at the 17th century French court.

Another book in which fairy tales play a part is Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville (3). This very dark and unsettling novel opens in 1890s Vienna with a psychoanalyst treating a patient who claims to be a machine, not a human being. Several decades later in Nazi Germany, we meet a little girl who is neglected by her father, another doctor, and entertains herself by remembering the fairy tales her nurse read to her – including her favourite, Hansel and Gretel. The two storylines seem unrelated at first but do come together towards the end! I remember finding this a very disturbing book, but also a clever one with some surprising twists.

Madensky Square by Eva Ibbotson (4) is also set in Vienna, where our narrator, Susanna Weber, is a dressmaker with a busy shop on the city’s Madensky Square. Beginning in the spring of 1911, Susanna keeps a journal in which she writes about the daily lives of her friends, customers and neighbours. It’s a lovely novel and I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters – I particularly loved Susanna’s relationship with Sigismund, a lonely Polish orphan. Including this book in my chain has reminded me that I really need to read more by Eva Ibbotson!

I’m going to stay with books about dressmakers and link to a non-fiction book this time: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (5). In this book, journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon describes her trip to Afghanistan in 2005 in order to report on female entrepreneurs working in war zones. Here she meets Kamila Sidiqi, a young Afghan woman who started her own dressmaking business with her sisters and friends in an attempt to make money while also staying on the right side of the Taliban. Kamila’s story is fascinating and a real inspiration! She even opens a school to teach other women to sew, so that they can also support themselves and their families.

Back to fiction, now. I’ve read a few other books set in Afghanistan and I’m going to finish my chain with one that I particularly liked, The Moonlit Cage by Linda Holeman (6). I read a lot of Holeman’s novels a few years ago and enjoyed them all, but she seems to have stopped writing now. The Moonlit Cage is the story of Darya, a 19th century Afghan woman who escapes from an arranged marriage and flees through the Hindu Kush mountains to India. I loved the descriptions of Afghan life and culture, as well as finding Darya’s story quite moving. I still need to read The Linnet Bird, which I think is the only one of Holeman’s adult novels I haven’t read.

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And that’s my chain for May! My links included: ‘true history’ titles, long hair, fairytales, Vienna, dressmaking and Afghanistan.

In June we’ll be starting with Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Our Wives Under the Sea to Full Dark 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 Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield. Yet another book I haven’t read! Here’s what it’s about:

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home.

Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from Julia Armfield, the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep deep sea.

Although I haven’t read the Julia Armfield book, the title and blurb immediately made me think of another novel about women who work in the sea: The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See (1). This book is set in South Korea and tells the story of Young-sook, a woman who belongs to the haenyeo community – female divers who gather seafood from the waters surrounding the island of Jeju. It’s a fascinating novel, but also a powerful and poignant one, as the time period in which it’s set covers World War II and the Korean War.

The haenyeo are a semi-matriarchal society, with the family relying on the woman’s income while the husband stays at home to look after the children. The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff (2) set during the time of the Roman Empire, also features a matriarchal society – the Caledones who worship the ‘Great Mother’. The novel follows the gladiator Phaedrus who becomes part of a plot to impersonate King Midir of the Dalriadain.

I’ve read several novels about imposters, but the one I’ve chosen to link to next is a classic from 1894: The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope (3). This novel is set in the fictitious central European kingdom of Ruritania. When the new king is kidnapped and imprisoned by his half-brother Black Michael, his distant cousin Rudolf Rassendyll is persuaded to impersonate him at his coronation. I found this book great fun to read, although I still haven’t continued with the sequel, Rupert of Hentzau.

Another book set in a fictional land is First Night by Jane Aiken Hodge (4), which takes place in 1802 in a European principality known as Lissenberg. The novel follows Cristabel Sallis, a talented young singer, as she sets out to launch a career in opera. I’ve read several of Jane Aiken Hodge’s novels and this is the only one that I haven’t really enjoyed. It’s the first in a trilogy, but I probably won’t continue with it while there are so many of her other books I could be reading instead.

Thinking about books featuring opera, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (5) is obviously the first one that comes to mind! It’s not a favourite classic, but I did find it an entertaining read and loved the descriptions of the Paris Opera House with its underground tunnels and lakes. It’s worth reading even if you’ve seen one of the many film, TV or stage adaptations.

In Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler (6) our octogenarian detectives Arthur Bryant and John May are remembering a case from their younger days in which they investigated a series of murders in a theatre carried out by a killer known as ‘the Palace Phantom’. This is the first in the Bryant and May series and has a wonderful wartime London setting. I also enjoyed the next three books in the series and must continue with the fifth one soon!

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And that’s my chain for April! My links included women who work in the sea, matriarchal societies, imposters, fictional lands, opera singers and phantoms.

In May we’ll be starting with True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.

Six Degrees of Separation: From The End of the Affair to Earth and High Heaven

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 End of the Affair by Graham Greene. As usual, it’s a book that I haven’t read! Here’s what it’s about:

“This is a record of hate far more than of love,” writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair, and it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles.

Now, a year after Sarah’s death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of his passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to love-hate. At first, he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. Yet as he delves deeper into his emotional outlook, Bendrix’s hatred shifts to the God he feels has broken his life, but whose existence at last comes to recognize.

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I really didn’t know where to start with this month’s chain. I haven’t read anything at all by Graham Greene, so I tried to think of other books about the end of an affair but came up with nothing. I’m afraid I’ll have to take the easy way out and just link to another book with the word ‘affair’ in the title: The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes (1). This is part of the Inspector Appleby mystery series but is not a typical detective novel at all. It has a very bizarre plot involving a mind-reading horse, a missing girl and a haunted house! It’s not an Appleby novel that I can recommend; I found it too strange and not what I’d expected when I picked it up.

Daffodil is the name of the horse in the above novel; a book which really is about a flower is The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas (2). Dumas is a favourite author of mine and although this book, set in the Netherlands in the 17th century, is much less well known than The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, I still loved it. A book about a contest between two men who both hope to grow the world’s first black tulip may not sound very exciting, but in Dumas’ hands it certainly is! It actually has some similar themes to The Count of Monte Cristo, but is a much shorter novel and could be a good starting point if you’re new to Dumas and daunted by the length of his other books.

Rags of Time by Michael Ward (3) is the first book in a series of historical mysteries featuring Tom Tallant, a London spice merchant, and set, like The Black Tulip, in the 17th century. This first novel takes us to Amsterdam during the period known as ‘Tulipmania’ where tulip bulbs are being bought and sold for higher and higher prices. I found this part of the book fascinating, particularly the descriptions of the Dutch practice of windhandel, or ‘trading in promises’. As I was putting this post together, I noticed that the cover of the book says “The murder was just the beginning of the affair,” so I could actually have linked this to The End of the Affair and used it as the first link in my chain!

In Rags of Time, Tom teams up with Elizabeth Seymour, a young woman who is a keen astronomer. Swithin St Cleeve in Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy (4), is also an astronomer – or at least he dreams of becoming one. When Lady Constantine allows him to create an observatory in a tower on her land, the two meet in the tower to study the beauty of the night sky and gradually begin to fall in love, determined to overcome their differences in class and age. I found this a gentler story than some of Hardy’s others, less tragic but also less moving and although it’s still a book that I liked very much, it’s not a favourite of mine.

Although I don’t think Two on a Tower is one of his very best novels, I do love Thomas Hardy and have read most of his books now. A few years ago, I enjoyed dipping into this brief but beautiful guide to his life and work by Jane Drake, titled simply Thomas Hardy (5). The book includes a fold-out map of Hardy’s fictional Wessex, illustrations and colour photographs, some snippets of biographical information, quotations and extracts from several of his novels and poems. At only 32 pages, it’s too short to be completely satisfying and you won’t really learn a lot from it, but I think it would make a nice gift for a Hardy fan.

Drake is also the surname of Erica Drake, one of the main characters in Gwethalyn Graham’s Earth and High Heaven (6). This 1944 novel published by Persephone is set in Canada and follows Erica’s relationship with Marc Reiser. Marc comes from a Jewish family and Erica’s parents – who are English-Canadian – refuse to accept him as a suitable husband for their daughter. This fascinating novel explores the tensions and divisions between these two groups, and also the French-Canadian community. I enjoyed this book and, like many Persephones, it explores themes that are still important and relevant today.

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And that’s my chain for March! My links have included the word ‘affair’, flowers, Tulipmania, astronomers, Hardy’s Wessex and the name Drake.

Next month we’ll be starting with Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield.

Six Degrees of Separation: From No One is Talking About This to A Moment of Silence

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 No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. Here’s what it’s about:

As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms “the portal,” where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats–from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness–begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal’s void. An avalanche of images, details, and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. “Are we in hell?” the people of the portal ask themselves. “Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?”

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I haven’t read No One is Talking About This and probably never will, but as soon as I saw the title I knew that my first link this month was going to be to a book about someone who doesn’t talk: The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor (1). This historical mystery set during the French Revolution features a boy who witnesses a murder and, having been told by the culprit never to say a word, takes this warning literally and refuses to speak to anyone at all.

Gervase Frant, the hero of Georgette Heyer’s The Quiet Gentleman (2), is not a silent man but he is a quiet one (and his cousin Theo is even quieter). This is not really a typical Heyer novel – it’s classed as one of her Regency romances, but it has a strong mystery element and the romance is quite a subtle one. It’s also one that I particularly enjoyed – although I wished we had seen more of the heroine!

Another book with ‘quiet’ in the title is Death on a Quiet Day by Michael Innes (3). This book from 1956 is one of Innes’ series of Inspector Appleby novels. I’ve found the books in this series quite varied; Death on a Quiet Day is more thriller than mystery, with the protagonist being chased through the Dartmoor countryside after discovering a dead body.

The opposite of quiet is loud, so the next book in my chain is Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson (4). This very moving novel tells the story of a young girl in the 1950s who has difficulty communicating verbally and her experiences after being sent to live at the Briar Mental Institute. Although I found this an uncomfortable book to read at times due to the subject, there were still some moments of warmth and humour and it’s a book that I’m very glad I decided to read.

‘Saying it loud’ can cause echoes, so the next book in my chain is Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin (5). This is the first in a series of crime novels set on the Swedish island of Öland; there are four books (although I’ve only read three of them) and each one takes place during a different season of the year. I loved the atmosphere and the elderly Gerlof, one of the recurring characters, and I should really find time to read the last of the four books.

Another book which is the first in a crime series (and has a sound-related title) is A Moment of Silence by Anna Dean (6), an entertaining murder mystery set in an English country house in the early 19th century. I loved the heroine, Miss Dido Kent, and had fully intended to continue with the series but never did.

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And that’s my chain for February! My links have included silent boys and quiet gentlemen, quiet days, loud voices, echoes and crime novels. In March we’ll be starting with the modern classic, The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.

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.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Ethan Frome to Murder Under the Christmas Tree

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 are beginning with the classic novella Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I’ve read this one and liked it, although it’s still the only book I’ve read by Wharton. Here’s what it’s about:

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a ‘hired girl’, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio towards their tragic destinies.

It’s been ten years since I read Ethan Frome, but I still remember the atmospheric setting of Starkfield, Massachusetts with its cold, harsh winters. My first link, then, is to a recent read which is also set in winter, Midnight in Everwood by MA Kuzniar (1). This is a retelling of ETA Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and follows aspiring ballerina Marietta as she hides inside a grandfather clock on Christmas Eve and steps out into the enchanting world of Everwood. The descriptions of snow-covered landscapes are lovely, but I was disappointed with the writing style and the general lack of depth.

Another book with a very strong sense of place – and another wintry setting – is Touch by Alexi Zentner (2). This is a beautifully written novel about three generations of a family who live in a Canadian gold mining and logging town. There are elements of the supernatural and we meet lots of creatures from Canadian and Inuit folklore – sea witches, golden caribou, wood spirits and water monsters – but although I’m not always a fan of magical realism, I thought it worked well here.

I could easily have continued with the winter theme, but I like to have some variety in my chains so I’m going to link instead to another book with the word ‘touch’ in the title: Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart. This is one of Stewart’s later novels, published in 1976, and tells the story of Bryony Ashley who returns to her ancestral home, Ashley Court, to investigate after her father dies under suspicious circumstances leaving her a cryptic message warning her of danger. I enjoyed this book, although it’s not one of my favourites by Stewart.

Bryony Ashley, the heroine of Touch Not the Cat is able to communicate with an unidentified secret lover using telepathy. In Robin Hobb’s fantasy novel Fool’s Assassin (4), the characters use two forms of magic known as the Skill and the Wit in order to form telepathic connections with other people and animals. It’s a great book, but if you’re new to Robin Hobb don’t start with this one – it’s part of a much longer series and you really need to start at the beginning with Assassin’s Apprentice.

Although Fool’s Assassin is the fourteenth book in the sequence and therefore reacquaints us with lots of old friends, it also introduces a fascinating new character, Bee, and a large part of the story is written from her perspective. Her name makes me think of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King (5). This mystery novel teams up a teenage orphan, Mary Russell, with Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, who has retired to the countryside to keep bees. It’s the first in a series, of which I’ve still only read two!

There’s a Sherlock Holmes story included in the anthology Murder Under the Christmas Tree edited by Cecily Gayford (6). This Christmas-themed collection features stories by classic crime authors including Dorothy L Sayers, Edmund Crispin and Margery Allingham, as well as more recent authors such as Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. I think this book brings my chain to an appropriate end!

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And that’s my chain for December. My links have included wintry settings, the word ‘touch’, telepathic connections, bees and Sherlock Holmes!

Next month we’ll be starting with Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.

Six Degrees of Separation: From What Are You Going Through to Tomorrow

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 are beginning with What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez. I haven’t read it and although it does sound interesting, I don’t think it’s my kind of book and I have no plans to read it. Here’s what it’s about:

A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. The narrator orchestrates this chorus of voices for the most part as a passive listener, until one of them makes an extraordinary request, drawing her into an intense and transformative experience of her own.

In What Are You Going Through, Nunez brings wisdom, humor, and insight to a novel about human connection and the changing nature of relationships in our times. A surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship, her book offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.

I often struggle to come up with a first link when the starting book is not one that I’ve read and doesn’t have any obvious similarities to other books I’ve read. I’m afraid I’m just going to have to find a connection through the author’s name and link to Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (1). This is actually a trilogy published between 1920 and 1922, but the edition I read included all three in one very long book of over 1000 pages. However, I thought it was definitely worth the time and effort it took to read this fascinating, tragic story of a young woman’s life in 14th century Norway. Sigrid Undset was awarded the 1928 Nobel Prize in Literature “principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages”.

I read Kristin Lavransdatter in a very readable English translation by Tiina Nunnally. Another book by a Norwegian author and originally published in Norwegian is Burned by Thomas Enger (2), translated by Charlotte Barslund. This is the first in a crime series set in Oslo and featuring the journalist Henning Juul. Although I enjoyed it, with a few reservations, I never continued with the rest of the series or any of Thomas Enger’s other books. Maybe I should.

The title Burned makes me think of other titles to do with flames and fires. Dark Fire (3) is the second book in CJ Sansom’s Shardlake mystery series set in Tudor England. ‘Dark Fire’ refers to Greek Fire, a weapon said to be able to destroy a ship in minutes, and in this book Shardlake is searching for the secret formula to produce more of the weapon, while also trying to clear a young girl of a murder accusation. I have read all of the Shardlake novels apart from the newest one and enjoyed them all; this one introduces one of my favourite characters in the series, Jack Barak.

Dark Fire is set during the summer heatwave of 1540. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (4) opens during a summer heatwave in 1970 during which a little girl disappears while sleeping in a tent in the garden. Private detective Jackson Brodie – who features in another four Atkinson novels after this first one – investigates this and two other historical cases which at first seem to be completely unrelated. As a mystery novel I don’t think this one was particularly strong, but I loved the characters and their personal stories.

A very different scene involving a tent appears in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (5). This is such a funny, entertaining book; I sometimes pick it up and re-read a few pages if I need to cheer myself up! It follows the adventures of three men who take a boat trip along the River Thames, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong – including a disastrous attempt to put up a tent in the rain!

The full title of the above book is Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), a reference to the dog Montmorency who accompanies the men on their trip. Tomorrow by Damien Dibben (6) also features a dog – in fact, the narrator is a dog! He’s also over two hundred years old and Tomorrow tells the story of how he and his owner came to live for such a long time, describing some of the events they have witnessed and places they have visited along the way, from the court of Versailles to the battlefield of Waterloo. I can’t really say that I loved this book, but it was certainly different!

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And that’s my chain for November! My links have included the name Sigrid, Norwegian translations, ‘fiery’ titles, heatwaves, tents and dogs.

In December we’ll be starting with the classic novella Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, a book I have actually read for once!