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.

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.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Passages to The Venice Train

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 Passages by Gail Sheehy, a bestselling self-help title from the 1970s. I haven’t read this book and doubt I ever will, but here’s what it’s about:

At last, this is your story. You’ll recognize yourself, your friends, and your loves. You’ll see how to use each life crisis as an opportunity for creative change – to grow to your full potential. Gail Sheehy’s brilliant road map of adult life shows the inevitable personality and sexual changes we go through in our 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond. The Trying 20s – The safety of home left behind, we begin trying on life’s uniforms and possible partners in search of the perfect fit. The Catch 30s – illusions shaken, it’s time to make, break, or deepen life commitments. The Forlorn 40s – Dangerous years when the dreams of youth demand reassessment, men and women switch characteristics, sexual panic is common, but the greatest opportunity for self-discovery awaits. The Refreshed (or Resigned) 50s – Best of life for those who let go old roles and find a renewal of purpose.

I couldn’t think of any way to link this book to anything else I’ve read so instead I’m linking to a book I haven’t read yet, but do have on my TBR – A Passage to India by EM Forster (1). So far I’ve only read Howards End and A Room With a View by Forster and although I enjoyed them both I still haven’t got round to trying any of his others. His 1924 novel set in India during the time of the British Raj will probably be the next one I read.

Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer (2) is a fictional biography of Forster, concentrating on the time in his life when he was working on A Passage to India. I liked Galgut’s writing and the descriptions of India and Egypt, but otherwise found this book boring. I think my lack of familiarity with Forster’s life and work was partly to blame – all the more reason to read more of his books sooner rather than later – but I also felt that Galgut chose to focus too heavily on Forster’s sexuality and romantic relationships, which just didn’t interest me very much.

The Magician by Colm Tóibín (3) is another novel about the life of an author, in this case Thomas Mann. Again, my knowledge of Mann and his work is limited (I’ve only read Death in Venice and some of his short stories), but I’d seen a lot of praise for this book so tried it anyway. The book takes us through Mann’s childhood in Germany, his marriage, his experiences during World War II and his later years in Los Angeles and Switzerland. I found it interesting but didn’t connect with it on an emotional level and I prefer the way Tóibín writes about fictional characters.

The title of the Toibin novel makes me think of a book featuring a character who becomes a magician: Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (4). This is the first book in Davies’ Deptford Trilogy and although I enjoyed it, I still haven’t read the other two. Fifth Business is narrated by Dunstan Ramsay, who grows up in the small Canadian town of Deptford. Dunstan suffers from guilt after ducking to avoid a snowball with a stone in it which hits a pregnant woman instead and almost everything that happens to him from this point on can be traced back to that incident.

Another book in which snow plays a significant part in setting the plot in motion is Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (5). Hercule Poirot is a passenger on the Orient Express when the train comes to a stop in a heavy snowfall. When a man is found stabbed to death in his compartment, it seems clear that the murderer must be among the other passengers on the train. I already knew the solution before I started this book, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it and I can see why it’s one of Christie’s most popular mysteries.

Christie has written several other novels set on trains, but I have chosen to end my chain with one by a different author: The Venice Train by Georges Simenon (6). This is one of Simenon’s standalone thrillers, which he described as romans durs or ‘hard novels’. On a train journey from Venice to Paris, Justin Calmar finds himself left with a briefcase belonging to another passenger and, unable to resist the temptation, breaks the locks and looks inside. The rest of this dark and suspenseful novel explores the psychological effects on Justin caused by the contents of the case.

And that’s my chain for March. My links included: the word ‘passage’, EM Forster, novels about authors, magicians, snow and trains. I like to look back and see whether I’ve made the chain come full circle, but the only connection I can find between the last and first book is the theme of journeys – The Venice Train deals with a physical journey and Passages with a journey through life.

In April we’ll be starting with Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Trust to Fire

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 Trust by Hernan Diaz. Here’s what it’s about:

Trust by Hernan Diaz is a sweeping, unpredicatable novel about power, wealth and truth, told by four unique, interlocking voices and set against the backdrop of turbulent 1920s New York. Perfect for fans of Succession.

Can one person change the course of history?

A Wall Street tycoon takes a young woman as his wife. Together they rise to the top in an age of excess and speculation. But now a novelist is threatening to reveal the secrets behind their marriage, and this wealthy man’s story – of greed, love and betrayal – is about to slip from his grasp.

Composed of four competing versions of this deliciously deceptive tale, Trust brings us on a quest for truth while confronting the lies that often live buried in the human heart.

I haven’t read Trust and couldn’t find anything in the blurb to inspire my first link. I do know that it was longlisted for last year’s Booker Prize and I have read two of the other books on that list: Booth by Karen Joy Fowler, and the one I’m going to link to here, which is Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (1). I read this beautifully written little book which touches on the scandal of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries for last year’s Novellas in November.

My next book also has the word ‘small’ in the title. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada (2) was originally published in 1931 but I read it in a new edition translated from German to English by Michael Hofmann. It explores political tensions and corruption in a small town in Germany. I had previously read Fallada’s wonderful Alone in Berlin which I absolutely loved, so I was disappointed to find that I didn’t like this one much at all.

Another Fallada novel I did love is Little Man, What Now? (3). It tells the story of a young newly-married couple struggling to survive in the harsh economic climate of 1930s Germany. I found the two protagonists completely endearing and their story both funny and moving. This book is also now available in a Michael Hofmann translation, but I was very happy with the edition I read, with an earlier translation by Susan Bennett.

I think I have used novels with questions in the title in a previous Six Degrees post, but I’m going to do it again and link to Who Killed Dick Whittington? by E and MA Radford (4). Published by Dean Street Press, this is one of a series of detective novels written by a husband and wife team. This book, first published in 1947, involves a murder during a production of Dick Whittington where suspicion falls on the actor playing the Cat. A good choice if you like mysteries with theatrical settings.

Another book with a ‘cat’ that isn’t a real cat is The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor (5). This is the first in a series of excellent historical mysteries set during and just after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The main characters are James Marwood and Cat (Catherine) Lovett. They are great books and I have just finished reading the newest one, The Shadows of London, which is published in the UK in March.

Fire by CC Humphreys (6) is also about the Great Fire of London. I was afraid at first that it might be too similar to the Andrew Taylor book, but I found the two to be quite different. This novel is the second in a series of entertaining historical thrillers following the adventures of reformed highwayman Captain Coke and ‘thief-taker’ Pitman. I also enjoyed the first book, Plague.


And that’s my chain for February! My links included: The Booker Prize longlist, the word ‘small’, Hans Fallada books, questions in titles, cats that aren’t real cats and the Great Fire of London. Have I brought the chain full circle? Well, both my first and last books have one-word titles, so I’m happy with that!

In March, we’ll be starting with Passages by Gail Sheehy, a self-help title from the 1970s.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Beach Read to A Hero of Our Time

It’s the first Saturday of the month – and of the year – 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 Beach Read by Emily Henry. It’s not a book I’ve read or plan to read, but here’s what it’s about:

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.


My first link this month is to Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie (1), a novel set on a beach. Published in 1941, this is a Poirot mystery which takes place on a private island belonging to the Jolly Roger Hotel. When a woman is found murdered on the island, almost all of the other guests become suspects – but luckily Hercule Poirot is also staying at the hotel and is able to begin investigating immediately!

My copy of Evil Under the Sun has a postcard on the front cover, which reminds me of a book I read just a few months ago: Blue Postcards by Douglas Bruton (2). Set in Paris and weaving together three different narratives, this is a very unusual novella. It’s written in the form of five hundred numbered paragraphs – and each one contains the word ‘blue’! Very cleverly done, but not really a book for me.

Paris is always an interesting and atmospheric setting. One of my favourite books set in Paris during the time of the French Revolution is The Way to the Lantern by Audrey Erskine Lindop (3). Audrey Erskine Lindop wrote more than a dozen novels between 1954 and 1978 and sadly all of them are now out of print, despite being successful at the time and, in some cases, adapted into films. I keep hoping her books will be picked up again by a publisher, but no luck yet!

My next link is to another book with a title beginning with the words ‘the way’: The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry (4). The name Ambrose Parry is actually a pseudonym for the husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman, who worked together on this historical mystery set in the medical world of 19th century Edinburgh. There are currently three books in the series; I’ve enjoyed all of them and am hoping for a fourth.

I’ve read lots of novels with a medical theme, but the first one that comes to mind is The Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov (5), which I read in an English translation by Michael Glenny. This is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories based on Bulgakov’s own experiences of working at a small village hospital between 1916 and 1918. I loved this book, although it’s completely different from The Master and Margarita, the only other Bulgakov novel I’ve read so far (and also loved).

Another author who shares a name with Mikhail Bulgakov is Mikhail Lermontov, who wrote A Hero of Our Time (6). This entertaining Russian classic was published in 1840 and consists of five stories which combine to produce a portrait of a young army officer, the flawed but fascinating Grigory Pechorin. I really enjoyed it and can recommend Nicolas Pasternak Slater’s translation.


And that’s my first chain of the year! My links included: beaches, postcards, Paris, ‘the way’, doctors and the name Mikhail.

In February we’ll be starting with Trust by Hernan Diaz.

Six Degrees of Separation: From The Snow Child 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’re starting with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. I read this when it was first published and found it a beautiful, magical story – a perfect winter read.

A bewitching tale of heartbreak and hope set in 1920s Alaska, Eowyn Ivey’s THE SNOW CHILD was a top ten bestseller in hardback and paperback, and went on to be a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding: is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?

Written with the clarity and vividness of the Russian fairy tale from which it takes its inspiration, The Snow Child is an instant classic.


Despite having read the first book, which often makes things easier, I struggled to get started this month. I tried linking The Snow Child to other books based on Russian fairy tales, to other books set in winter and to books with snow in the title, but in each case I only got two or three links along the chain before getting stuck. Eventually, I decided to start with a link to another book with ‘child’ in the title: A Word Child by Iris Murdoch (1). I really enjoyed this story of Hilary Burde, a London office worker who thinks he has arranged everything in his life just as he wants it, until a face from the past arrives and throws everything into disarray.

The Hilary in A Word Child is a man; a female character who shares the same name is Hilary Craven in Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie (2). This is one of Christie’s standalone thrillers and is set in Morocco, first in Casablanca and Fez and then in the High Atlas Mountains. Hilary finds herself agreeing to impersonate a dying woman so that she can go in search of the woman’s husband, a scientist who has disappeared without trace. I found this book entertaining but too far fetched and bizarre to be a favourite Christie.

The Country of Others by Leïla Slimani (3) is also set in Morocco. The book was written in French and is available in an English translation by Sam Taylor. It tells the story of Mathilde, a young woman from France who marries a Moroccan soldier at the end of WWII and goes to live with him in Meknes. The book describes how she struggles to settle into her new home and tries to find a place for herself in this ‘country of others’.

I seem to have read a lot of books translated into English from French – probably more than from any other language. One of these is The Princess of Cleves, or La Princesse de Clèves to give it its French title. This classic novel was first published anonymously (and translated anonymously too) in 1678, but was later believed to be the work of Madame de Lafayette. It’s set at the royal court of Henri II and is said to be one of the earliest psychological novels.

Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree (5) was also originally published anonymously. Set in the small village of Mellstock in Wessex, it follows the romance between Dick Dewy and Fancy Day and is a beautiful portrayal of rural life as one season turns into the next. This is an unusually cheerful, uplifting book for Hardy; I often recommend it to people who find him too bleak and depressing!

From under one tree to under another! I think I’ve used Murder Under the Christmas Tree (6) in a previous Six Degrees chain, but it’s too good a link not to use again here. Edited by Cecily Gayford, this is a collection of Christmas-themed short stories from classic and modern crime authors, ranging from Dorothy L. Sayers and John Dickson Carr to Val McDermid and Ian Rankin.


And that’s my chain for this month! My links have included: ‘child’ titles, the name Hilary, Morocco, French translations, books published anonymously and ‘under the tree’.

In January we’ll be starting with Beach Read by Emily Henry. Will you join us?

Six Degrees of Separation: From The Naked Chef to Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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 Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver.

The Naked Chef teaches you how to make beautiful dishes from scratch, whether you’re cooking for guests or simply enjoying good food with your family. Host a dinner party your friends won’t forget with light Vegetable Tempura, followed by melt-in-the-mouth spiced Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank. Or why not try the Chilli, Tomato, Oregano and Pancetta Pizza; perfect for getting the family stuck in.

This book has something for everyone – from those who want great food but want to keep it simple, to those who work for a living and don’t have time to spend all evening cooking. The Naked Chef is all about giving people confidence and getting them to feel at ease in the kitchen, with the help of Jamie Oliver, even if they have never tried cooking before!

I don’t own this book and am not likely to, particularly as I’m a vegetarian (I know he has written another one, Veg), but I thought it was an interesting starting point for this month’s chain.

When I saw that we were going to be starting with the Jamie Oliver book, I thought immediately of a novel I read just this summer that features a celebrity chef: A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz (1), the third in the Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery series, in which the author uses himself as one of the protagonists. This book revolves around a murder during a literary festival on the island of Alderney and the chef character – Marc Bellamy – is one of the suspects. Horowitz is attending the festival with the detective Daniel Hawthorne and the two reluctantly team up again to investigate the murder.

Daniel Hawthorne and Anthony Horowitz have had a difficult and uncomfortable working relationship throughout the series. The relationship between the narrator and the detective in A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle (2) – a murder mystery set on board a cruise ship in the 1920s – struck me as very similar, with the detective, James Temple, being a bad-tempered and hostile man who resents the attempts of the bumbling ship’s officer Timothy Birch to help him solve the crime. This was Tom Hindle’s first novel and I really enjoyed it; I’m looking forward to reading his new one, The Murder Game, which is out in February.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (3) is another crime novel set on a ship. A journalist, Lo Blacklock, goes on a cruise around the Norwegian fjords to see the Northern Lights and is convinced that someone has fallen overboard when she hears a scream and a splash from the next cabin, Cabin 10. When the cabin door is opened the room is empty with no sign that anyone had ever been staying there – yet Lo had met the woman in Cabin 10 earlier that very evening. I found this book quite enjoyable, but too drawn out towards the end.

There are lots of books with numbers in their titles, but the one I’m linking to here is John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (4). In this classic adventure/espionage novel, Richard Hannay goes on the run across the Scottish countryside after becoming mixed up in a plot to assassinate a Greek politician. I didn’t love this book – I thought it was entertaining at the beginning, but eventually became too repetitive as Hannay makes one last-minute escape after another. I do still want to read more of Buchan’s novels but I’m not sure whether I’ll continue with the others in the Hannay series or try something different.

The Thirty-Nine Steps was published in 1915. Another book I’ve read from that same year is The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (5). Despite being published during the war and having the word soldier in the title, this is not actually a war novel, which I remember finding surprising! It’s the story of two couples, one British and one American, who meet at a German spa town in 1904. A clever, interesting novel with an intriguingly unreliable narrator, but not a book that I particularly enjoyed.

The name Ford leads me to my final book: Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (6). This novel is set in Seattle and follows the story of a Chinese-American boy whose Japanese-American friend, Keiko, is sent to an internment camp with her family during World War II. I found the story both heartbreaking and heartwarming, without becoming overly sentimental. Also, the words ‘bitter’ and ‘sweet’ are tastes, which provides a link back to The Naked Chef at the beginning of this month’s chain. Jamie Ford and Jamie Oliver both share a name as well!


And that’s my chain for this month! My links have included: celebrity chefs, unlikely detective duos, mysteries set at sea, numbers in titles, the year 1915 and the name Ford.

In December we’ll be starting with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.