Six Degrees of Separation: From Eats, Shoots & Leaves to The Diary of a Provincial Lady

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 Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. I own a copy of this non-fiction book about the importance of punctuation and read it years ago. I was working as a proofreader at the time, so it was quite appropriate! Here is the description from Goodreads:

Everyone knows the basics of punctuation, surely? Aren’t we all taught at school how to use full stops, commas and question marks? And yet we see ignorance and indifference everywhere. “Its Summer!” says a sign that cries out for an apostrophe, “ANTIQUE,S,” says another, bizarrely. “Pansy’s ready,” we learn to our considerable interest (“Is she?”), as we browse among the bedding plants.

In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss dares to say that, with our system of punctuation patently endangered, it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them for the wonderful and necessary things they are. If there are only pendants left who care, then so be it. “Sticklers unite” is her rallying cry. “You have nothing to lose but your sense of proportion – and arguably you didn’t have much of that to begin with.”

This is the book for people who love punctuation and get upset about it. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to Sir Roger Casement “hanged on a comma”; from George Orwell shunning the semicolon to Peter Cook saying Nevile Shute’s three dots made him feel “all funny”, this book makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.

Punctuation used incorrectly or not at all is something that always annoys me. Rather than single one book out for criticism, I’m going to move away from the subject of punctuation entirely and continue the chain with a completely different link. The cover of Eats, Shoots & Leaves has a ladder on it and this reminds me of the title of a John Boyne book I enjoyed a few years ago: A Ladder to the Sky (1), a novel about an aspiring author who can’t think of any stories of his own so decides to steal other people’s. John Boyne is an Irish author and I read this book in March 2019 for the Reading Ireland Month hosted every year by Cathy and Niall.

For a previous Reading Ireland Month in 2016, I read The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor (2). This dark and unsettling novel is set in an English seaside town in the 1970s and follows the story of Timothy Gedge, a lonely and disturbed teenager who wanders the streets of Dynmouth intruding into the lives of people who don’t want him there.

Another book with ‘children’ in the title is The Children’s Book by AS Byatt (3). I loved this long and complex novel about the Wellwood family and all the social and cultural changes going on in the world around them during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. One of the main characters, Olive Wellwood, is a writer of fairy tales and some of the stories she writes for her children are incorporated into the novel.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (4), a novel with multiple narratives and settings, moving between England and Australia and covering a period of more than a hundred years, also features a character who is a writer of fairy tales. Her name is Eliza Makepeace and some of her tales are also included in the novel. The title of the book refers to a house on the coast of Cornwall with a hidden walled garden, surely inspired by The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

I can think of quite a few other novels about gardens or featuring a garden, but the one I’m going to link to is Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim (5). This novel from 1898 is written in the form of a diary in which the narrator takes us through a year in her life, describing all the changes she sees in the garden of her home in northern Germany.

I’m going to finish my chain with another novel written in diary form: The Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield (6). I had put off reading this for a long time because I wasn’t sure it would be my sort of book, but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would – a perfect choice if you’re in the mood for something light and funny! I must read the other Provincial Lady books soon.

~

And that’s my chain for this month. My links have included ladders, Irish authors, the word children, fairy tale writers, gardens and diaries.

In August we will be starting with Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher.

Six Degrees of Separation: From The Bass Rock to The Last Summer

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 Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. I haven’t read this book, but it sounds like one I might enjoy:

Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries watched over the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries the fates of three women are linked: to this place, to each other.

In the early 1700s, Sarah, accused of being a witch, flees for her life.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Ruth navigates a new house, a new husband and the strange waters of the local community.

Six decades later, the house stands empty. Viv, mourning the death of her father, catalogues Ruth’s belongings and discovers her place in the past – and perhaps a way forward.

Each woman’s choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men in their lives. But in sisterhood there is the hope of survival and new life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, The Bass Rock burns bright with anger and love.

I’m not feeling very creative this month, so I have chosen an obvious link to start with: witchcraft. Thornyhold by Mary Stewart (1) is the story of Gilly Ramsey, who inherits a cottage in the countryside which belonged to her mother’s cousin. On arriving at the cottage, Thornyhold, Gilly discovers that Cousin Geillis had a reputation as a witch and has left behind her collection of magic spells and herbology books. Despite the witchcraft theme, though, this is a lovely, gentle read!

Lesley Frewen, the heroine of The Flowering Thorn by Margery Sharp (2) also relocates to the countryside. Lesley is a London socialite who finds herself volunteering to adopt Patrick, a four-year-old orphan, and decides to start a new life for them both in a cottage in Buckinghamshire. I had already linked to this book through the country cottage setting before I noticed that the title also contains the word ‘thorn’ – a double link!

The next book in my chain is by another author called Margery. The Oaken Heart (3) is crime writer Margery Allingham’s memoir in which she writes about life in her village (Tolleshunt D’Arcy in Essex, renamed ‘Auburn’ in the book) during World War II. I found it particularly interesting that the book was written in 1941, so Allingham would have had no idea while she was writing it how much longer the war would last and what else might happen to the people of Auburn before it was over.

I don’t read a lot of authors’ memoirs, but another that does come to mind is Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee (4), the first in Lee’s autobiographical trilogy. I still haven’t read the other two books, but in this first volume he looks back on his childhood, his school, his friends and family and the village of Slad in which he grew up. It’s a beautiful portrayal of a world on the brink of change and a way of life about to disappear forever.

The cover of Cider with Rosie reminded me of the cover of The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (5) – similar colours, pictures of nature, figures in silhouette. The war referred to in the title is the First World War and the novel follows the story of Beatrice Nash, a young woman who starts a new job as a school Latin teacher in the summer of 1914.

The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn (6) is also set during that same idyllic summer with war just on the horizon. Through the story of seventeen-year-old Clarissa Granville, the novel shows us the effects the outbreak of war will have on society, class structure and the life Clarissa has always known. Although I didn’t do it deliberately, it has just occurred to me that all of the books in my chain this month are about people starting new lives or seeing the world around them beginning to change.

~

And that’s my chain for June! My links have included: witchcraft, moving to the countryside, the name Margery, memoirs, similar covers and the summer of 1914.

Next month we’ll be starting with Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Beezus and Ramona to The Duke’s Children

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.

Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn’t always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus’s birthday party. Newbery Medal winner Beverly Cleary delivers a humorous tale of the ups and downs of sisterhood. Both the younger and older siblings of the family will enjoy this book.

This month we are starting with Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, who sadly died in March this year. This book was the first in her Ramona Quimby series for children and was published in 1955. I read some of the Ramona books as a child and although I can’t remember anything about them now, I know I used to enjoy them!

I’m sure I won’t be the only Six Degrees participant to use books about sisters as my first link this month, but as there are so many to choose from I’m hoping that nobody else will have linked to this one: Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang (1). This is a biography of the three Soong sisters, all of whom played an important role in 20th century Chinese politics. Ei-ling or ‘big sister’ became one of China’s richest women through her marriage to the banker HH Kung, ‘little sister’ May-ling was First Lady of the Republic of China, and ‘red sister’ Ching-ling was a supporter of the Communist Party and the wife of revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen.

I’m sure I have used books with ‘red’ in the title in a previous chain, so I’m going to link now to a book with a different colour in the title. There were lots of options here, but I’ve gone with blue and The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (2). This is a Poirot novel in which an heiress is murdered for her jewels during a train journey through France. I don’t think it’s one of Christie’s stronger novels (and in fact it was apparently her own least favourite), but it’s still quite enjoyable.

This makes me think of another novel set on a train, The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White (3), the book on which Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes was based. There are a lot of differences between the book and the film but they share the same basic plot: a young woman makes a new friend during a train journey who later disappears, only for the rest of the passengers to deny that she ever existed.

The idea of a wheel spinning leads me to Fortune’s Wheel (4), one of Rhoda Edwards’ two novels about Richard III. This book covers the earlier part of Richard’s life, taking us through the reign of his elder brother, Edward IV, and ending with Richard’s marriage to Anne Neville in 1472. I enjoyed it, but thought the second novel, Some Touch of Pity, was much better.

There’s a picture of a crown on the cover of Fortune’s Wheel and also on the cover of The Poisoned Crown by Maurice Druon (5). First published in French in 1956, this is the third book in the Accursed Kings series telling the story of Philip IV of France and his descendants, a line of kings “cursed to the thirteenth generation” by the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, whom Philip sent to burn at the stake. George R.R. Martin has described this series as the inspiration for his A Game of Thrones.

I haven’t finished The Accursed Kings yet; there are seven books in the series and so far I have only read the first five of them. It’s not the only series I’ve started and haven’t finished – I still need to read the final book in Anthony Trollope’s Palliser series, The Duke’s Children (6). I nearly always love Trollope but the length of his books sometimes puts me off. This one is on my Classics Club list, so I’m hoping to get to it soon.

And that’s my chain for this month! My links have included: sisters, colours, trains and wheels, pictures of crowns and an unfinished series.

In June we are starting with The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. Will you be joining us?

Six Degrees of Separation: From Shuggie Bain to A House of Pomegranates

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 starting with Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, winner of the 2020 Booker Prize. I haven’t read it and I’m not planning to, but this is what it’s about:

It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect, but false, teeth). But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest.

Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.

It can be difficult to know where to start with a chain when you haven’t read the first book and have no interest in reading it, but the word that jumped out at me in the blurb was Glasgow, so I will begin by linking to another book set in Glasgow – Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (1). The novel is narrated by Harriet Baxter, an elderly woman looking back on her relationship with the artist Ned Gillespie, whom she met while visiting the International Exhibition in Glasgow in the 1880s. The 19th century setting and clever plot twists reminded me of the Victorian sensation novels I love by authors such as Wilkie Collins, so it’s no surprise that I loved this book too.

The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart (2) also features a character whose name is Harriet – or ‘Lady Harriet’ as she prefers to call herself. Lady Harriet is a fascinating character who lives in the palace of Dar Ibrahim near Beirut and models herself on the legendary Lady Hester Stanhope, wearing male Arab dress and living in seclusion with only her servants and saluki hounds for company. I always enjoy Mary Stewart’s suspense novels and I think this is a particularly good one!

Hounds are dogs, of course, so this leads me straight to The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (3). This post-apocalyptic novel set in Colorado several years after a flu pandemic kills most of the world’s population was not my usual sort of book at all, but I found it much more interesting than I’d expected. I certainly wouldn’t want to read it now, though! What seemed like pure science fiction a few years ago feels uncomfortably close to reality now.

Another post-apocalyptic novel I found surprisingly enjoyable, if unsettling, was The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (4). In this book, it’s not a pandemic that brings an end to the world as we know it, but a meteor shower which leaves almost everyone blind, followed by an invasion of triffids – giant killer plants with long, stinging arms.

Susan Fletcher’s House of Glass (5) is the next book in my chain and is also a book about plants – nice normal plants this time, you’ll be pleased to hear! Our heroine, Clara, is an amateur botanist who is offered a job working in the gardens of Shadowbrook, a large estate which appears to be haunted. Although the book seems to be a typical ghost story at first, it turns out to be something slightly different. An impressive and beautifully written novel.

My final link this month is to another book with ‘house of’ in the title: A House of Pomegranates (6), a collection of fairy tales by Oscar Wilde. There are four stories in the book and although each one has a moral and a message, they are also very entertaining! Like many fairy tales, they are quite dark in places, but I think they’re suitable for both children and adults. I must get round to reading Oscar Wilde’s other similar collection, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, which has been on my TBR since reading this one back in 2011.

And that’s my chain for April! My links have included Glasgow, the name Harriet, dogs, the end of the world, plants and ‘house of’ titles.

In May, we’ll be starting with Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Phosphorescence to The Name of the Rose

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 starting with Phosphorescence by Julia Baird. I haven’t read it, but it is described as:

A beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times.

I’m going to take ‘light’ as my first link and feature a non-fiction book by Seb Falk that I read earlier this year: The Light Ages (1). In this book Falk looks at some of the advances in science, mathematics and astronomy during the medieval period and tries to dispel the idea that the Dark Ages were a time when progress stood still. A fascinating book, but I can’t claim to have understood everything in it!

Another book – fiction this time – in which the history of science plays a part is Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (2), the first volume in his Baroque Cycle. The protagonist Daniel Waterhouse is a 17th century natural philosopher who befriends Isaac Newton and becomes involved in the work of the Royal Society. I had been looking forward to reading this book, which sounded like the sort of thing I would usually love, but unfortunately I didn’t get on very well with it at all. I persevered through all 900 pages but was pleased to reach the end!

This leads me to another very long novel that I was glad to finish: Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (3). I read this 18th century classic as part of a year-long readalong with other bloggers and this definitely helped me get through what turned out to be a very repetitive and slow-paced novel. Still, I did appreciate the quality of the writing and found myself really enjoying parts of the book – and I felt a sense of accomplishment when I turned the final page.

Clarissa is an epistolary novel consisting of letters – 537 of them – in which Clarissa Harlowe’s correspondence with her friend Anna Howe reveals the story of how she defies her parents’ plans for her marriage only to fall into the clutches of the notorious ‘libertine’ Robert Lovelace. A much more recent book I’ve read which is also written mainly in the form of letters is The Queen’s Rival by Anne O’Brien (4), which tells the story of Cecily Neville, mother of Edward IV and Richard III.

Joanna Hickson’s Red Rose, White Rose (5) is another novel about Cecily Neville and the part she plays in the Wars of the Roses. I preferred this one to the Anne O’Brien book as it is written as a straightforward narrative rather than in letter form and I think it’s always interesting to see how different authors choose to portray the same historical characters.

To finish my chain, I’m going to link to another book with the word ‘rose’ in the title. There are a few I could choose from, but I’ve decided on The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (6), a book I decided to re-read a few years ago as there was so much I missed the first time I read it. It can be described as a medieval murder mystery but is so much more than that with its themes of religious and political conflict and descriptions of monastic life.

And that’s my chain for March. My links have included: light, science, very long novels, epistolary novels, Cecily Neville and roses.

In April we will be starting with Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Six Degrees of Separation: From Redhead by the Side of the Road to The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

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 starting with Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. It’s a book I haven’t read and know nothing about, but here is the description from Goodreads:

Micah Mortimer isn’t the most polished person you’ll ever meet. His numerous sisters and in-laws regard him oddly but very fondly, but he has his ways and means of navigating the world. He measures out his days running errands for work – his TECH HERMIT sign cheerily displayed on the roof of his car – maintaining an impeccable cleaning regime and going for runs (7:15, every morning). He is content with the steady balance of his life.

But then the order of things starts to tilt. His woman friend Cassia (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a ‘girlfriend’) tells him she’s facing eviction because of a cat. And when a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son, Micah is confronted with another surprise he seems poorly equipped to handle.

Redhead by the Side of the Road is an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who sometimes finds those around him just out of reach – and a love story about the differences that make us all unique.

~

I struggled to think of a first link (some months it’s much more difficult than others, particularly if you haven’t read the book), so I’m afraid I’m going to be unimaginative and just link to another book with the word ‘road’ in the title: The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (1). In this non-fiction book, first published in 1937, Orwell writes about the poor living conditions of working-class people in the north of England, with a particular focus on miners and their families. In one chapter, Orwell describes how he went down a coal mine himself to observe the working conditions.

Another book from the 1930s – fictional this time – which is set in a coal mining community is How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (2). The story is narrated by Huw Morgan who is looking back on his childhood growing up in the valleys of South Wales, watching his elder brothers go off one by one to join their father in the mines. I loved this poignant and beautifully written novel.

My next link is to another novel set in Wales, but in a much earlier period. Here Be Dragons (3) is the first book in Sharon Penman’s Welsh Princes Trilogy and tells the story of Joanna, daughter of King John of England, and her marriage to Llewelyn ab Iorweth, Prince of Gwynedd. I loved this book and the second one, Falls the Shadow, and was sorry to hear of Sharon Penman’s death a few weeks ago. I must get round to reading the final book in the trilogy soon.

The title ‘Here Be Dragons’ refers to a term used to describe unexplored territories on maps; there are no actual dragons in the story! My next book, however, does involve dragons. Temeraire by Naomi Novik (4) is the first in a series of historical fantasy novels set during an alternate version of the Napoleonic Wars in which dragons provide military support to the British and French navies. I really enjoyed it and loved the relationship between Captain Will Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire, so I don’t know why I still haven’t continued with the second book in the series.

I have read quite a lot of other books set during the Napoleonic Wars but the one I’m going to link to here is Watch the Wall, My Darling by Jane Aiken Hodge (5), a gothic suspense novel from 1966 complete with smugglers, spies, a haunted house and plenty of family secrets! The unusual title, ‘Watch the wall, my darling’, is a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, A Smuggler’s Song.

There are many books that have titles inspired by poetry, so I’m going to finish my chain with Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (6). The title of this Miss Marple mystery is taken from Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott – “Out flew the web and floated wide – The mirror crack’d from side to side; ‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried The Lady of Shalott”.

~

And that’s my chain for February. My links have included: the word ‘road’, coal miners, Wales, dragons, the Napoleonic Wars and lines from poems. I have even managed to bring the chain full circle with the word ‘side’ in both the first and last title!

Next month we’re starting with Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Hamnet to Macbeth

It’s the first Saturday of the month (and of the new 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 are beginning with Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. I read this book last year and although I thought the writing was beautiful, I didn’t love it as much as most other people seem to have done. It’s a great book to start this month’s chain with, though, because there are so many possible options for the first link!

Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, Hamnet is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child.

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.

Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.

Shakespeare is not named in Hamnet; he is always referred to as ‘the husband’ or ‘the father’, which puts the focus on Agnes and their children. The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan (1) does use Shakespeare’s name, as well as the more commonly used Anne Hathaway in place of Agnes, but it also focuses on Shakespeare as a husband and father and is written largely from his wife’s perspective.

Another book I’ve read with a title beginning ‘The Secret Life of’ is The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins (2), a biography of one of my favourite Victorian authors. The writer of the biography, William M. Clarke, was married to Collins’ great-granddaughter, which gave him access to personal information about Collins’ private life, family relationships and romantic entanglements, and these things form the basis of the book. However, I found the writing style quite dry and I would also have preferred more discussion and analysis of Collins’ work as well as his life.

Next, I’m linking to a book by Wilkie Collins himself: The Frozen Deep (3), not one of his better known books but still one that I enjoyed reading. It’s a short one – a novella, really – but still an entertaining and compelling story, inspired by reports of Sir John Franklin’s famously doomed 1845 voyage to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage during which the ships became icebound and the members of the expedition disappeared.

Clare Carson’s historical novel The Canary Keeper (4) is set just a few years after the Franklin Expedition. The novel follows Birdie Quinn, a young woman who finds herself a suspect in a murder case, as she travels to the Orkney Islands to try to identify the real killer and clear her name. As she investigates, she discovers some fascinating links between the murder and the expedition.

I can only think of one other novel I’ve read set in Orkney and that is King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett (5), a very different kind of story from The Canary Keeper and taking place many centuries earlier! This beautifully written and thoroughly researched novel is based around the theory that Macbeth, the historical King of Alba, and Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney, were the same person.

This, of course, leads me to Macbeth by William Shakespeare (6) and so brings the chain full circle! It’s not often that I manage to do that, so I’m pleased to have achieved it with my first chain of the year.

~

And that’s this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. My links included Shakespeare, secret lives, Wilkie Collins, the Franklin Expedition, Orkney and Thorfinn/Macbeth.

In February we will be starting with Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler.