Six Degrees of Separation: from The Beauty Myth to …

Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate at books are my favourite and best.  Every month Kate chooses a book as a starting point for a chain of six books, each one linked in some way to the book before.  This will be my third chain and I’ve found it the most difficult so far – but only because there seemed to be so many possibilities to choose between, especially to get off the starting block.  Perhaps, given the current focus on our weather here in the UK, it’s no surprise that wintry words find their way into my chain.

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I was not expecting this to happen, however – given where we start – for we begin this month with The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf: a book I’ve heard of but haven’t read.  Having read the blurb, I feel I ought to have read it years ago and at the very least I should read it now.  But almost certainly I won’t, which makes me feel somewhat ashamed.  So, moving swiftly on…

 

51b6wjzca1L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_There were so many directions presenting themselves that I felt at a loss for a while.  But the word that stood out most boldly for me was ‘myth’ and that immediately reminded me of Where Three Roads Meet by Salley Vickers.  Part of the Canongate Myth Series, it’s a retelling of the Oedipus myth involving Freud, who in 1939 was nearing the end of his life and began having conversations with the ancient seer, blind Tiresias.  I’m not sure that I enjoyed this novella, but I was fascinated by it.  Salley Vickers’ novels have always left their mark: I’ve loved some, been left cold by others.

It was her name, though, that led to my next book, by bringing to mind a cleric.  Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn features the sinister and oh-so-memorable albino vicar of Altarnun, Francis Davey.  He comes, he goes: appearing and disappearing at key moments in this gothic tale of sinister happenings on Bodmin Moor.  Daphne describes his 51KJZ3SdswL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_“two white eyes and a voice in the darkness”;  I remember his great dark cloak flapping like a hooded crow.

I’m always happy to linger with Daphne’s books for a while and thinking of her works reminded me that this month sees the 80th anniversary of the publication of Rebecca – surely her most famous novel – with an anniversary edition published by Virago which looks beautiful.  (I’m hopeful for Mother’s Day.)  But I can’t link this chain choosing one Du Maurier after another.  Instead I focused on the year Rebecca was published.  What else was published in 1938 that resonates?

41XwUloNuLL._SY373_BO1,204,203,200_My choice: The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Williams, published in the same year as Rebecca.  This was a seminal book in my childhood.  The little wooden horse sets out to find a way to help his beloved Uncle Peder and save him from poverty, as his toy-making skills are no match for the onslaught of mass-manufacturing.  It was such a tear-jerker!  Sadly, I no longer have my copy, but I can remember its cover vividly – which is how I came to learn that I could now repurchased that edition from £54 upwards.  I think not.

downloadThe link from here was an easy and obvious one.  The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale was published this year and reviewed strongly by Margaret at BooksPlease.  History, WW1, magical realism … there is so much that excites me about this book.  I can’t wait to read it but I shall wait – until late autumn in fact, because the Emporium, the toy shop in the story, opens with the first frosts and closes when the first snowdrop blooms.  And this of course, got me thinking about Winter.

Winter by Christopher Nicholson is a fictional account in the life of Thomas Hardy of a period in the winter of 1924.  I read this quiet download (1)novel a couple of years ago and it left a strong impression on me.  I’m reminded that I always intended to read more of his work so it’s an added bonus to learn now that his latest book, published last year is called, Among the Summer Snows and sounds right up my street.  Another one added to the list…  But again, I don’t want my final link to be a book by the author above it in the chain.

As I write, on March 1st, we are supposedly enjoying the first day of spring according to the meteorological calendar.  And it’s currently snowing hard outside.  So I can’t help thinking seasonally – and Winter it remains.

But a dilemma arises.  The title that I immediately thought of is “A Week in Winter” – and that applies to two books I know of: one I’ve read recently and one I’d like to read soon.  Which means I’ll have seven books in my chain.  Two with the same title?  Hopefully they’ll count as one link!

download (2)I read A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy at the beginning of the season.  I’m not a fan of her books.  I’ve tried several and they rarely work for me.  I plucked this off the library shelf because of its title, not knowing that it was her last novel, and I did enjoy it.  So often it’s a case of the right time for a book and this was the right time.  No snow in it that I can recall, but an easy, poignant feel good read.

The other A Week in Winter is less well-known but one I must seek out.  Marcia Willet is sometimes described as another Rosamund Pilcher.  I’ve not read any of Marcia’s books so I can’t comment on that, but I used to love Rosamund Pilcher 51Quzi81pBL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)(and really must give her a reread).  This particular book is described as “a moving tale of a family in turmoil in the West Country”: the beautiful family home on the edge of Bodmin Moor is to be sold.  Turmoil indeed!  I can’t wait!  The cover suggests there will be lots of snow involved, plus it brings us back to Bodmin Moor and the sinister vicar with his brooding presence.  Perfect in fact, as the winds start to gather force here and we prepare for Storm Emma.

This month’s chain has kept me primarily in the UK with a heavy dose of West Country.  I’ve dipped into the nineteenth century, WW1, 1924, 1938 and 1939 amongst other years.  It’s also added several more titles to my teetering pile of books I want to read.  The Beauty Myth hasn’t made the cut – but the chain it spawned certainly proved fruitful!

Next month’s starting point is a personal favourite: Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha. Slightly spooky as it came into my mind last night.  Before that, I haven’t thought of it in years…

 

 

 

41 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from The Beauty Myth to …”

  1. Interestingly, I’ve read most of these authors but none of these books. I feel encouraged to go out and do something about this. You are a quick reader though! I thought I was until I ‘met’ you.

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    1. Ah, Margaret, I am not in the least a quick reader! It’s not necessary to read each book in the chain although I have read most of these. But that reading stretches back over decades! I’m intrigued now though – wondering about which authors here you’ve read and which of their books 🙂

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      1. Ah! Now you’ve put me on the spot. Naomi Wolf? I think I read Fire with Fire some years ago, but I seem to remember finding it somewhat acerbic in tone. Salley Vickers? I like her and I’ve read Miss Garnett’s Angel and Mr. Golightly’s Holiday. Reliably good books to take on holiday. Daphne du Maurier? Rebecca, of course, and My Cousin Rachel. Ursula Moray Williams I remember for Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, and Jeffy, the Burglar’s Cat, both of which I read with my children. Robert Dinsdale. Nope. Think I should. Christopher Nicholson – I was lent The Fattest Man in America but didn’t get round to reading it in time. There was a time when I read quite a few Maeve Binchy, but she’s a bit of a take-it-or-leave-it author for me and I can’t really remember which ones I’ve read. I thought I’d read a Marcia Willett, but now I’m pretty sure I haven’t. Phew! started, about three years ago, to do short book reviews of everything I read on ‘Goodreads’. Looking back, I’m horrified at how few of these books I can remember now, let alone ones from further in the past. Aagh. Worrying …

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      2. I wish I had developed a short review style years ago. I do keep a list of what I’ve read, and score each book, which helps. But there’s never enough time! And yes – you have read quite a few of these authors! Strangely, I never read Gobbolino and I’ve not heard of Jeffy. The Toy Maker sounds wonderful; I’m really looking forward to that one 🙂

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  2. I love your chain! I nearly included Salley Vickers book but changed my mind. You’ve included some of my favourite books – Jamaica Inn and The Little Wooden Horse – I hadn’t thought of this book for ages, so thanks for the memory. I haven’t got my copy either. I do hope you enjoy The Toymakers! Marcia Willetts’ book really interests me and not just because of the snow. We’re snowed in here by our driveway, although the main road is just slushy we can’t get to it yet.

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    1. It’s always nice to be reminded of an old favourite, isn’t it, Margaret. My problem then is that I want to read the old favourites again. There’s never enough time!

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  3. I liked this chain! And it has been a long time since I read either a Binchy book or a Pilcher book. I loved them years ago. I haven’t read Jamaica Inn, but I did love Rebecca. Hope you don’t get snowed in!

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  4. Gosh Sandra, you do ping some memory bells with your selection- some definitely read eons ago and long forgotten about, some definitely new to me. Marcia Willet, I have read , but not this title- I found her a pale substitute for Rosamund Pilcher- but then, who knows what extraneous thoughts colour our reading at any one particular time.
    I definitely have my eye on some of the lovely new Virago anniversary editions of the Du Maurier books, having spent the last x number of years trying to unearth them in 1st ed Penguin. Can’t have too many copies of Du maurier-some to look at and handle, some to read!! xxx

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    1. I don’t have many expectations of the Marcia Willett, Pat, but the Cornish connection means I can’t resist. And if it’s an enjoyable romp it will be a nice surprise 🙂 Love your thoughts on the du Mauriers – oh, how I agree! xx

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  5. All the UK chains seem to be snowbound this month – I wonder why!! The only one I’ve read for sure is the wonderful Rebecca. Jamaica Inn is one of those ones that I think I’ve read but might just know from adaptations – I had this experience a couple of weeks ago with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which I was sure I had read… until I started reading it and discovered I hadn’t. I wonder how many books I only *think* I’ve read…

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  6. What a wonderful wintry chain! I love the two Daphne du Maurier books, especially Rebecca, and I’m interested in reading both Winter and The Toy Makers. The Little Wooden Horse was one of my childhood favourites and I still have my old copy, which is the same edition as the one in your picture. I loved Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by the same author even more.

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    1. Helen, your copy of The Little Wooden Horse may have some value so keep it safe 🙂 Winter is a quiet, perceptive book. And I’m very much looking forward to The Toy Makers.

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  7. Sandra, I am waiting for my retirement (and hoping I will still be left with enough jelly in my skull) to pursue reading like that. Magical Realism makes me think of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami and Mo Yan. Murakami is a perennial favourite though.

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    1. I am ahead of you on the retirement front, Uma, and one of its many pleasures is having the time to read (and blog). I loved magical realism before I knew such a genre existed yet I have still to sample Murakami. Despite all the time I have these days!

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  8. That is a little spooky about Geisha – another blogger used it in their chain this month – we must all have it lurking in our subconscious somewhere! Glad I’ve picked a favourite for you 🙂 (Please let me know if you have any suggestions for starter books).

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    1. Yes I saw Geisha in the other chain – certainly a coincidence 🙂 I’ve often wondered how you choose your starter books, Kate: there’s so many to choose from! And thank you, I will let you know if inspiration strikes 🙂

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  9. There seems to be a De Maurier awakening happening, I think there might be anniversary prompting it perhaps, I loved Rebecca and must read Jamaica Inn sometime, I know it briefly from having made my mature students learning English read the 10 episode BB Learning English dramatisation and it was creepily intriguing.

    I like the sound of The Toymakers, it makes me think of Hugo Cabret for some reason, that little hint of magic, spark of the imagination that toys can invoke. A wonderful connection of linked titles, thank you for sharing the inspiration.

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    1. Du Maurier certainly seems to be regaining some popularity. And you’ve already noticed I had Hugo in my last chain! Like you, I thought of that book alongside The Toy Makers. It’s always fun creating the chain – and a perfect excuse to spend a few hours musing on books 🙂

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  10. Well, as I sit here in sunny Florida, escaping the winter and snow of Canada, it amazes me that on this date in March I am hearing about snow storms in Great Britain! Interesting chain, only author I know is Maeve Binchy that I read when I wanted an easy read.

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    1. Yes, Maeve has a feel-good factor to her books 🙂 It’s now pouring with rain here. Three days ago we had a blizzard. An hour ago I was out walking with no hat or gloves for the first time this year and feeling much too hot in my winter coat. The good old British weather! A world away from sunny Florida right now. Enjoy 🙂

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  11. J > My sister A was given Jamaica Inn for her 13th birthday. She read it, and re read it, and read it again, and again, and again … My mother – a great reader from childhood and so loved books that when she started work as a teenager, got a job at Foyle’s Bookshop in London. The Queen Mother (at that time – around 1946 – still Queen to George VI) used to ask to be served by my Mum. The QM liked to ask her opinion, and on one occasion Mum spoke enthusiastically about The King’s General. I seem to recall that was a book I remember from my Mother’s book shelves that had the Foyle’s Bookshop label on the back flyleaf (so discreet!) My Mum did say that the QM had bought something for her (not presented to her personally – but via management), and I wonder now whether that was it.

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  12. It’s quite fun, watching your mind work as you go from book to book! I actually read the Beauty Myth, back when it came out, and found it quite affecting. Maybe it would seem old news now, though. I love duMaurier and it was partly her writing that brought me to Cornwall 4 times. I’ve done the Hall Walk, where she walked on her wedding day, and the walk near Menabilly . . . I need to go find my copy of Rebecca!

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  13. what a fantastic collection – I love the sound of them all. I have Naomi Klein’s latest book No Is Not Enough on my ‘library book shelf’ just beside me – it will be interesting to see whether it inspires me to read any more of her stuff (ps have just picked up Greenbanks and Because of the Lockwoods from the library. Having read the first couple of pages of each I am already hooked!!) 🙂

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    1. Lol – just realised that Naomi Klein and Naomi Wolf are, in fact, two different authors!! Sorry about that, although I suppose linking from one Naomi to another could be a valid step!

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    2. Yes, some people did use Naomi as a link, Liz! Do let me know what you think of the Whipples. It’s always wonderful when you are hooked from the very start. I got a sample of Greenbanks on my kindle and knew immediately I would love it – couldn’t wait for the library copy to reach me (which it did very quickly). I’m dithering at the moment over which Whipple to read next but I am noticing that as I pick up a new book I’m comparing it with my initial reaction to Greenbanks. I want that next hit! (I’ve just read your exchange with Claire re Elizabeth Strout. I really must try her!)

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      1. I’m sure you would enjoy Elizabeth Strout’s work – it is fabulous. I think my favourite so far might just be Olive Kitteridge. Meanwhile, I will keep you posted on the Whipples. I have several other library books I should be reading before them, but somehow I’m not sure I will be able to resist promoting them to the top of the pile…! 🙂

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  14. This is a lovely chain and it surprised me to see so much about winter. It has been much colder here (Santa Barbara, CA) than usual but I have never seen much snow. I do like reading about it. I love that I am learning about new books and being reminded about ones I haven’t read yet. Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, for example.

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    1. I agree with you, Tracy; the chains are a fun way of discovering new books. There’s just never enough time to read everything I discover! Jamaica Inn is a great read. Set on the moors and cliffs here in Cornwall but at least one film version was shot on the californian coast I think. (I may be wrong!) Very atmospheric 🙂

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