Six Degrees of Separation: from The Tipping Point to …

41-2d6m5+kL._AC_US218_The starter for this month’s six degrees is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (2002).  It’s important to include that first word.  I forgot when I looked it up on Amazon and got the popular TV game which I haven’t watched but have a vague understanding of courtesy of family members who all tell me that I’m missing out.  I haven’t heard of Gladwell’s book either but having finally found it on Amazon, I now notice its subtitle: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and I think this is a book that I ought to have read and ought to enjoy.  A skim of the chapter titles didn’t endear it to me though.  I suspect it will remain a worthy book which I shall never quite pick up.  (I also noticed his more recent book: Outliers (2007). This one I have heard of, but it fell into the same category: I ought to want to read it but really, I don’t.)All of which is immaterial when it comes to Six Degrees of Separation, hosted every month by Kate at books are my favourite and best.   We create a chain of six books leading from the common starter book, each book linked in some way to the book before.  A few possibilities came to mind as I thought about The Tipping Point, only one of which resonated.

625018271c64dbe1935f4f80d9cedb4cFrom Malcolm Gladwell to Malcolm Saville, who was one of my favourite authors as a child.  He wrote adventure books in a similar vein to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven but better.  I particularly enjoyed the Lone Pine series which featured a group of children solving mysteries and crimes who called themselves The Lone Pine Club.  There were 20 books in the series and those I remember were set in Shropshire – and were peppered with romantic place names such as the Long Mynd and Clun – actual places that I was desperate to see for myself.  I’ve included the cover of the first book in the series, which was published in 1943.  The series ran for over 35 years, though the children aged only slightly throughout the decades.  I’m filled with nostalgia now.  I’d also quite like to age as slowly as those children! 😉

downloadIt’s the lone pine which sent me immediately to my  next link.  It also happens to be a crime/mystery book – this time for adults – and it’s looking at me right now, waiting for me to start it.  Still Life (2011) by Louise Penny is the first in a long series of books featuring Chief Inspector Gamache and the Canadian village of Three Pines.  I’m slowly spreading my wings with this genre and although I may be quite wrong, I have the expectation that these books will be quite warm and friendly despite the body count.  Maybe I think that because the author seems so lovely.  I could be in for a rude awakening!

Still Life for me suggests painting and art works.  I had a particular book in my mind that I wanted to link to…. It took some time to dredge it up from my foggy memory but I got there eventually.  Peacock and Vine (2016) by A S Byatt caught my attention for two reasons.  It’s about the lives and works of two painters, one of whom – William Morris – is of perennial interest, plus it has the most sumptuous cover.  It was the cover I had in my memory.  I am lusting after that cover.

download (1)

Of course, now I’m on a roll with painters so I shift immediately to Susan Fletcher’s Let me Tell you about a Man I Knew (2017) which relates a brief episode in 1889, towards the end of the life of Vincent van Gough.  A book I have very much wanted to read, which keeps slipping through the net, but I’ll get to it before long.  Thinking on my chain, I liked the fact that it also has golden-yellow on its cover, and is set in a period which falls towards the end of Morris’s life.  (He died in 1896.)


It was thinking about beautiful golden covers which brought to mind my next book: another one that I am itching to read, yet haven’t quite got around to.  The Essex Serpent  (2017) by Sarah Perry is a dark tale which I hope to read when the nights draw in later in the year.  The book cover has remained clear in my head, and now I’ve looked, I’m reminded that the story begins in 1893.  Another book connected by its cover and by its period.


The final book in my chain is rather unique with regard to how it came to be here.  It’s no exaggeration to say that it has forced its way onto the list despite me trying not to listen to its pushy arguments.

I’m currently reading the 80th anniversary edition of du Maurier’s Rebecca.  (A very different experience to when I read my green Virago edition first time around but that’s for another time.)  Because I’m reading it, this book appears to think it has the right to a place here.  From the moment I started thinking about this month’s chain, Rebecca has been there, in my head, whispering and cajoling.  I tried to ignore it: there seemed no obvious connection to the way my thoughts were going.  In no way can I connect it to pine trees, or art, or the end of the nineteenth century.  But it’s whisperings were insidious – one might almost say serpentine…

00001IMG_00001_BURST20180529141336Finally, in a bid to prove to myself that this book doesn’t connect and thus get it out of my head so that I could focus on uncovering a genuine book for my final link, I fetched the cunning thing – and suddenly there were connections everywhere!

The anniversary edition has a beautiful cover, simulating the embroidery on Rebecca’s linen.   Of course!  We are back to exquisite stitching as with Peacock and Vine.  The sleeve of the book is white and the cover itself is red but the typeface and the outline of the famously sinuous initial ‘R’ are in sparkling gold – and the introduction is written by Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent.

Still weaving her subtle and wily influence, Rebecca has earned her place in the chain.

This month’s chain is certainly eclectic.  We have sleuths, pines, murderers and mysteries on the Welsh borders and in a sleepy Quebec village  There are dark goings on amid the Essex marshes as the nineteenth century closes, and in that same decade there are artists on the banks of the Thames and in the rich countryside of Provence.  There are book covers featuring sumptuous golden stitches and intricate brush strokes.  And decades later, between new, embroidered covers in a golden Cornish spring, a young bride approaches her new home along a meandering driveway threatened by gnarled and twisted blood-red rhododendrons – portents of sinister events to come.

Next month’s starter book is Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin.  I’ve not read this series but I remember the tv adaptations.  I picked them up part way through and never quite got to grips with everything.  I wonder where this chain might take me …





49 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from The Tipping Point to …”

  1. Wonderful idea to have a thread going through all your choices, connecting them! I love Rebecca by de Maurier, I recently read The King’s General and didn’t care for it as much, for some reason. I’ve never heard of Maxwell Saville, so I’m positively giddy to go read up on him and his books, they sound lovely. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The King’s General is one of du Maurier’s books I have yet to read but I’m looking forward to it. I do love her books! It’s a historical novel of course, very different to Rebecca. I know the critics weren’t especially keen on it but there’s a lot of local history in it which I know I’ll enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a sumptuous list Sandra! I absolutely adored Susan Fletcher’s book – I’m confident you won’t be disappointed if you ever get around to it. And I love the sound of Peacock and Vine – as you say, if only for that gorgeous cover. I think every should have a spot of gold in their #6degrees! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely, Liz! And I’m sure I’ll love Susan Fletcher’s book when I get to it. Too many books, too little time! (And too easily distracted by other books 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like Malcolm Gladwell, though I haven’t read this one. Louise Penny! She came, with Ann Cleves, to talk at an event organised by our independent bookshop here in Ripon. She was great – they were great – witty, engaging, and they sparked off great conversations, having developed a real friendship through their crime writing, despite living a continent apart. I can’t get the first in her series for love nor money from the library. I’ll have to reserve it. The Susan Fletcher appeals: but almost alone in our book group meeting to discuss it, I didn’t enjoy The Essex Serpent, despite its evocative sense of place. Now then. Confess. Have you read The Poisonwood Bible yet? Eh?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a great event. They were both delightful people, and so engaging and funny. Their affection and respect for each other was evident. Hope they come to something near you too!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah well – our library had the first Louise Penny in the series, so that’s here looking at me as you know. And ummmmm – The Poisonwood Bible is also here from the library and also looking at me. Rather balefully it must be said! It arrived with other books and I chose to start with one of the others. But I will read it, I WILL! I’ll read it next!
      And I’ll let you have my verdict. (I’m just hoping the book doesn’t get called back for another reader. I’ll be in so much trouble then!)

      I’m glad that Louise Penny is as nice in the flesh as she sounds in her newsletters. I just have to hope I like her books now! As the The Essex Serpent – how interesting that it didn’t work for you. I’ve encountered nothing but universal praise for it. I wonder what I’ll make of it – eventually!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I haven’t maintained my list on Goodreads for many years; I can’t imagine what is there these days. I’ve probably been reading the same book for the past 10 years! That said, I only ever scored a book as I recall, never wrote down my thoughts. A shame really, because had I kept it up I would have a great record now.

          I’m toying with starting another blog – a book blog. I’ll let you know if I do! Or maybe I could just try to bring Goodreads up to date… 🙄


  4. What a lovely chain, Sandra! I read some of the Lone Pine books as a child – it’s nice to be reminded of them. The Essex Serpent does have a beautiful cover. I read it last year and enjoyed it, so I hope you do too. I also want to read the Susan Fletcher book which keeps slipping through my net as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How nice to find someone else who remembers the Lone Pine books, Helen! I seem to recall that there was a club that readers could join. I’m looking forward to The Essex Serpent and the Susan Fletcher. There are just too many wonderful books around!


  5. I love the Three Pines books, despite the body count! I went straight from The Famous Five to Agatha Christie so missed out on Malcolm Saville, I wish I hadn’t though, the cover looks lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Knowing your skills at ferreting out old books, you will probably find the Malcolm Savilles in a wonderful old bookshop somewhere on your travels, Katrina! Good to hear you enjoyed the Three Pine books. I’m looking forward to trying this first one.


  6. You are the first person I’ve heard talking about the Lone Pine series by Malcolm Saville, which I also used to enjoy. Do you remember the one with Good King Wenceslas? Was it The Secret of Grey Walls by any chance? Anyway, I was obsessed with that one in particular, perhaps proving I’ve always loved winter. I hope you’ll enjoy Louise Penny, as I find Three Pines a comforting, if eccentric place (full of murders). And of course Rebecca does have links to all the others… One of my favourite books ever!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another Lone Pine fan! I think you may be right about The Secret of Grey Walls; it’s certainly set in winter. Now I’ve started looking at the Lone Pine series, I am so tempted to collect them again. I’m sure I could squeeze them in!

      It’s comforting that you find the Three Pines series comforting; that’s what I hoped they would be. And Rebecca? I am loving noticing different aspects of the book this time around. It doesn’t matter in the least that I know the story inside out!


  7. What a sumptuous box of delights Sandra, not just visually but contents too. I had forgotten about Malcolm Saville who instilled an early love of Shropshire in me, which remains- I’m lucky enough to have lived on it’s borders and explored it’s secret niches, for some years. Louise Penny rings a bell- I’m sure I remember her depiction of the cold, although I can’t which of her books I read- and I’m surprised that I haven’t read more than one in the series, so maybe I wasn’t too impressed! I shall be interested in your view. The Byatt book looks a must- such fascinating subjects and worth it for the cover alone. On the subject of covers I lust after the new Rebecca- but can I really justify a third copy, and more to the point, will my bookcase stretch that far? Oh dear- I’m torn.
    I can highly recommend Susan Fletcher’s book- strong yet sensitive. I like her writing. The Essex Serpent sits on my shelf= a high recommendation from a good book buddy.
    Oh for more time …………
    ( On the subject of time- Musings are in the pipeline…….)xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pat, I remember how much you enjoyed the Susan Fletcher; it’s one of the reasons I’m so keen to read it. As for justifying a third copy of Rebecca…. that’s a tough one! I now have two copies; it’s the only book I have two copies of and shall keep them both. Most certainly I am finding this re-read a different experience but I can’t truthfully claim that’s down to this particular edition. That said: it is lovely quality. A joy to handle!

      (I shall look forward to musings when time permits. I think of you as being on garden leave at the moment; I imagine your plot is exquisite right now. xx)


  8. Oh, the new Rebecca is a gorgeous book! As it should be, really, given its stature. I may need to read myself to a copy. I’ve read all the Louise Penny books and do love the series, partly because Penny seems like such an amazing person (and also partly because I live very close to the world were the books are set). I don’t remember *loving* Still Life but I have absolutely loved some of the others. Read them in order–it makes a difference.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that’s a VERY valid point about crime series. Order is important otherwise you miss out on references in the novels, and don’t have the same rapport with the primary characters who’s lives are fleshed out and developed by good ( and not so good!!) authors.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I shall be interested in your view on this series, Sandra- I’m up to date on the ones I follow . Not that I’ve nothing else to read , of course.xx

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks, Kerry. I am starting with the first one and we’ll see how far I get beyond that. Part of the attraction for me (beyond the beautiful part of the world in which the books are set) is that Louise Penny seems such a lovely person. I subscribe to her newsletters. She seems so humble and very genuine. (I’m very envious of Margaret – seeing both Penny and Cleeves!)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a delicious selection. The Essex Serpent was a highlight of my reading year last year. I loved that book a lot, raved about it to anyone and everyone, and had good conversations with a colleague who grew up where the book’s set and said that Perry’s writing took her straight back there. I love the cover for the A S Byatt book. I’m trying to read more by her, having loved Possession. I have The Children’s Book on my pile, which I acquired as a book swap at a Little Free Library. I’ve added the first Three Pines book to my library wishlist. They sound right up my alley. I did the LibraryThing SantaThing at Christmas and received two crime novels, one of which was the start of a series – City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong, about a community in the Yukon that welcomes people who need to disappear from society with no questions asked. It was great. The cover of Rebecca is sumptuous. I’d spend too much time looking at the cover I think!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I indulged myself with this group of sumptuous reads! Good to hear how highly you rate The Essex Serpent; I’m looking forward to that one. Byatt is an author I’ve never read – goodness knows why! I love Rose Tremain’s writing; eventually I’ll discover how the sisters’ styles mesh or differ. City of the Lost is one I shall explore. It appeals for many reasons.


        1. Well! Turns out I am quite wrong! There is no connection between Tremain and Byatt – I wonder how I made that mistake. I certainly wasn’t confusing Tremain with Drabble, and I have no recollection of knowing that Byatt and Drabble were sisters. How odd. But thanks for helping me to get this straight in my mind! 😀


          1. I thought you had uncovered an exciting new literary connection. I can see it being true, because I think Tremain is more like Byatt than Drabble. She sits in between them for me, so would make a perfect third sister.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. I had not known of that children’s series. I always devoured books about groups of kids being adventurous. Nesbit’s books were favorites. I seemed to favor books with no parents and enterprising children. Haven’t read Rebecca in 55 years. Sounds like it’s time for a reread.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Nesbit’s stories are wonderful – set a little earlier than the Malcolm Saville series. I know what you mean about adventurous children with no parents around. I suppose they would be stopped from having the adventures if they were conventionally parented!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I confess I do sometimes judge a book by its cover – or should I say, rather, I am often tempted to pick up a book and maybe even go on to read it because of its cover. That is why I read A S Byatt’s “The Children’s Hour” – it has a beautiful cover, and fortunately I found the book interesting and engrossing too. So thanks for alerting me to her “Peacock & Vine”, also with a beautiful cover!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m thinking of trying The Children’s Hour too, Carol; I keep hearing things about that one more than Possession which is the book I tend to associate with her. It seems to me that book covers are becoming more and more elaborate these days: so many seem to be so beautiful it’s hard to imagine that the words between the covers can be anything other than gorgeous too! Sadly though, I imagine any rise in illustrative standards is connected with improvements in printing costs.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

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

%d bloggers like this: