Six Degrees of Separation: from The Paris Wife to …

It’s already time for Six Degrees again, hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

From the starter title provided by Kate, create a chain of six books, each one linked to the one before.  This month is a wildcard: we each start our chain with the book we ended on last month.  For me that was The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  Although each book is only required to link to its predecessor, often a theme arises or a choice spins back to an earlier link.  This month is no different in that regard.  It is different in that beyond the starter book, none of the others are books that I’ve read; they are all books that I very much want to read.  So perhaps this chain will give me a nudge!  It also takes me on a whistle-stop tour across the globe, sampling cultures far removed from my own.  We begin in France.

The Paris Wife is the fictional account of the marriage between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, most of which is spent in Paris.  With Paris and Wives in the title, I have a huge array of novels to choose from and my first obvious link does feature another wife in its title but that’s only a part of why I chose it.

8366402The Paris Wife was McLain’s debut novel, published in 2011.  Another debut novel published in 2011 went on to win the Orange Prize for that year (now known as the Women’s Prize for Fiction).   The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht has been on my wish list for years and weaves an eclectic account of the turbulent history of the Balkans.  It has mixed reviews but I’m drawn to its lyricism and its blend of history and folklore.  (I see that Téa’s next book will be released in the UK this month.  I’ll be keen to see how she fares with the notorious second novel.)

From wife to wife, from tiger to tiger: I skipped past The Life of Pi by Yann Martell – a book which has stayed with me for years with its enigmatic and lyrical prose – and have chosen instead The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo.

43303299. sy475 Helen at She Reads Novels has recently reviewed it and it caught my attention immediately.  For this one we travel to Malaya in the 1930s for another tale blending history, folklore and magical realism into a rich mystery concerning a missing finger.  This book has leapt to the higher echelons of my wish list.  (I knew it sounded familiar when I read Helen’s review: FictionFan also reviewed this one and loved it – despite the magical realism.  That’s high praise indeed.)

The next obvious link is night.  This book is on my Twenty Books of Summer list so will definitely be read soon.  Night Waking by Sarah Moss is set on a fictional island in the Hebrides and has a dual timeline relating the stories of contemporary Anna and also May, whose letters from 200 years ago when she was sent 13034366to the island as a midwife perhaps connect with the skeleton of a baby discovered in Anna’s garden.  May goes on to feature in Moss’ two following novels and I’ve read and loved the third of the trio – Signs for Lost Children.  If Night Waking is anywhere near as good as that one, I’m in for a treat.

Once again ‘night’ is the obvious link to my next choice.  But there is more.  28146611Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is another book that I’ve been wanting to read for ages.  We are now in small-town America with two elderly neighbours who are confronting loneliness and old age and have a special friendship.  Night Waking features the skeleton of a baby.  From babies to grandparents; from birth to death; from skeletons to souls.  I just know I will love this book – I can’t understand why I have still not read it!

My next choice is The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, a book that came to mind so quickly that I felt sure I must have read it.  But I haven’t; I can only assume that it has stayed in my mind from reading other books by Amy Tan.  We have another ‘wife’ in the title, but it 1079968connects to its immediate predecessor through shared themes of friendship and family, old age, death and dying.  The present-day thread of the story occurs in America but we also visit China for the older elements and spend time on another small island – this time off the coast of Shanghai in the 1920s.  Another opportunity to absorb the history, culture and folklore of a society very different to my own.

My last link yet again appears to be an easy one based on the titles: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.  Once again this is a book that came to my attention through a recent blogging review, this time from Jan at What I Think About When I Think About Reading  I was drawn in by Jan’s review and although this time we are in 50144contemporary Japan the themes are again universal: family and friendship, loneliness, loss and death.  Banana Yoshimoto has gone on to write many well-regarded novels.  But Kitchen, published in 1988, was her debut.

I didn’t intend to create a chain of books that I haven’t read and I’m not sure I’d  do it again.  But it has reminded me of several that have been waiting on a list for far too long.  We have travelled from debut to debut via France, the former Yugoslavia, Malaya, the Hebrides, America, China and Japan.  From wife to tiger, to night, to kitchen via a rich variety of cultures exploring the universal themes through marriage, motherhood, birth and babies to friendship, neighbourliness and loneliness and finally grandparents, death and loss.  What a rich chain I’ve created for myself.  All I need to do now is read them!

Next month’s starter book is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – a book I’ve read quite a lot about and yet another that I’m champing at the bit to read!  Sadly, that won’t happen before the next Six Degrees but I’m already into a chain spinning off from it.


51 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from The Paris Wife to …”

  1. I absolutely love Kent Haruf’s writing. I hope you will too. And now you’ve got me wondering about Amy Tan. I’m sure I once read this book too. But maybe not….? You might or might not have got me into trying out Yangsze Choo. Magical realism’s a real no-no for me. Perhaps I’ll go for The Tiger’s Wife instead. Some great ideas here. If only the unread book pile weren’t so tottery already!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Margaret, take a look at Helen’s review of the Choo – and especially at FictionFan’s because she really Does. Not. Like. Magical. Realism. If she liked it, maybe you would too!

      Interesting that you also thought you had read the Amy Tan, just as I did. Makes me wonder if I regard all her books in a similar vein and blend them into one giant amalgam of Chinese immigrants coming to America. And I really don’t believe they are like that.

      As for tottering book piles….. oh yes!


      1. Whoops – re Haruf (whose name, I have now realised, I have been spelling wrongly). So many people have recommended his work and I am absolutely certain I will love it. Maybe we all have such books/authors which for unfathomable reasons we really want to read and yet never quite do so. I will get to him. I Will!!


  2. This is a beautiful and thoughtful chain, Sandra. I like your links very much.

    I’ve just added The Tiger’s Wife to my library wishlist. I’ve read a couple of books set in the former Yugoslavia and dealing with the aftermath of the most recent Balkan War. It’s a conflict that troubled me very much in my early 20s. I recommend The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna if you’re interested in reading more.

    The Kitchen God’s Wife is my favourite of Amy Tan’s books that I’ve read. It’s a wonderful story.

    And I really hope that you read Kitchen one day. It took me years to get around to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that recommendation, Jan. I am very wary that I’m not reading enough international work – either written by non-english authors or about non-english societies. Something I’m intending to rectify 🙂


  3. A beautiful chain, with a couple of favourites there. I read Kitchen by Yoshimoto Banana in class (I studied Japanese literature at university) – it was a nice easy contemporary read, and it is probably my favourite of her books (I’ve stopped reading her latest ones). And I love Sarah Moss generally as a writer – as a mother and former academic/researcher, I could relate all too well to Night Waking, which I found really funny in parts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marina, I think it was your review of Signs for Lost Children which alerted me to Sarah Moss. That was my absolute stand out read from last year. I think her writing is superb. I’m not expecting Night Waking to grab me quite as SfLC did simply because the latter is more relevant to my interests and time of life, but I’m quite sure I’ll enjoy NW nonetheless. And thanks for your thoughts on Kitchen – I’m looking forward to reading that one. It must have been fascinating studying Japanese literature – I am in awe of your wonderful wide-ranging knowledge!


  4. It seems like there is a bit of a tiger theme going on this month. I noticed The Tiger in the Tiger Pit in one of the other chains. Since you didn’t actually include Life of Pi, we don’t really have an overlap though.

    You have included so many tempting books in your thoughtful chain, The Night Tiger in particular is one I intend to read. Kitchen sounds interesting as well, I suppose Banana is not her real name??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, it’s a name she chose to be known by. (I can’t remember her given name.) And you’re right of course, it’s not strictly an overlap. I was carried away by having read a chain immediately before which linked using ‘night’ and there you were with ‘tiger’. I just have to read these now – I’ve sold them all to myself as urgent ‘must-reads’! 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Haruf’s books are wonderful, and we lost a great writer with his recent passing. I find they remind me of Elizabeth Strout’s books as they closely portray people we might never think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Strout is another author I very much want to read and have yet to sample. And I’ve finally realised I’ve been spelling Haruf’s name incorrectly. Hopefully now amended.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Most of these sound excellent and of course The Night Tiger is! Thanks for the link. 😀 You must shove it up your priority list immediately, I insist. And if you don’t, I’ll tell Helen on you… 😱

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I must, I will! Along with umpteen others all deserving the very top places. It’s an exhausting life, thinking about which books to read. No wonder there’s never enough time to read them all 😳 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting chain Sandra with two books I’ve wanted to read for a long time (the Obreht and Haruf) and two I have actually read, though both before I started blogging in 2009 (the Tan and Yoshimoto.) We must have similar tastes!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve heard that before but so far I haven’t encountered a problem. I fear that’s indicative of my lask of antipodean reading more than anything else. Though I am reading Patrick White’s Tree of Man at the moment 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Wow, that’s impressive Sandra. I hope you are finding it worthwhile. It’s a long time since I read that, but it’s regarded as one of his most significant.


  8. Another delicious chain, Sandra – I love the sound of all these books. Fingers crossed that you (and I) get around to reading them sometime. I’ve missed doing my own six degrees posts for the last couple of months, so am determined to pick up again for September – like you, I am already planning how to spring from AGiM! 😀


  9. I loved Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. It was a book club selection and sadly he had died before we read the book. The book haunted me for a long time. The other day I found out a film had been made with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. It is on Netflix and it was very well made with not much deviation from the book. Along that line, we recently had another selection called Bettyville, by George Hodgman which was scheduled to be discussed on July 25, and the author died 5 days earlier. Is the moral, that if your are an author, you don’t want our 16 person book club to read your book?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Goodness Deb, perhaps your book club should restrict choices to already deceased authors? 😂 I’m Glad the Redford/Fonda film is a good interpretation of Haruf’s book. But I shall read the book before being tempted. (Hope all is well with you, we must catch up!) 🙂


      1. I have you on my long list of neglected friends. My sweet friend who was my attorney for business and my late mother’s estate (of which I am the executrix) fell downstairs on her head and died 6 days later never coming out of the coma. Unfortunately, I had to get another attorney to handle the estate, and I lost my uncle all around the same time. My family has been clearing, cleaning and redecorating Mum’s house and also working on making the B&B spiffy. Her house just sold and I was sure everything would be hunky dory. How delusional I am! I’ll contact you as soon as I sort out what I can.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Deb, I’m so sorry, what a time you are having. I also have a list of neglected friends. We’ll be in touch when we can, no worries 🙂 I’ll be thinking of you as you navigate these rocky times x


  10. Well, Sandra, I have mulled over your list- there’s a definite theme to it and not one which appeals to me at present! We read Paris Wife for book group and I enjoyed that; we also read Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, which didn’t particularly appeal to me, although I admired the prose. I’m tempted to put Sarah Moss on my list, as i’m drawn to the northern Isles, and we’re reading Adam Nicolson’s Sea Room for book group this month- a wonderful hymn of praise to the Shiant islands, beautifully written- and so a fictional island in the Hebrides has my interest. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would agree, Pat, these are not books which make me think of you and your reading preferences. I am keen to read Sea Room, so I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I think you would admire Sarah Moss as a writer. I can’t vouch for Night Waking being the choice of her books for you, as I’ve not yet read it. Signs for Lost Children was wonderful. xx


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