Six Degrees of Separation: from Normal People to …

For the last couple of months I have created a chain for Kate’s Six Degrees of Separation but not managed to post it.  There is a risk of another month passing in the same manner.  So without further ado, here is my chain for June.  The background to Six Degrees can be found here.

I was careful to avoid reading anyone else’s chain before mine was complete and as usual, I marvelled at the variety and the creativity of the contributors.  Mine had no intentional themes, though it does circle around quite neatly which is always satisfying.

The starting point for this month is Sally Rooney’s award-winning novel Normal People  (2018).  I have not read Normal People nor watched the recent tv adaptation.  Just never got around to either of them which probably tells me all I need to know.  Loathe as I am to admit it, I suspect I’m a generation too far removed from the world Sally Rooney depicts.  But I had no problem with my first link: from Normal People to Ordinary People.

It would seem that I’m still hung up on the generation gap.  My link is not to the more recent book of this name by Diana Evans; I am thinking of Ordinary People by Judith Guest (1976).  Normal People is Sally Rooney’s second novel; Ordinary People was Judith Guest’s debut but as with Rooney’s book, it was a sensation when published and spawned an award-winning film.  Guest’s book is a portrait of an affluent American family in the aftermath of tragedy.  I read it; I watched the film.  I failed to understand the purpose of either.  It was all so depressing.  This is what I remember of it, though it has done well to remain in my head for this long so it must have given me something more at the time.

KerrFrom one Judith to another.  I read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (1971) by the wonderful Judith Kerr last year, not long after she died.  My children grew up with The Tiger Who Came to Tea but I knew nothing of Judith’s background.  She wrote Pink Rabbit as a way of telling her life story to her own children.  Judith and her family were forced to flee Nazi Germany ahead of her father’s arrest and Pink Rabbit tells of their flight and their nomadic life before they finally settled in London.  Judith tells the story very much from the perspective of her young self, who was protected from the true horrors by her parents.  To her at the time, it was for the most part an adventure.

Two other writers came immediately came to mind who also sadly died early in 2019 and could thus become my next link.  Which one to choose?   Rosamund Pilcher – a much-loved Cornishwoman whose writings continue to boost the local coffers?  Or the Pulitzer-winning American poet, Mary Oliver?  It has to be Mary because I read her poetry regularly and she does provide the strap line for A Corner of Cornwall.   (It’s been a while since I indulged in a Pilcher novel.)  From Mary’s poetry collections, I choose Dream Work (1994), simply because it’s the one I’m picking up most often, but it could have been any one of her collections.  She had a remarkable life too and I know an authorised biography is in the offing.

From one Mary to another – and also to alleviate my guilt at passing over a Cornish writer on the previous link – Mary Wesley had a strong connection to Cornwall and the West Country which forms the setting for a number of her books.  Wild Mary (2004) is her authorised biography, written by Patrick Marnham.  She certainly led a colourful and complicated life!  The blurb on the back of my copy of the biography describes Mary as ‘a remarkable woman’ which leads me to my next link.  The title of Sonia Purcell’s book, A Woman of No Importance (2019) belies the very remarkable life of its subject.  The first woman to go undercover for the SOE in war-torn France, Virginia Hall preferred to be under the radar throughout her life but her accomplishments were impressive despite her dislike of praise.  She was an extraordinary woman.  I read A Woman of No Importance late last year; as a biography it will stay with me for a long time.

I enjoy biographies and diaries – including fictionalised ones – but I have not read my final choice which surprises me because I have read several books by this author.  Diary of an Ordinary Woman (2003) by Margaret Forster is the edited ‘diary’ of Millicent King – a fictional everyday woman whose life spanned the twentieth century.  I can’t understand why I’ve never read this one; I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Forster.  I’m waiting for my copy to arrive now and will remedy the omission very soon.  It seems the perfect final link in the chain.

I’ve moved from normal, ordinary people to remarkable, extraordinary women and then to an ordinary one.  Though really, are we not each of us extraordinary in our own ways?

Next month, when I might even manage to publish on time,  we start with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.

 

 

 

 

57 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from Normal People to …”

  1. This is a wonderful chain, Sandra – thank goodness you decided to post it! Your thoughts on each of these brilliant authors are spot on and I have added the whole lot to my TBR list. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you Sandra: we are all extraordinary in our own ways. How would our lives read, were they to be written?
    You have chosen some extraordinary books too- although I’m only familiar with half of them. Life is just too short, isn’t it.xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The extraordinary is everywhere, don’t you agree, Pat. We need only look in the right way. As for books and time… If I did nothing but read from morning til night there would still be too many books! xxx

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  3. I started watching Normal People and quickly realised it was not for me. I’m puzzled as to why it’s so popular, I don’t even think I would have liked it had I been 30 or 40 years younger.

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  4. I really enjoyed your journey from normal to ordinary, great associations! Can’t believe you did chains the previous months without posting. To me posting is the easy part, it’s the writing of the posts I struggle with 🙂

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    1. I think if I had written those posts they would have been published but I only managed to note down the books with no padding so they would have been very tedious posts! One-word connections! Now I think about it though, maybe that’s not such a bad idea! 😉

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  5. I love your chain and the way it all connects up so beautifully. I read Diary of an Ordinary Woman thinking it was a real diary until I got about halfway and began to think this cannot be true – so many things happen to this woman – and realised it was fiction! Anyway, I enjoyed it immensely – as I have all of her other books of hers that I’ve read. 🙂

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    1. That’s encouraging, Margaret, I’m looking forward to reading this one. My favourite from Margaret Forster is Ladies Maid but I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve read from her.

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  6. Normal People didn’t initially appeal. Am not into dramas these days as they generally portray domestic misery, but so much was lavished on the series that I eventually checked it out. And got immediately hooked – line and sinker! Can’t guarantee it will appeal to you, my dear friend, but will be interested to hear… xx

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  7. I love reading these chain links, as they all go in such different directions. I have a feeling you are not missing much with Normal People, as I’ve read the (very long) blurb, and a couple of reviews, and the characters sound more like Annoying People than Normal.

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  8. I was so tempted to start my chain with Ordinary People, but as I’d already riffed on the similarity to Diana Evans’s book in a quick blog post on titles, I abstained. You’ve chosen some lesser-known gems worth highlighting, and kept up your theme admirably. Dream Work is my favourite collection by Oliver. Great to hear about the biography in the works.

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  9. I would like to read the Mary Wesley biography. I read Jumping the Queue and The Chamomile Lawn in the 80s and loved them.

    When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit was one of my favourite books as a child. I borrowed it repeatedly from the library. I loved how bold Anna was, and how much love was in her family, despite the danger their lives were in.

    I didn’t realise the film Ordinary People was based on a book. I was a teenager when I watched it on video, taped from the tv, and found Conrad’s story sad in the romantic way teenage girls often find complicated young men sad. I would watch it so that I could cry! I really liked Judd Hirsch’s performance as the psychiatrist. I wonder what I would make of it now.

    A very interesting chain, Sandra.

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    1. The Wesley biography is interesting, if rather dense in content. She had a fascinating and quite sad life. I think she would have been quite fearsome in her time. I have Jumping the Queue here now. It’s one of the few that I didn’t read back in the day and I’m waiting at the moment to feel in the right frame of mind for it. Fascinating that you remember Ordinary People in its film guise! I can absolutely see why you would watch it to cry!

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  10. I loved When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit, and like you, I’m always one for a Margaret Forster. The Purnell looks interesting – and would you believe I’ve never read any Mary Oliver? To be remedied. However, I am the only other person in England who hasn’t yet read or seen Normal People. To do Catch up, or not to do Catch Up? Only I can decide …

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    1. Fear not, Margaret, I have not watched Normal People nor read Normal People and I don’t anticipate doing either soon. So you can relax! Although if you do watch/read it, you will at least know what everyone is tlaking about. Unlike me.

      Mary Oliver is such an accessible poet. Her works are mostly based in nature or around incidents in her life. The simplest of poems, but they touch millions. You would very quickly know if her work is for you. Further up this chain, Rebecca (whose blog I know you read) agrees with my choice of Dream Work. A slim volume too. So a possible place to dip in a toe…

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  11. Well done for posting your chain! I haven’t read a single one of them, I fear, so have nothing terribly insightful or inelligent to say (did I hear someone say, when did you ever??? 😖). But I enjoyed reading about them and getting a glimpse into how your mind works… 😀

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  12. Hi Sandra, haven’t commented for a long time but have read your posts and as ever you are very eloquent and interesting. I felt moved to say something about Normal People as I have been given it and have been feeling quite ambivalent about it – – now I must give it a go if only to see if all the comments here reflect my take on it! Wish me luck!

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  13. An interesting list Sandra – I haven’t read Judith Kerr but I saw a great documentary about her fairly recently. I do remember reading a few Mary Wesley books but ‘Jumping the Queue’ stayed with me for a while.

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    1. I’ll look out for the Judith Kerr documentary, Andrea. Jumping the Queue is one of the few Wesley books I haven’t read. I’ve recently acquired a copy and plan to read it soon.

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  14. I’ll comment on your latest post soon , Sandra. I just want to let you know I can’t see any of the photos, nor comment on your post. Sorry! 😦 Not a great advert for Block Editor, which is terrifying me so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh! This is so frustrating! But thank you, Margaret, for pointing out the issues. (And thank you, thank you for making such a sensitive choice of which post to leave your comment.) So the comments issue I understand. It explains why comments were still possible on the post where I DIDN’T want comments! I now know that when changing settings and it says ‘saved for future posts’, future posts does not include those which are scheduled. I did remember to change that setting for this post but not until after it had been scheduled. Grrrrr! But I’m stumped on the photograph problem. I may delete that post and try again. I assume that you regularly read posts on other blogs which are now using block editor and that you don’t have this problem? There’s one possibility which occurs to me but will take a while to resolve. Deep sigh….. x

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  15. What a lovely chain, full of titles I’ve heard of, but somehow missed out on. I’ve added the Forster to my wish-list. I do like her writing, usually. I do like the way you used it to bring the chain back round to the beginning, very neat.

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