Six Degrees of Separation: from What I Loved to …

Six Degrees has come around already.  It only seems a week or so ago that I was making the chain for June but that’s because I was late in June.  Remarkably, I am on time for July!

Six Degrees of Separation is organised by Kate and the background can be found here.

This month we begin with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.   Set in New York and described as ‘intense’, it tells the story of two men and their families in the later decades of the twentieth century.  It ought to be a book which attracts me but I can’t see myself reading this one.  The book is narrated by art historian, Leo, one of the two main characters in the story.  It is the name ‘Leo’ which sets my chain in motion.

Tim Pears wrote a trilogy of books also covering several decades in which the main character is named Leo. We first meet him as a young boy in 1911, living with his family as tenants on a large country estate in the West Country where his father works the land and in particular works with horses.  The Horseman is the first of the trilogy.  I was captivated by this book in particular but really by all three, and read them all back-to-back.  They remain in my head now.  Hopefully there will be a post about the trilogy soon.

The West Country Trilogy, as the books are collectively known, led me easily to my next link.  Long Summer Day is the first in another trilogy set in the West Country, written by R F Delderfield.  The trilogy itself is known as A Horseman Riding By.  It begins about a decade before Pears’ books and is also about a country estate in the first half of the last century.  I very much enjoyed both series but there is a world of difference between the two writers and their aims.  They are chalk and cheese in style and it’s inappropriate to compare them.

A single, long summer day is what we get from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I’ve read this book twice but I’m planning a third reading having read an article (courtesy of one of Paula’s excellent Winding Up the Week posts) which suggests that Mrs Dalloway was at the time of this particular day recently recovered from the Spanish flu – the pandemic of 1918-1920.  Will my interpretation differ this time around, armed with that awareness and given our present crisis?

I began to realise that in keeping with the title of our starter book, I have been thinking about books that I love. Whilst I can’t say that I love Mrs Dalloway, I do love The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, which is cleverly based on Woolf and Mrs Dalloway and which in turn became a wonderful film.  In the film of The Hours Clarissa Dalloway was played by Meryl Streep.  There is a Clarissa in another of my favourite series which has also been adapted, this time for television and radio.

Clary was always my favourite of the Cazalet girls in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s 5-book series, The Cazalet Chronicles. In the first book, Clary is a diffident young girl but already with aspirations to be a writer. My choice of book for the chain is the final one in the series, All Change, which takes place some decades after the war-time years of the previous four.  In this final book, Clary has grown up and has children of her own and finally the writing career she dreamt of.

In the BBC Radio dramatization she is voiced by Georgia Groome – who looks exactly as I would expect Clary to look.  (Not that it matters in radio!)  A tv adaptation of the earliest novels was made some years ago.  I would love to see the whole series adapted and should that happen, Georgia Groome would be perfect for the role on tv.

Which brings me to my next much-loved book. Georgia is the link as it is the setting for Alice Walker’s wonderful The Colour Purple. There is far too much to say about this book;  I should probably read it yet again and write a proper post about it but for now I’ll restrict myself to mentioning that it’s an epistolary novel – one of my favourite forms.

At this point I was stunned that I hadn’t seen the final link in the chain coming but I truly hadn’t.  Isn’t it satisfying to be surprised by such a neat and tidy final link!

Clarissa by Samuel Richardson is also an epistolary novel with the ideal heroine – in name at least.  It’s the only book in my chain that I haven’t read (starter notwithstanding).  Am I tempted?  At more than 1500 pages, I think not, though who knows…

My chain this month has been a complete surprise to me and has focussed on things that I love: favourite books, the West Country and summer. But it’s also linked by names: from Leos to Clarissas via Georgia and back to Clarissa.  And I never anticipated any of them! It’s been great fun putting it together. Rather less fun battling Block Editor…

Next month’s start book is How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell.

Having published this, I have suddenly realised I have an extra book in the chain! No idea how that happened but I’m sure no one will notice…

67 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from What I Loved to …”

  1. Oh, every one of the responses to this meme in the last day or two has been witty and/or memorable, and this is no exception! I doubt that I’ll ever get round to the Richardson but the Woolf would tempt if I had a copy to hand and I enjoyed but didn’t get any of the nuances of the film of The Hours. So much to catch up on! 🙂

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    1. Chris, I share your pain! Having just finished a tour of these posts I feel overwhelmed by all the additional books that I now feel I simply must find time to read! 😂 No doubt there’s an acronym for this particular malaise! 😉

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  2. I love epistolary novels, too. I’ve not read Clarissa but in my undergraduate days I did read Pamela, which is a more sensible 400-500 pages (in my memory), so if you’re keen to try Richardson I’d say go for that one instead!

    So many people have recommended the Cazalet Chronicles. I even have the first two books. Not sure what I’m waiting for…

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    1. That’s a good idea, Rebecca; I’ll consider Pamela. As for the Cazalets – I’m not sure they’re a good fit for you. I can see you admiring the writing but finding the story too cloying. Though I’d love to be proved wrong!

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      1. Hmm, all I can do is try the first book and see what I think! These were both from the free bookshop, so it’s not a problem to take them back there when it opens, or put them in the Little Free Library, if I find that I don’t like the series. (I do recall that I’ve DNFed a collection of Howard’s short stories.)

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        1. I can’t get on with any of her other work including her autobiography. You will know quickly whether they are the books for you. And if not – I shall brace myself for one of your pithy one-liners as they are dispatched to the DNF pile! 😄

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  3. Chain perfection, Sandra, and that’s official! I love that Mrs D cover. And I adore The Hours – must get that out again some time. Delderfield, Howard – gorgeous blasts from the past. And like you, I absolutely must read The Color Purple again soon. 😀

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  4. You sent me right back to a china shop in Ealing – my last job before we had the children – the old lady who worked there suggested RE Delderfield and I enjoyed them. More recently I really enjoyed the Cazalet chronicles, serialised on Radio 4 and I started downloading on my Kindle. Clary was my favourite too, but I haven’t read ‘All Change’ yet.

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    1. I love that image, Janet – a china shop in Ealing! All Change was written a long while after the original 4 as I’m sure you know, and is often cited as being of a lower standard. I didn’t find it so. It’s a rare treat to have an extra book added to a hughly successful series which augments rather than detracts from the original reading experience 😊

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  5. I have Richardson’s Clarissa on my own reading list, but I reckon it will be a while before I get to it, as the audio version I found clocks in at around 100 hours, and my current attention span is terrible. I may try the Tim Pears trillogy sometime though, as I’ve seen you mention them before, and think I may enjoy them. I look forward to your review.

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    1. I will review the Pears’ trilogy, Alyson. They won’t be books for everyone but they have leapt to the top shelf for me (figuratively) as books which have left a deep impression. As for Clarissa, I most certainly couldn’t face an audio version – my attention levels on audio are always low. I have been listening to Clare Tomalin’s biography of Dickens forever, it seems, and I’m still only 60% through. The strange thing that I’m enjoying it, I just don’t commit to audio regualarly enough.

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  6. What a lovely chain, Sandra. I have the first book in the Tim Pears trilogy ready to start soon, so I’m pleased to hear you liked it. I’ve also read the first two books in the Horseman Riding By trilogy and the first two Cazalet novels – I must continue with both of those series soon! A few years ago I took part in a Clarissa readalong and enjoyed it, but I’m not sure that it was really worth the time and effort.

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    1. Thank you, Helen 😊 No, I don’t think I’ll attempting Clarissa any time soon. Just too long! In my opinion, the 3rd book in Delderfield’s trilogy is the weakest which is not to say don’t read it but I found it disappointing compared with what came before. All the Cazalet books are wonderful! As for the Pears’ trilogy – I adored it and thought the first book was the best. But it’s most definitely not for everyone. I will (eventually) get a full review out and I’ll also look forward to your thoughts when you’ve read The Horseman.

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    1. EJH was a well-respected novelist who never quite got the attention she deserved in my view. That said, although I adore all 5 Cazalet novels, I have really struggled with her other books. They seem to me to be quite different in tone and subject and the characters seem unlikeable. I struggled equally with her biography, Slipstream. Most odd! I mention this because if you do follow up on her, be aware that although her books always focus on relationships, there is a clear distinction between the Cazalets and all else. For me at least!

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      1. Thanks for the clarification. I checked with our online library service, and her books aren’t available. Someday, when libraries are truly open and interlibrary loan is available, I’ll try again. I think I’ll stick with the Cazelet novels.

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    1. I’ve seen the film of The Colour Purple too. One of those rare occasions when I didn’t feel slightly cheated by the film, having read the book first. Thanks for popping by, Shelleyrae!

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  7. I’m pretty horrified that the only one I have read of your selection is The Color Purple, and that was many years ago,so deserves a re-read. I really must participate in this challenge. ‘Challenge’ seems exactly the right way to describe it – thought-provoking and fun. I have two books in my chain already …

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    1. I’m delighted that you’re planning to join in, Margaret! But don’t be horrified; I read other people’s chains and find the same thing – I’ve scarcely read any of the titles mentioned! You can create a chain entirely of books that you haven’t read, if you so wish: books you’ve heard about and maybe want to try etc. It’s just a fun way of chatting and thinking about books. And it’s very bad for one’s ‘to be read’ list… Though I think I recall that you are not a list person so you should be safe! 😂

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    1. Thanks, Marg! Yes, this one was particularly surprising! I never know where I’m going with it from one book to the next but often the chain circles around to the beginning again. This one was different in that respect and very indulgent. Nothing like revisiting old favourites, even if just in my head!

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  8. I’m looking forward to your review of your third reading of Mrs Dalloway. As you know, it’s a book that niggles at me! Interestingly, I hated Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Clarissa in The Hours for all the same reasons I hated Woolf’s Clarissa. I loved the book and everyone else in the film, though.

    I haven’t read Richardson’s Clarissa either, yet. I loved the tv adaptation in the early 90s. Sean Bean was a scurrilous Lovelace.

    I’ve just ordered Delderfield’s trilogy thanks to you mentioning it here. I dimly remember the series with Nigel Havers – one of those I was technically too young to watch but, because my mum and older sister watched it, I could sit viewing quietly past my bedtime, unnoticed!

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    1. I hadn’t realised there was an adaptation of Clarissa – another link for my chain! And anything with Sean Bean is worth a watch 😉 And equally the Delderfield books! They would make great tv! I hope you enjoy the books, Jan. Very quick and easy reading – not literary, not deep, but gentle, nostalgic… Good for when the situation calls for nothing too demanding. So possibly a good time to get lost in them right now!

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  9. Well, what a chain Sandra- with so many reminders of books read and , dare I say it, forgotten. The Delderfield series is one I do remember and loved, and ought to re-visit, as I haven’t thought of comparing it to the Tim Pears trilogy. But do I want to do that really? Delderfield made a great impression upon me when I first read them, goodness knows how many years ago. Sometimes memories are best left where they are.
    I’m afraid the Cazalet books didn’t do it for me- I read one and donated the lot to charity, so hopefully made someone’s day!
    As a footnote- I can’t watch Meryl Streep in anything- so to see her trying to play Mrs Dalloway in a book I enjoyed would be sacrilege!

    xxx

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    1. Exactly, Pat – I have no wish to compare the two trilogies; they really are so different in style and I enjoyed them both for what they are. I would not expect the Cazalets to be your type of book. Let’s hope they found a loving home! And you made me laugh about Meryl Streep – Bernie can’t stand her either! 😄 xxx

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  10. You reminded me that I would like to read The Colour Purple. I loved the adaptation. Also, I loved The Hours with Meryl Streep, but not sure I need to read the book as well. Good to see another 6 degrees from you, I always enjoy your chains. 😀 Since I post so little (averaging 3 posts per month at the moment) I’ve decided not to do 6 degrees every month, but I might join in next month again.

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    1. As you know, I seem to post in fits and starts: a rush of posts and then annoyingly empty stretches. I’m doing quite well at the moment. (Which has probably jinxed things!) I do recommend The Colour Purple – such a powerful book and I now want to pick it up and begin all over again. I’ll look forward to your next chain, Stargazer, whenever you feel like diving in again 😊

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        1. I almost asked you whether it had pictures but felt that it might be misconstrued. Knowing what wonderful, illustrated books you have, I was imagining a sumptuous illustrated volume. And perhaps I was right! 😃

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  11. I didn’t know that about “Mrs. Dalloway” and the Spanish flu. I only focused on the aftermath of the War and didn’t think about it. I will reread it and keep that in mind. I recently reread “To The Lighthouse” and felt that I finally connected with it. I am writing today or tomorrow about my reread of “The Shell Seekers” which I read maybe 40 years ago and how it is now a completely different story for me.

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    1. I will be fascinated to hear your thoughts now on The Shell Seekers, Elizabeth. And you echo my thoughts re Mrs Dalloway. I knew she had been ill of course but knowing she was recovering from Spanish flu – and also keeping in mind that Woolf’s audience at the time would have immediately realised this – is going to make a re-read very interesting. I planned to read To the Lighthouse this summer but I suspect I won’t get to it. So once again, hearing about how you managed to connect to it this time around will be very interesting if you decide to post about that book too 😊

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  12. Good heavens! Imagine you actually posting this on the day! See? Miracles *can* happen! 😉 Intriguing chain and I loved your links through names. Haven’t read any but Mrs Dalloway, and least said about it the better… 😉

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    1. Ha ha! Yes, it is quite a triumph! And a little worrying as generally, when things start settling down on the blog, something happens and I drop off the blogosphere for weeks. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen! Poor Mrs D, I feel quite sorry for her now, knowing what scant regard you have for her 😄 I shall do my utmost to boost her up when her turn comes!

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  13. Wonderful! We must have an R.F. Delderfeild month! I LOVED his books in the 70s. To Serve Them All My Days, the God is an Englishman series, the Avenue! They have absolutely dreadful new black/white photo covers here–horrible. Public school boys dressed like urchins on the cover of To Serve Them–ridiculous.

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    1. What a good idea! I have only read the trilogy I mention in this post so there are plenty more to choose from. I’m wary of committing to organise it though because my track record is poor when it comes to blogging regularly. But perhaps you could be persuaded? 😉

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  14. Some of my favourite books here, but I prefer Mrs Dalloway to The Hours. . . I’ve had All Change waiting to be read for a few years but am afraid it’s not going to be as brilliant as I remember the rest of the series – is it?

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    1. There was much public muttering at the time that All Change was published, the general consensus being that it is not as good as the four originals. I chose to reread those in order and then move immediately on to All Change. (Any excuse to read them!) Personally I enjoyed it as much as the others, but with full awareness that it wouldn’t be quite the same. It’s fair to say that if I were to order the books in terms of quality, it wouldn’t be in the top half but that certainly doesn’t make it bad. Important to remember I think, that there was almost 20 years between books 1 – 4 and that final one; that Howard wrote it in just a year and was in her very late 80s by then. It was her final novel. And of course, all the characters are now very much older too. My guess is that if you read it as a standalone you should be prepared for it not being as magical as the earlier books but you will at least know how she envisaged the future for her characters. It’s an easy read and might be nice to round off the series! (Sorry – I’ve written an essay in reply to a two-word question! 😆 )

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      1. I’ll refresh myself with the series first, a good idea. I always like finding out how an author sees their characters developing – thank you for your full answer!

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  15. No, I would not have noticed, as I was too busy enjoying this post. There is one I should reread (Color Purple) and one I don’t think I’ve read but now am curious (Mrs. Dalloway). Thanks, as always, for these fascinating chains.

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