Six Degrees of Separation: from The Poisonwood Bible to 84 Charing Cross Road

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme hosted by Kate on her blog Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month, a book is chosen as a starting point. Players then each create their own chain, linking the first book six others. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the others on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. And from what I can gather, the links can be a tenuous and tangential as you like!

I have for a while now very much enjoyed reading various contributions to this  project and thought it was about time I had a go at producing my own list, so here goes.

This month’s starting point is Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. Not one I have yet read, but I have always been meaning to have a look at it and I have it waiting in my current pile of library books.

Another book with poison in its title is Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers. I was introduced to DLS by Hub when we first met, over 25 years ago, so her books have a very special place in my heart. We would often listen to audio versions together, while each working on our own hobbies. Strong Poison is one of my favourites because it is where Sayers’ famous sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey meets and falls in love with Harriet Vane and the pair of them set off through a series of books developing their relationship and solving crimes along the way.

Thinking about romantic couples solving crimes together took me to A S Byatt’s Possession. This is the story of two modern day academics who investigate a possible previously unknown love story between two well known Victorian poets.

My most recent encounter with A S Byatt has been to read her introduction to Vintage’s latest edition of Iris Murdoch’s The Bell.  I am following Liz Dexter’s Iris Murdoch Readalong – having not read any of Murdoch’s books previously, this seemed like, and definitely is, an excellent way to familiarise myself with her work.

A key theme in The Bell is different facets of love, and in particular homosexual love. Another book which explores this theme beautifully and tenderly is Maurice by E M Forster.

The Merchant Ivory production of Maurice is a gorgeous example of that film genre. Perhaps my favourite Merchant Ivory film, though, is The Remains of the Day, which brings to the big screen Kazuro Ishiguro’s novel of the same name. I was reminded of this touching and tragic book when listening recently to Radio 4’s brilliant programme A Good Read, in which two guests join presenter Harriett Gilbert to discuss three books they recommend. This book was the choice of author Kit de Waal.

Anthony Hopkins was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Stevens the butler in The Remains of the Day. He has played many memorable parts over the years which have literary connections and I was tempted for my last link in the chain to home in on his portrayal of C S Lewis and thus pick up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But instead I am plumping for 84 Charing Cross Road (in the film, Hopkins plays English bookseller Frank Doyle). I am a sucker for books about books and Helene Hanff’s novel is a captivating read, so I am very happy to be finishing my chain with such a gem. 🙂

35 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from The Poisonwood Bible to 84 Charing Cross Road

  1. madamebibilophile says:

    It’s always so interesting to see where everyone’s chains go. Your chain is interesting to me because for once I’ve actually read all the books in someone’s chain – except the starting book itself. I would never have put these books together but your links make total sense!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gallivanta says:

    What a wonderful idea. I often find myself following trails like this when I am ‘researching’ things on the internet. I haven’t read any of the books in your chain but your mention of ‘The Remains of the Day’ brought to mind the news that the Nobel Prize for Literature will not be announced in 2018 https://www.politico.eu/article/nobel-sex-scandal-2018-prize-for-literature-delayed-over/ Now there is surely a book in that story! And a film, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sandra says:

    Yay! Great to have you joining in, Liz! And what a brilliant chain. Your final two choices are absolute favourites of mine and both are begging for a re-read. One day! The Poisonwood Bible… as Claire says, it’s everywhere at the moment, including on my reserve list at the library. A S Bryant is an author who seems to slip through my hands on a regular basis. I almost get to picking up one of her books and somehow it never happens. I love the Harriet Vane/Lord Wimsey chemistry in the old tv series but I’ve never read anything featuring them. Sadly, I can’t see it happening soon, but I do love those special books, films, places… those things which forge the connections between us and our special people. I shall be thinking now about whether B & I share any books like that 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Clanmother says:

    A wonderful collection that inspires me to take the six step journey. On the bus from Inverness to Perth. Then Perth to Glasgow then home. I am enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way while listening to “The Vikings” by Robert Ferguson

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz says:

      Thank you Becky and yes, you should definitely give it a go! Your current read sounds eminently suitable. We hope you have all had a wonderful holiday and wish you a calm and safe trip home xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ste J says:

    Nicely done, I still need to read Kingsolver, she seems very popular. The Remains of the Day is a wonderful book, looking forward to catching the film one day, although it just won’t be as good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Clare Pooley says:

    I loved your list, Liz. (I’m glad I don’t need to read that piece of alliteration out loud!) I haven’t read anything by Barbara Kingsolver or A S Byatt. I also haven’t read 84 Charing Cross Road either. Forster, yes – his writing is wonderful; Murdoch, yes though not so keen on her books and DLS, yes – adore all the books.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. valeriedavies says:

    Oh Liz, what a wonderful discussion about so many of my favourite reads, from The Poisonwood Bible to 84 Charing Cross road… If you enjoy Iris Murdoch, you’ll probably love A Severed Head, very funny, and An Unofficial Rose, in which I learned so many names of roses… beautiful book ( I interviewed Iris Murdoch when I was working as a journalist in Hongkong) – the only one I haven’t read on your list is the AS Byatt one, but absolutely loved The Poisonwood Bible… Dorothy Sayers I discovered reading her book about Easter – Who moved the Stone, and she wrote a coruscatingly angry poem about Irish treachery during WW2…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sheila says:

    I love the Poisonwood Bible and Barbara Kingsolver. I haven’t read the other books you mentioned but enjoyed the movies. The 84 Charing Cross Road one keeps popping up – I’ll have to add it to my list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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