Six Degrees of Separation – from It to Mrs Hemingway #6Degrees

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best. It works like this: each month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. 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.

This month we’re starting with Stephen King’s It which I haven’t read and have absolutely no intention of doing so. Far too cowardly!

I know very little about King’s novel but the blurb tells me it’s set in Maine which gives me the opportunity to scuttle quickly back into my comfort zone. J. Courtenay Sullivan’s novel Maine has a New England summer home setting and family secrets to reveal, both favorites for me.

Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum is one of the best family secrets novels I’ve read. A multitude of clues are spilled finally revealing what’s been puzzling Ruby Lennox for much of her life. Atkinson’s beautiful structured, often very funny novel won her the Whitbread Book of the Year award back in 1995 before it became the Costa.

The eponymous Cathy from Anna Stothard’s The Museum of Cathy is also keeping secrets, this time from her fiancé. The arrival of a package with no name or note attached threatens to unravel her new life in this nicely taut novel which has some gorgeous descriptions of the natural world.

The Museum of Cathy is set in Berlin leading me to Gail Jones’ A Guide to Berlin in which six people – all Nabokov aficionados, all visitors to the city – gather together to discuss the work of their literary hero but begin by telling their own stories.

Jones is also the author of Sixty Lights about a woman’s fascination with the newly emerging photographic technology which leads me to William Boyd’s Sweet Caress, an homage to woman photographers. It follows the life of Amory Clay from snapping socialites to documenting war in a career spanning much of the twentieth century. You could think of it as the female equivalent to Any Human Heart if you’re a Boyd fan.

In his novel’s acknowledgements Boyd mentions the war photographer Martha Gellhorn, one of the three wives of Ernest Hemingway whose stories were fictionalised in Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway. I put off reading Wood’s novel for some time owing to my Hemingway antipathy but enjoyed it very much.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from a fraught New England summer holiday to the South of France in the 1920s, equally fraught at times. Part of the fun of this meme is comparing the very different routes other bloggers take from each month’s starting point. If you’re interested, you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #6Degrees, check out the links over at Kate’s blog or perhaps even join in.

25 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – from It to Mrs Hemingway #6Degrees”

  1. It’s always fun to see the ingenuity of the threads in these posts. The W. Boyd is the only one here I’ve read, and i did post a while back on The Paris Wife, about Hemingway’s first wife. Not a particularly appealing character, I agree, but this novel at least gave a bit of balance to the caricature of him that’s prevalent. He did have some good points, it seems. I like the sound of A Guide to Berlin: I know the city quite well, and have a soft spot for Nabokov…

    1. One of the joys of this meme is tracing the very different routes everyone takes.

      I think you’d probably like A Guide to Berlin, then. I’m sure I missed many of the Nabakov allusions. I’ve not read The Paris Wife. I think the two novels may have come out around the same time and I plumped for Mrs Hemingway. Perhaps I should give it a try.

  2. Love your links. I’ve been so busy, I’ve got out of sync with this meme – must get back into it next month as it’s my favourite. You’ve also reminded me I have Mrs Hemingway still on my shelves to read.

  3. I am glad you scuttled away from ‘IT’, Susan. The book didn’t let me sleep for so many and I hated myself for reading such a book. ‘A Guide to Berlin’ sounds intriguing. I will add it to my list. Thank you. 🙂

    1. I agree with you there. This one stretches the brain a little and it’s always a joy to see what other bloggers come up with. The only other meme I have a weakness for is the annual book bingo.

    1. Excellent! I wasn’t quite so keen on the Wood, although I think I know why you have it, but the other three come heartily recommended. The Sullivan would make a great piece of holiday reading.

  4. It’s always so interesting how different everyone’s chains are. I don’t like fictionalised biography of real people usually, but I trust you so maybe I’ll give Mrs Hemingway a try…

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