Six Degrees of Separation – from The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to Prodigal Summer #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.

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This month we’re starting with Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, yet another book I haven’t read but I know it’s set in Botswana and that’s its author was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia).

As was Petina Gappah, author of The Book of Memory in which a young black albino woman tells her story from the prison in which she’s detained for a brutal murder she insists she didn’t commit.

The title of which leads me to Margaret Forster’s The Memory Box about a woman whose mother died when she was a baby leaving her a box of mementos – clues as to who her mother really was. Naturally, dark secrets are revealed

Randal Keynes’ Annie’s Box is the story of Charles Darwin’s eldest daughter who died aged ten. The eponymous box contains keepsakes from Annie’s short life, shedding light on Darwin, his work and his family.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s first novel, The Signature of All Things, tells the story of Alma Whittaker, a botanist, and her relationship with Alfred Russel Wallace who published a paper on evolutionary theory with Darwin in 1858. While Whittaker was a figment of Gilbert’s imagination, Wallace was not, although his achievement has been eclipsed by Darwin’s reputation.

Gilbert wrote a book about her struggle to accept the idea of marriage despite being deeply in love with her partner. Ann Patchett wrote of a similar experience in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage which is very much more than that. It’s made up of a set of essays, an album of vivid snapshots of Patchett’s life and how she sets about her work as well how she came to finally marry.

Patchett wrote what you might call an eco-novel, State of Wonder, set largely in the Amazonian rainforest. Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer could also fall into that bracket. It follows a park ranger, a recently widowed entomologist and an old man hoping to find a way to bring an extinct American Chestnut tree back to life. Not one of her best for me – I preferred The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven – but worth a read.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from a Zimbabwean prison to small-town Appalachia. 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.

29 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – from The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to Prodigal Summer #6Degrees

    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Oh, I loved the Gappah and the Patchett is great, particularly on writing. I’ve only read four. The others are dredged up from my bookseller/reviews editor memory which is still working… for now!

      Reply
    2. Melinda Tognini

      I confess I haven’t read any of these either, but after reading this chain, I want to read them all, particularly Annie’s Box and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

      Reply
  1. Kate W

    Annie’s Box is one that I’ll have to check out – sounds interesting.

    The Signature of All Things was a revelation for me – I detested Eat Pray Love and had sworn off Gilbert… at the urging of a friend (which included a text message out of the blue saying ‘Signature of All Things is $1 on Kindle today!), I read it and loved it – it’s a book I think about often. The descriptions of the mosses – exquisite.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I know what you mean about Eat, Pray, Love which was painfully icky but I’m glad you decided to read Signature which showed an entirely different side to her writing.

      Reply
  2. Poppy Peacock

    Love this meme… just polishing my attempt for this month so like seeing the routes others go I’ve read the starter ( fabulous protagonist) got Gappah & Pratchet on TBR … interesting re Gilbert as Eat, Pray, Love was a rare not finished read & one where I preferred film by far

    Reply
  3. Kay

    I’ve not read any of these at all! Can’t believe it. However, I’ve had PRODIGAL SUMMER on my list for a long, long time. One day.

    Reply
  4. BookerTalk

    You’ve reminded me that I have a collection of short stories by Petina Gappah that I partly read and then mislaid the book. I love Margaret Foster though I haven’t read this particular one.

    Reply
        1. Susan Osborne Post author

          It was fiction, and one of my favourites, too. As I remember it was the product of research she’d done for her biogrpahy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

          Reply
  5. Annabel (gaskella)

    I still love this meme but seem to have got out of the habit of participating. I must ‘try harder’. I’ve just got Margaret Forster’s schoolgirl diaries to read – hope to get a glimpse of the superb author she’d become.

    Reply

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