Six Degrees of Separation – from Memoirs of a Geisha to Capital #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.

Cover images

I’m somewhat late to this month’s party, having spent a week in Spain (more of which next week). We’re starting with Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha which took the bestseller charts by storm back in the late ‘90s. Although I’ve read it, I can’t say it stands out in my memory.

Given the Japanese connection I can’t resist linking to a book by one of my favourite writers, Haruki Murakami. Last month I wrote a Blast from the Past post about one of his wackiest novels, A Wild Sheep Chase. To balance that I’ve chosen South of the Border, West of the Sun, a much more accessible pieces of fiction about a happily married man forced to remember his past when his childhood sweetheart reappears.

Cats pop up all over the place in Murakami’s fiction which takes me to Takashi Hiraide’s elegantly pared-back The Guest Cat about a reclusive young couple who open up their home and hearts to a stray cat and are then faced with the prospect of moving. Short but not slight, it’s a thoughtful rather lovely book.

Cats are not known for paying their way as opposed to Sarah Waters’ characters in  The Paying Guests which sees an impoverished war widow and her daughter reluctantly take in lodgers. Lots of readers loved Waters’ first twentieth-century set novel but I much prefer her Victorian pastiches.

One of the best examples of Victorian pastiche I’ve read is Charles Pallisers’ The Quincunx which I pulled off the shelves earlier in the year for H who was recovering from a nasty chest infection. It’s many years since I read it but I do remember it has a satisfyingly convoluted plot and an equally pleasing unreliable narrator.

I haven’t read Anthony Trollope’s Palliser series but H tells me I really should given that I’m a fan of state of the nation novels. Made up of six separate books, the series was once known as the Parliamentary Novels and was adapted for TV back in the days before the BBC thought it was a good idea to condense a long piece of fiction into four parts.

Which leads me to a more recent state of the nation novel of which there are many to choose from but I’m plumping for John Lanchester’s Capital because of its clever premise – surveying the nation through the fortunes of one London street just after the global financial collapse of 2008.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from an ageing woman’s memories of her life as a geisha in early twentieth-century Japan to a single London street holding up a mirror to my own nation in 2008. 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.

34 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – from Memoirs of a Geisha to Capital #6Degrees”

  1. Oxford World’s Classics has redone its paperback Palliser novel covers, and they’re intensely pleasing and lovely – I highly recommend (they’ve all got brilliant, detailed endnotes, as well, which is handy for those references to Victorian Parliamentary procedure…)

  2. I love this meme! Always interesting to see where people go with it . O , btw, H is right you should deffo read the Pallisers ! Read them not that long ago and loved them ( sadly , I also remember the TV series !) .

    1. The main thing about it that has stuck with me is that cover probably because I was a bookseller when it was riding high in the bestseller charts although it is very striking.

  3. I hadn’t heard of Murakami or Hiraide, but looking forward to them now having just really enjoyed some Shusaku Endo. Thanks!

      1. ‘When I Whistle’ was my favourite. I also liked ‘The Girl I Left Behind’, which doesn’t sound miles away from ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’. Oddly, ‘Silence’ is one I haven’t read.

  4. Very logical and lovely chain – I especially like the cat connections. You are right, Murakami must be a cat fan, they pop up all over the place in his fiction.

  5. Great chain. I also read The Quincunx years ago and remember really enjoying it – it’s on my list for a re-read at some point. I’m working my way through the Palliser novels at the moment and have just started the fifth one. They’re great books, but I do prefer Trollope’s Barsetshire series.

    1. Thank you. The Quincunx needs a nice long stretch of uninterrupted time, doesn’t it. Lots of mentions of the Palliser novels here; you’re all making me think I should start them. Maybe next year’s winter project…

      1. yes indeed – it’s really interesting to read everyone’s different versions. I am tempted to have a go at my own next month…! 🙂

  6. Fascinating chain Susan! I’ve also never read Trollope’s Palliser series but I keep meaning to. I agree with you re Waters, I really liked The Paying Guests but I feel her Victorian set novels just have something extra. I thought Capital was really clever, but I would never think you could get to it in 6 moves from Memoirs of a Geisha – this meme is always so inventively used!

    1. Thank you. The Palliser novels seem to be the link that’s provoked the most comment. Maybe a winter project to think about. These posts are such fun to write. Ever been tempted to join in?

  7. Good list. I’ve had Guest Cat on my kindle for a long time–I need to read it. I couldn’t finish the Paying Guests…Trollope’s Palliser’s sereis is a great read. And, the 70s TV version is great–very, very young Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons have bit parts 🙂

    1. The Guest Cat is quietly lovely. It’ll take you a couple of hours to read, if that. I think The Pallisers is going to be next winter’s project, one way or the other.

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