Six Degrees of Separation – From Normal People to Meet Me at the Museum

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 others to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the titles on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

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This month we’re starting with Sally Rooney’s Normal People which I read on holiday in Portugal last October. It’s about Marianne and Connell, both from very different backgrounds, whose on-again, off-again relationship begins in school. Despite their extraordinary connection, neither seems quite able to fully express their feelings for each other. I loved both the novel and the BBC’s recent adaptation.

Also largely set in Dublin, Belinda McKeon’s Tender is about Catherine and James who instantly click when James returns from Berlin to reclaim the room Catherine has been renting for her first year at Trinity. Everyone assumes they’re a couple but while Catherine is love with him, James is gay.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night popped into my mind after thinking about McKeon’s novel for obvious reasons although it continues the theme of strained relationships with Dick and Nicole Diver’s already delicate marriage stretched to breaking point.

Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop is entirely different. When Florence Green decides to open a bookshop on the Suffolk coast she has no idea of the seething mass of resentment and opposition she’s about to unleash.

Bookshops lead me to Robin Sloan’s Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which playfully meshes the old reading world with new technology in a quirky edge-of-your-seat story of bookish folk. I loved this book and included it in my Five Comfort Reads post for those seeking escape from the pandemic gloom.

Another of my five comfort reads was Lissa Evans’ Old Baggage which tells the story of suffragette Mattie, once met never forgotten. Evans’ story romps along replete with period detail exploring themes of social justice with wit, humour and compassion. A nice reminder that things do get better.

I very nearly didn’t read read Old Baggage, a bit put off by the blurb which was also the case with of Anne Youngson’s lovely Meet Me at the Museum. It’s made up of letters between Tina and Anders. Each is enduring a quiet loneliness, each is dealing with grief yet there are unexpected joys to share. So, I’m back where I started on the subject of love.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from a heart-wrenching love story set in Ireland to an epistolary one which might eventually end happily. 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.

30 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Normal People to Meet Me at the Museum”

  1. Some wonderful books and links there. Tender is the Night is one of my all-time favourites, and I loved the Bookshop and Youngson too. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I ought to get round to reading Mr Penumbra…

  2. Lovely list Susan – and we have a great second choice there! I always think of tender when I see Normal People as I loved it so much and wish it had got as much attendtion. I had to refo my list as I realised that I have acyually only been doing 5 degrees of separation rather than 6 all along!

    1. I sometimes get caught out by that and triumphantly think I’ve finished, Cathy! I had to smile when I saw your post. Your link from Tender to Enduring Love is much more appropriate than mine.

  3. For once I’ve read 5 (well, 4.5 — I DNFed Tender) from your chain! I still haven’t read Mr Penumbra’s or anything by Lissa Evans, though I do keep meaning to. I agree with you that Meet Me at the Museum was an unexpected gem.

  4. Wow… I’ve read Tender is the Night, The Book Shop, and Old Baggage! Say, did you see the movie they did based on The Book Shop? I did, and then I read the book after. I think I liked the movie more than the book, which was a touch disjointed for me.

  5. Really interesting connections! I’m working on my 6 degrees list right now; I just love seeing how differently everyone’s minds work when it comes to making links between books and the endless variety of places everyone ends up after just 6 steps 🙂

    1. So pleased to hear you’re joining in, Juliet, and thank you. Those very different routes from the same starting point are definitely part of the fun for me

  6. A lovely chain, as always, Susan. I really like the sound of Meet Me At The Museum. And what could be better than love for the overall theme.

  7. I haven’t read any of your links so thanks for introducing them to me. I did watch The Bookshop movie. It was…okay. Didn’t inspire me to want to read the book

  8. Nice,y done as always. I was interested to see you enjoyed Normal People; a number of other people who have done this chain commented otherwise.
    I hope the book The Bookshop is better than the film version which we abandoned after only 30minutes.

    1. Normal People does seem to be a Marmite book, although it took me some time to love it. I had a similar experience with Conversations with Friends. The Bookshop adaptation sounds best steered clear of. Fortunately, I had a couple of friends who warned me about it.

  9. I too love seeing the different directions everyone takes – yours is the most love-filled so far! I’ve only read Tender is the Night, and a bit of Tender – I fear I abandoned it. Old Baggage is somewhere on my list – I’ve seen so many positive reviews of it!

    1. It’s great, isn’t it. Most 6 Degrees posts I look at go off in entirely different directions. Old Baggage is a book to turn to when you need cheering up, I’d say.

  10. I’ve read several Penelope Fitzgerald, but not The Bookshop. Clearly I should, just as I should read Normal People which seems to have become popular of late. I read quite positive reviews of the series, which surely helped.
    I was a bit unimpressed by The beautiful and damned; perhaps I’ll get on better with Tender is the night, when I get round to reading it one day.

    1. So many books, so little time! I think Normal People is one of thosenovels people either love or hate but for those of us who loved it the BBC adaptation certainly didn’t disappoint

  11. Thank you for the reminder about Tender – it was one of my end-of-year Sample Saturday picks (thanks to your review) but I hadn’t bought a copy. Just did.

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