Six Degrees of Separation – From The Turn of the Screw to Howard’s End Is on the Landing

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 Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw which, given that it’s a ghost story, seems appropriate as we enter Halloween month. Although I was impressed by James’ novel about two apparently possessed young children and their governess it was the film starring Deborah Kerr that scared me witless.

Which leads me to quite possibly the most terrifying piece of fiction I’ve read, Helen Oyeyemi‘s The Icarus Girl in which a little girl has a particularly malicious imaginary friend. Admittedly, I’m a coward but Lesley Glaister, no slouch at putting the frighteners on her readers, described it as ‘the most haunting and disturbing novel I’ve ever read’.

Oyeyemi secured a place at Corpus Christi, Cambridge despite producing her first novel while studying for her A-levels. Not quite so young but still something of a prodigy, Téa Obreht was barely twenty-five when she won what was then the Orange Prize with The Tiger’s Wife, the story of a young woman whose grandfather dies in mysterious circumstances which she feels compelled to investigate.

Sticking with both prize-winners and tigers, Aravind Adfiga’s Man Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger follows a bright young boy from his village to the glitzier parts of Delhi as he chauffeurs his wealthy boss who he decides to murder.

Zadie Smith’s White Teeth was one of those much-hyped debuts it was impossible to ignore back in 2001. Set against the vivid backdrop of multicultural London, Smith’s novel tells the story of one family spanning three generations. It more than lived up to all the brouhaha for me.

Smith’s On Beauty was an homage to E M Forster’s Howard’s End which could be a link in itself but I’m choosing to go with the teeth stuck in the tree outside the eponymous house belonging to the wealthy Wilcox family in this sad story of economic and social division.

My final link is to a book I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time, Susan Hill’s Howard’s End Is on the Landing about the author’s year of reading the books on her shelves rather than buying any new ones. Haven’t we all decided to do that now and again?

This month’s Six Degrees has taken me from a ghost story to a year’s book-buying ban. 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.

48 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From The Turn of the Screw to Howard’s End Is on the Landing”

  1. You and me both re The Innocents and Deborah Kerr! I ought to try The Icarus Girl. I’ve only read one Oyeyemi (White is for Witching) and wasn’t entirely sure about it. I didn’t take to the Obrecht either, but I did love Hill’s gossipy HEIOTL.

    1. I watched the film again not so long ago and it still has the same effect as when I saw it as a teenager! I must get my hands on a copy of the Hill. Somehow it’s slipped through the net.

  2. Lovely links. And I’ve read 5 of them for a change! I’ve never tried any Adiga or Oyeyemi; do you think I’d like their work? You’ll enjoy the Susan Hill. A very cosy choice for this rainy week.

  3. Loved your leap from White Teeth to Howard’s End! The Susan Hill would make fir an interesting contrast to Dear Reader which You read recently. Hill can be rather scathing of certain authors particularly Jane Austen. Shes more conservative in her tastes than Retzenbrink.

  4. Oh, I enjoyed your chain, Susan, and not only because I know and/or have read several of the books! (In other words, the links were interesting too!) One of those I know but haven’t read is On beauty. Having reread Howard’s end in the last year or so, I told myself I’d finally pull On beauty off the pile, but somehow time has marched on and I still haven’t.

  5. So much to love in this chain!

    I haven’t seen the Kerr version of Turn of the Screw – I’m not great with horror/ suspense movies…
    Still haven’t read Icarus Girl (but it’s on the list, I think on the strength of your recommendation).

    Howard’s End not my favourite Forster but have enjoyed the movie, and the 2018 miniseries, even more so.

    And it seems like I’ll need to add the Hill to the TBR stack – continues the trend of books about reading/books.

    1. Thank you! I watched that film, aged around 14, alone. Never forgotten it. Just as scared when I repeated the experience a few years ago. I’m already thinking about next month’s 6 degrees. Given my starting point there maybe a few more books about books…

    1. Thanks, Cathy. I’m not a fan of everything she’s written but this one was extraordinary. I’m still amused that a seventeen-year-old, which she must have been at the time of writing it, could scare the wits out of two middle-aged women!

  6. Like you I think the variety of chains is part of the fun in this meme. I enjoyed reading yours -mostly books I haven’t read. I liked The Turn of the Screw but have no wish to watch a film version. The only other book in your chain that I’ve read is Hill’s book – I went to a talk she did on it, which was interesting although she mainly just read out extracts and seemed rather grumpy.

  7. Very nicely done! I am a total wimp when it comes to anything remotely scary so I doubt that I will ever read the James and definitely won’t watch the film. I don’t think I knew about the Smith-Howard link, so am pleased to find that out. And I love Susan Hill’s book – I was reminded of this when reading your review of Dear Reader.

        1. I saw it at the theatre after watching the TV adaptation. You’d have thought I’d have been prepared but I still jumped out of my skin along with the rest of the audience at the crucial moment.

          1. We didn’t really know the story before we went. Our friends who booked the tickets thought it would be ‘an Agatha Christie kind of thing’ so none of us were prepared for the full horror of the evening!!

  8. I know exactly what you mean by book-buying bans. I’ve certainly slowed down with the book buying in September but have found it impossible to stop completely…

  9. I have read The Turn of the Screw but haven’t seen the film and don’t think I would be brave enough to watch it! I’ve also read The Tiger’s Wife and Howards End and have been meaning to try the Susan Hill book too.

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