Six Degrees of Separation – From Redhead by the Side of the Road to Wide Sargasso Sea

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 Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road which  I’ve not yet read but I do know it’s about a middle-aged man whose life is thrown off kilter first by the eviction of his girlfriend, then by the arrival of a young man claiming to be his son.

For some unaccountable reason, the red-haired Audrey Niffenegger popped into my head, author of Her Fearful Symmetry, a nice slice of gothic about twins living in a flat overlooking Highgate cemetery.

Twins leads me to Angela Carter’s Wise Children, a tale of unacknowledged paternity, mistaken identities, twins at every turn, Shakespeare, Hollywood, music hall, discarded wives, glorious love and rollicking good times.

I loved Emma Rice’s adaptation of Carter’s novel which I saw at Bristol’s Old Vic where some years before I’d seen another excellent production based on a book, Susan Hill’s atmospheric ghost story The Woman in Black, which scared the living daylights out of me.

As did the film version of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, renamed The Innocents for the big screen, in which Deborah Kerr starred as the governess charged with teaching a brother and sister, both apparently possessed. Apologies for using this link a second time in six months: it’s a film that made quite an impression on me.

I’m linking to probably the best known literary governess, Jane Eyre, the eponymous heroine of Charlotte Brontë’s gothic novel with its famous line ‘Reader, I married him’.

Taking me to The Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’ imagining of the backstory of Bertha, Mr Rochester’s first wife, through a beautiful young Creole woman in 1930s Jamaica who marries an impressionable young Englishman.

This month’s Six Degrees has taken a gothic turn from the upset routines of an American middle-aged man to the backstory of literature’s ‘madwoman in the attic’. 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.

38 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Redhead by the Side of the Road to Wide Sargasso Sea”

    1. I missed that airing, sadly. Hoping they’ll show it again. I’m not fond of being scared witless, perhaps because I was very young when I first saw The Innocents which is so much more frightening than gory horror.

  1. Ah, the spooky elements were nicely done in here. Angela Carter always manages to shock, and Turn of the Screw and Woman in Black are obviously very spine chilling. For Wide Sargasso Sea, I have to add that it really made me dislike Rochester. After Jane Eyre, I’d thought Rochester was one of the best out there, haha, but Sargasso gives a whole new take on things, doesn’t it? 🙁

    ~#6Degrees Post @Lexlingua

  2. I was trying to think of a red-head but drew a blank so had to go in a different direction. But thats the fun of these chains!
    Woman in Black was absolutely an electrifying theatre experience. The film version was a poor substitute

    1. I’m not at all sure why Ms Niffenegger sprang to mind.

      The entire audience nearly jumped out of their skins at the performance I went to. I suppose the cast gets used to it.

  3. You did come up with some spooky links. I look forward to reading Jane Eyre, maybe this year. And then maybe I will consider reading The Wide Sargasso Sea.

    Thanks for checking out and commenting on my Six Degrees.

  4. Hi, I commented earlier but it did not seem to take, so I am trying again.

    You have two very spooky links in your chain, and then you move on to gothic. I never thought I liked gothic but I loved The Woman in White so I guess I have to try more. Jane Eyre is on my classics list, so after I read that, I may try The Wide Sargasso Sea.

  5. Hi Susan… I’m still having problems commenting on your site via the WP app so have resorted to using the laptop (which only gets an outing once a week these days)… but this is a very dark, Gothic chain. I approve! 🙂

    The only one I have read is the Jean Rhys… I’m a bit of a fan and feel sad her backlist is so tiny.

    1. I had completely forgotten that Karen (Bookertalk) had suggested a fix for this. I’ll look it up.

      That’s the only Rhys I’ve read and I really should read more given how much I enjoy the Jean Rhys tweets.

  6. Ah, I remember your Jane Eyre reference now! I’d written about the ungrateful guest — Bertha’s brother — and you about Rochester’s other side. One book, so many chains of thought

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