Six Degrees of Separation – From Ethan Frome to When God Was a Rabbit

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 Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome which I’ve yet to read but I gather that the eponymous protagonist is a farmer

As are George and his self-hating, acid-tongued brother Phil in Thomas Savages’ The Power of the Dog which opens with a passage hard to take for a squeamish reader like myself

There’s a similarly gut-wrenching passage in Fiona Moseley’s Elmet which I skipped then decided I had to read as the book was on the prize shortlist I was shadow judging. It turned out to be not nearly as bad as I’d imagined.

Leading me to Grimm’s Fairy Tales a gift from an aunt which my parents temporarily confiscated after they’d seen my looks of horror while reading it. Of course, the unread tales turned out to be far less graphic than my speculations.

That said, Grimms’ tales do seem more suitable for adults than children as does Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland with its many layers and allusions

Leading me to Lisa Dierbeck’s One Pill Makes You Smaller, a seventies riff on the Alice theme with a dark edge

Dierbeck’s novel features a character known as Rabbit leading me to Sarah Winman’s When God Was a Rabbit which I remember very little about besides the title.

This month’s Six Degrees has taken me from a classic set in nineteenth-century Massachusetts to an unmemorable coming of age tale with a memorable title. 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.

33 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Ethan Frome to When God Was a Rabbit”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your chain Susan. You include two books I only became aware of in the last month – Power of the dogs which has been made into a film by the wonderful Jane Campion, and Winman’s book which the Sydney offshoot of my reading group is just doing. (Three members of my reading group moved to Sydney around the same time and have formed a reading group there, which is a hoot!) Did you not like the Winman?

    BTW my husband is currently reading Grimm’s Fairytales in German and is gobsmacked by the violence!

    1. I’ve come to realise that the idea behind many fairy tales was to inculcate a moral education by scaring children witless! I hope your husband’s sleeping at nights.

      Annabel has reassured me about the Campion film so it may well be next Saturday nght’s viewing. As for the Winman, it’s not so much not liking as that it’s a totla balnk but that title stuck. I hope you find lots to talk about.

  2. I dipped into some childhood memories in my chain too. We had a copy of Grimm’s fairy tales counterbalanced by those of Hans Christian Andersen. Alice in Wonderland was a favourite, but the sequel wasn’t. Nice chain!

    1. Thank you, and I agree about Alice. I reread it several times as an adult – once for work which required looking a lot of looking things up – and realised how multi-layered and allusive it is.

  3. I have a Sarah Winman book on my TBR list. Will have to check that out as it is at my library. If I remember the title next time I am looking!

  4. Ethan Frome seems to be leading to some dark links this month! The Power of the Dog was way too much at some points for this squeamish reader too, which was a pity since otherwise I thought it was very powerful.

  5. I love that first link, steering the chain off into unexpected realms. I have not heard of The Power of the Dog, but despite your warnings, feel strangely drawn to it….!

  6. Mareli Thalwitzer

    I loved when God was a Rabbit! It was a book that made a huge impact on me. Beautifully written.

    No matter what, I’ve decided that my chain HAS to end with Christmas. I actually got it right!

    Season Greetings,

    Elza Reads

  7. How clever to start with a farming connection – I’ve even read Ethan Frome and I didn’t think of that. But that’s what makes 6 Degrees so interesting, seeing how very differently all of our minds work.

    I have the Sarah Winman on my TBR shelf, but I recently listened to her latest – ‘Still Life’ – on BBC Sounds, and thought it absolutely wonderful. I’d definitely recommend that one; it’s set mostly in Italy but also in London, and is about art, but far more about what I believe is now called ‘found family’. It begins at the end of the Second World War, when an army unit is charged with trying to find art works looted by the Nazis. An older art historian offers her help to the soldiers, and this leads to a friendship that lasts for decades. And there’s so much more!

    I won a beautiful copy of Philip Pulman’s edition of Grimm’s Fairytales and gave it to my daughter, at the time an art student, who’s very interested in them. Now I wish I’d read them myself first! I think I’ll ask to borrow the book back.

    I did try with Alice some years ago, but didn’t get very far. I think I should have another go, as it’s such a famous book – though as you say, not exactly children’s fare really.

    1. Thank you, and I agree about the different routes we all take. I’ve read three posts this time that have gone off on ornithological tangents, intriguingly.

      I have a weakness for novels about art and will definitely read Still Life. The themes sound right up my alley.

      I was commissioned to write a reading guide for Alice when I was freelancing which opened my eyes to a multitude off allusions and themes I’d missed even on a previous reading as an adult let alone when I was a child.

  8. Sometimes just knowing that there is a difficult scene pending is enough to adjust expectations and prepare us, I think. Having said that, I’ve not read read Mozley, though I’m sure I’ll enjoy/appreciate her when I get there.

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