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.
This month, in what feels like an entirely different world from the one we were living in last month, we’re starting with Stasiland, Anna Funder’s clear-eyed, empathetic testament to the dreadful consequences of totalitarianism in which people tell their stories of life in the GDR and the opening of the Stasi’s files.
Which leads me to Red Love, Maxim Leo’s memoir of his years growing up in East Berlin. A fascinating portrait of a privileged family, well-connected within the GDR establishment.
Kapka Kassakova’s riveting Border explores the border zone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, rumoured to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall in the Cold War years.
Set in the same area Miroslav Penkov’s sprawling Stork Mountain is narrated by a young man who left Bulgaria, aged eight, a couple of years after the Wall fell, returning to Klisura whose roofs are home to many storks’ nests.
Plenty of birds, although no storks, in Eva Meijer’s delightful Bird Cottage, a fictionalised biography of Len Howard who threw up her life as a violinist in London and took herself off to Sussex to pursue her lifelong passion for birds.
Jill Dawson’s novels often take the form of fictionalised biography, including The Crime Writer about Patricia Highsmith’s sojourn in a Suffolk cottage, hoping her lover will join her.
John Malkovich played a suitably chilling Ripley in the film adaptation of Highsmith’s Ripley’s Game. He turned up, slightly disconcertingly, as Poirot in the BBC’s 2018 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The A B C Murders which features a murderer whose victims’ names follow an alphabetic sequence, an early outing for contemporary crime fiction’s staple character – the serial killer.
This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from an investigation of the Stasi’s files after they were opened to the public to a crime fiction classic set in the South East of England. 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.