I’ve seen this meme a few times and always meant to join in but never got around to it. I’m a few days late but I shall give it a go anyway.
Here’s how it works: On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.
Kate says: Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge. Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the comments section of each month’s post. You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degrees
This month’s starting book is Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay.
It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred. Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared. They never returned.
This haunting tale that was made into a marvellous film is set in Australia. Another book with an atmospheric Australian setting is Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville.
Sarah is the youngest child of William Thornhill, the pioneer at the centre of The Secret River. Unknown to her, her father – an uneducated ex-convict from London- has built his fortune on the blood of Aboriginal people. With a fine stone house and plenty of money, Thornhill has re-invented himself. As he tells his daughter, he “never looks back,” and Sarah grows up learning not to ask about the past. Instead her eyes are on handsome Jack Langland, whom she’s loved since she was a child. Their romance seems destined, but the ugly secret in Sarah’s family is poised to ambush them both.
Sarah Thornhill is the final book in a trilogy that started with The Secret River. So the next book in my chain is one of my all time favourites, the elegiac Sick Heart River by John Buchan, published posthumously.
Lawyer and MP, Sir Edward Leithen, is given a year to live. Fearing he will die unfulfilled, he devotes his last months to seeking out and restoring to health Galliard, a young Canadian banker. Galliard is in remotest Canada searching for the ‘River of the Sick Heart’. Braving an Arctic winter, Leithen finds the banker and then his own health returns, yet only one of the men will return to civilization ….
If you’ve only ever read John Buchan’s The 39 Steps then you are missing out on some great books. From one river to another – this time the Ohio River in the US which is the setting for The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway.
When young seamstress May Bedloe is left alone and penniless on the shore of the Ohio, she finds work on the famous floating theatre that plies its trade along the river. Her creativity and needlework skills quickly become invaluable and she settles in to life among the colourful troupe of actors. She finds friends, and possibly the promise of more … But cruising the border between the Confederate South and the ‘free’ North is fraught with danger. For the sake of a debt that must be repaid, May is compelled to transport secret passengers, under cover of darkness, across the river and on, along the underground railroad. But as May’s secrets become harder to keep, she learns she must endanger those now dear to her. And to save the lives of others, she must risk her own …
From a floating theatre to a murder mystery set in the theatreland of 1960s London, Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson.
In the dreary days of November 1965, American actress Iolanthe Green has become the toast of the West End. Charismatic, mysterious, and beautiful, she brings color and a sprinkling of glamour to the scuffed boards of Soho’s Galaxy Theatre. But one evening, after another rapturously received performance, Iolanthe walks through the stage door, out into the cold London night, and vanishes. All of London is riveted as Fleet Street speculates about the missing actress’s fate. But as time passes and the case grows colder, the public’s interest turns to the unfolding Moors Murders and erupting political scandals. Only Anna Treadway, Iolanthe’s dresser at the Galaxy, still cares. A young woman of dogged determination with a few dark secrets of her own, she is determined to solve the mystery of the missing actress. A disparate band of London émigrés—an Irish policeman, a Turkish coffee-house owner and his rebellious daughter, and a literature-loving Jamaican accountant—joins Anna in her quest, an odyssey that leads them into a netherworld of jazz clubs, backstreet doctors, police brutality, and seaside ghost towns. Each of these unusual sleuths has come to London to escape the past and forge a new future. Yet as they draw closer to uncovering the truth of Iolanthe’s disappearance, they may have to face the truth about themselves.
One of Anna’s companions in solving the mystery of Iolanthe’s disappearance is Aloysius, a Jamaican accountant. That name naturally made me think of Sebastian Flyte’s teddy bear in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
In this classic tale of British life between the World Wars, Waugh parts company with the satire of his earlier works to examine affairs of the heart. Charles Ryder finds himself stationed at Brideshead, the family seat of Lord and Lady Marchmain. Exhausted by the war, he takes refuge in recalling his time spent with the heirs to the estate before the war–years spent enthralled by the beautiful but dissolute Sebastian and later in a more conventional relationship with Sebastian’s sister Julia. Ryder portrays a family divided by an uncertain investment in Roman Catholicism and by their confusion over where the elite fit in the modern world.
A stately home between the wars is also the setting for The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser.
In the gloriously hot summer of 1936, a group of people meet at a country house party. Within three years, England will be at war, but for now, time stands still. Dan Ranscombe is clever and good-looking, but he resents the wealth and easy savoir faire of fellow guest, Paul Latimer. Surely a shrewd girl like Meg Slater would see through that, wouldn’t she? And what about Diana, Paul’s beautiful sister, Charles Asher, the Jewish outsider, Madeleine, restless and dissatisfied with her role as children’s nanny? And artist Henry Haddon, their host, no longer young, but secure in his power as a practised seducer. As these guests gather, none has any inkling the choices they make will have fateful consequences, lasting through the war and beyond. Or that the first unforeseen event will be a shocking death.
So we’ve travelled from turn of the century Australia, via several rivers to 1960s London and then to aristocratic stately homes between the two world wars.