Six Degrees of Separation is a fun meme hosted by Kate at Books are my Favourite and Best. The meme involves a common ‘starter’ book selected by Kate every month, and participants create their own unique chains of six books from this with each book having to only connect up to the next one. I’ve been enjoying following blog friends’ chains for the past many months and always planned to join in but never remembered to do so on time. This month seemed another destined to go the same way, but a response from Jan at What I Think About When I Think About Reading when I commented on her post encouraged me to give it a go, and I actually managed to get one done. This is my first time participating, and while my chain seems a bit wonky to me, I thoroughly enjoyed putting it together, especially exploring the various directions it could go!

The starter book this month was Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, shortlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize. The story is of Martha who thinks something is wrong with her but can’t point her finger to what, while her husband Patrick, who has loved her from when he was fourteen, believes it is nothing and tells her to keep going. But by the time she finds out what is troubling her, it doesn’t really matter any more.

I haven’t read Sorrow and Bliss, but something with ‘Bliss’ in its title which I have read and enjoyed very much was a manga title, Blissful Land (Vol 1) by Ichimon Izumi. Set in eighteenth-century Tibet, we follow thirteen-year-old Khang Zhipa, a doctor-in-training who lives with his family and goes about collecting herbs and plants to prepare medicines. This is a charming story with beautiful artwork, giving one a glimpse of what life would have looked like in a small mountain village.

Also taking us to Tibet in the past, but much closer to us in terms of its time, is Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer. Harrer, an Austrian mountaineer, finds himself interned in several POW camps including in Dehradun, India in 1943. He and others escape and make a daring and arduous journey to Tibet. This account, which I loved, is as much about his journey as about his time in Tibet where he became close to the 14th Dalai Lama.

Another book which I enjoyed with a ‘Seven’ in its title is, depending on the edition which one reads, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, or The Seven1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. A murder mystery, this one sees our narrator, Aiden Bishop having to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle who is killed at a house party. He only has eight days to do so. But all of this takes place in a time loop for every day, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at the party, each more despicable than the last. If he fails to solve the mystery of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle, the cycle begins all over again.

The events in Evelyn Hardcastle unfold at a country house, Blackhealth Manor, a classic mystery setting, despite the fantasy and scifi elements in its plot. Another enjoyable mystery in a classic country house setting is the only mystery written by A.A. Milne, The Red House Mystery. This was a delightful read set in Red House, where amateur sleuth, Anthony Gillingham arrives with his pal Bill Beverley, and finds himself investigating his host’s disappearance and connection with a mysterious shooting.

A.A. Milne was best known for his creation Winnie-the-Pooh, inspired by a female black bear, Winnie or Winniepeg who was rescued by a cavalry veterinarian, Harry Coleburn, and lived in London Zoo from 1915 to 1934. The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner is another story that involves a bear. A beautifully written story of two sisters, this one weaves in elements of history, myth, magic and folklore. The two sisters inherit their parents’ shape-shifting abilities, one into a bear and the other into a swan.

The Sisters of the Winter Wood is broadly based on Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, and it is with goblins that my chain ends this month. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald has a goblin not only in its title but also many in the book, which is a children’s fantasy-adventure where eight-year-old Princess Irene discovers a ‘secret stair’ while another young boy, a miner, Curdie, overhears the secret of the goblins. The two become friends and have an adventure that takes them to the goblins’ domain underground.

So that is my chain this month, which led me from a book about marriage and family to Tibet long ago, a journey to Tibet, a fantasy-classic murder mystery, a classic murder mystery, a fantasy-folklore based retelling involving bears, and finally, a children’s fantasy-adventure in the world of goblins.

Have you read any books from my chain?

32 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Sorrow and Bliss to The Princess and the Goblin

      1. Cool! I did pick up a copy of a Milne play – Mr. Pym Passes By: A comedy in three acts. Not sure when I’ll read it, and my copy has VERY small print…

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      2. Oh, you should know that his son, Christopher, wrote a few books, as well. His first (I believe) was called “The Enchanted Places” and it was about his side of growing up as Christopher Robin of his father’s book. Beautifully written!

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  1. I’m so glad you took the plunge, Mallika! I really enjoyed your chain. I’ve added The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle to my library wishlist. I’m also going to try to track down the Blissful Land manga series.

    The only one I’ve read from your chain is The Princess and the Goblin, but I have a copy of The Red House Mystery on my Kindle.

    I’ve heard of Seven Years in Tibet because of the film, which I haven’t seen. Your mini review here makes me think I’d like the book.

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    1. Thanks πŸ™‚ I came across Seven Years only after having watched the film version which incorporates many other details about Harrer (personal life and his nature) than the book mentions–also perhaps some creative licence. The book was really engrossing–the journey and the time he spends in Tibet, one of the very few outsiders to have travelled there at the time. My thoughts are purely based on memory and its been a while since I’ve read the book, so hope it does turn out enjoyable for you.

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      1. Ah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them.
        Though TBH I’ve never looked in the library, I bet they’re in a special section.
        Possibly even behind a locked glass door… thieving was very rarely a problem in my school library, but I gave up buying manga because every one of them mysteriously disappeared.

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      2. Alas from where I live, libraries are a little too far physically to access regularly so I haven’t been to one for many years now. Worldcat lists e copies as available in a few libraries, though,

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      3. I fear that will only get worse as there is generational change amongst town planners. The evidence seems to be that younger people don’t read as much, or in the same way. I recently completed a university survey about the resources available to us during the pandemic and there was no mention of libraries. The designer of the survey hadn’t even thought about them, yet there were libraries here that rang elderly patrons every day, there was electronic borrowing of books, there was online storytime for little kids and author talks for adults. Libraries were lifeline for staving off loneliness for many, and they made long lockdowns bearable, and yet the survey offered no opportunity to recognise their value. That can only have been because all through the process of setting up this survey no one noticed their absence, and as young people move into town planning, I fear we will see the same thing.

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      4. Oh, good point. That isn’t something I’d thought about at all in terms of town planning. Must remember to mention it to my dad–he isn’t a town planner but was a professor of urban geography so I’m sure he’d have an idea.

        As far as people’s reading habits go, it is rather sad that people aren’t reading as much or even considering libraries essential any more. I know people around me don’t really read–I know a handful who did among old college mates, but currently besides my parents, my only ‘book’ friends are online. Perhaps the habit dying out and lack of easy access are together creating a vicious cycle of sorts and worsening things.

        We’ve been at the place where I am now for about 20 years now, but this is the first time that I’ve lived off a university campus (since my parents were always on one), so libraries there were close and easily got to (plus there was the school or uni one when I went). On the plus side, my personal library has grown manifold as a result, and I’m grateful for public domain books and sites like NetGalley and Edelweiss introducing me to new authors and books

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    1. Thanks so much Wendy πŸ™‚ I’ve been wanting to join in for so long, and am glad I finally did. Do join in when you can, it was really good fun putting the chain together

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    1. Thanks so much Mary πŸ™‚ I thoroughly enjoyed myself putting this chain together and am very much looking forward to the next one. Glad to know you enjoyed Evelyn Hardcastle as well–very different in its plot, for sure.

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