The first Saturday of the month (time seems to have flown past since I was sure I only just did my August chain) which means its time for Six Degrees of Separation–a meme which I am really enjoying participating in very much. Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Kate at Books are My Favourite and Best. Inspired by the concept of ‘six degrees of separation’, originally set out in a short story by Frigyes Karinthy, which suggests that any two people in the world are connected through a chain of six or fewer people, the meme brings this concept into the world of books. Each month, beginning with a starter book that Kate selects (the month previously), every participant creates their own unique chain of books. Each book only needs to be linked to the next one in the chain, and one doesn’t need to have read the starter book either. Share your links on Kate’s page and have fun exploring the different chains other bloggers have created!
This month, my fourth time joining in, is different from the usual for the prompt this time, rather than a common book, was either the book we ended our chain with last time, or the book we last finished. My August Chain ended at James Hilton’s Lost Horizon (1933), and that is where I start this month.
In Lost Horizon, a diplomat who has previous served in the First World War and seen the worst of humanity, finds himself and some fellow plane passengers the victims of a crash in the Himalayas. From here, they are led to the mysterious and dreamy utopia, a lamasery, Shangri-La. (An aside, of my four chains so far, Tibet has featured in three!)
Before I start my actual chain, though, Shangri-La as my starting point reminded me of this animated series I used to watch as a child Jem and the Holograms and specifically, one song in it, Shangri-La!
Back to the chain now, the book that first came to mind when I thought of Shangri-La was from another childhood favourite series, Tintin in Tibet (1959). In this one Tintin travels to Tibet to look for his friend Chang, whom we’ve previously met in The Blue Lotus, and who (another link in common with Lost Horizon) is lost in a plane crash in the Himalayas. Here Tintin and Captain Haddock (and Snowy, of course) search for Chang when they are caught in a snowstorm and then avalanche, and find themselves at a Shanri-La like monastery right up in the mountains, where the Grand Abbot has some interesting powers.
Tintin was written by Hergé or Georges Prosper Remi, who was Belgian. Another equally famous, though fictional, Belgian is Hercule Poirot, retired police detective from Belgium who embarks on a successful mystery-solving career spanning 33 books. His first appearance though, 102 years ago, was in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). In the book, a wealthy woman, Emily Inglethorpe is murdered at her country home, where Captain Hastings is staying as a guest. Various members of the family are suspected. In the village, Hastings runs into Poirot, there as a refugee and he helps resolve the matter.
In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, among the course of events is the arrest and trial of one character. Another book which is centred around the arrest and trial of a character for murder is According to the Evidence (1954) by Henry Cecil, an author I came across entirely by chance at a bookshop I used to go to back when I was at university, and have enjoyed very much ever since. In this one Alec Morland is on trial for murder, but his crime was committed to ‘remedy’ a failure of the law. Does he get off? This book features a recurring Cecil character, Col Brain, one of the most exasperating people anyone would have ever encountered.
Henry Cecil or Henry Cecil Leon, the author of According to the Evidence was a county court judge who wrote humorous fiction set around the law with some fairly eccentric characters, but amidst the humour also brought up some interesting issues and conundrums from the legal world. Similar to him, is a doctor who writes about medicine in his fiction, but rather than humour, the genre here is thrillers. Robin Cook is an author I used to read quite a bit in my late teens and early college years (now I find most of his characters quite annoying), and one of my favourites of his was Mutation (1989). In the book, a doctor and proprietor of a biochemical company, Victor James, decides to improve the intelligence of the child he is going to have with his wife via IVF. Little VJ is indeed born a genius (and seems to enjoy playing Tetris, something I’ve never forgotten), but when suspicious events and deaths begin to take place, Dr James starts to question his experiment.
Scientific experiments gone wrong, and the ethical questions this throws up and the name Victor give me two links to my next book, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). When I first read this book, with the popular impressions of the ‘monster’ in my mind, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much more more substance the book had, both in terms of questioning the ethics of science as well as people who simply cannot accept difference, creating many of the monsters that go on to plague them.
Mary Shelley belonged to a family of writers (or should that be families), for not only did both parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft write, but her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley too was a poet and writer. Another family with more than one writer were the Brontes, where all three sisters and brother Patrick Branwell created many many stories, together and on their own. So the final link in my chain takes me to one of my favourites among this family’s creations, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, the story of a young girl, Jane Eyre, left an orphan whose life changes when she accepts a post as governess at Thornfield Hall, the home of the brooding, proud Edward Rochester.
So that was my chain this month, which took me from Tibet to a classic murder mystery in an English village and then another similar setting but very different murder, a brief trip to the United States and the continent before returning to England with Jane Eyre. Where did your chain take you this month?