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!

I can’t believe it is nearing the end of 2022 already and this is the final six degrees post for the year! This month’s starter book, selected by Kate, is The Snow Child (2012) by Eowyn Ivey. A book I haven’t read but do want to based on its description. This is the story of a couple, Jack and Mabel, who move to Alaska; Jack is breaking under the pressure from work on his farm and Mabel from loneliness and despair–the two are also drifting apart. But on one snowy day, they leave their problems aside to build a little child out of snow, and the next morning arrives a little girl Faina, a child of the woods–their snow child?

The Snow Child certainly has a very fairly tale like feeling about it, and so to start off my chain, I am going with a fairy tale retelling–House of Salt and Sorrows (2019) by Erin A Craig. This is a retelling of the twelve dancing princesses story but with plenty of (dark) twists. Annaleigh Thaumas is one of 12 sisters of whom only 8 are left, 4 having met their deaths in different, sinister ways–a plague, a drowning, a plummeting fall. But after the most recent, Eulalie’s death, a young man approaches them, claims he and Eulalie were in love and there was something strange surrounding her death. Only Annaleigh believes him and begins to investigate. Meanwhile shunned by society which believes there’s a curse on the family, the sisters and their friend Fisher find relief in a magical world where balls are thrown every night, and they attend in lavish gowns enjoying refreshments galore and plenty of dancing. But there is a sense of mystery here too. This was definitely a scary, dark read, with plenty of sinister touches in the atmosphere but most frightening of all were the latter bits where the book begins to play with the reader’s mind a little too.

While I am not much of a horror or ghost story reader, another which I really liked was a short story by Agatha Christie ‘In a Glass Darkly’ (1934; which shares its title with the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novel which I haven’t yet read). In this story, our narrator sees a vision–a beautiful blond young woman being strangled by a man with a scar on his left cheek. Then he meets his friend’s sister, Sylvia, who turns out to be the woman from his vision. And she’s engaged to a man who has just such a scar!!! Can our narrator help Sylvia? Christie, needless to say, gets us once again!

With darkness in the title and in the story like ‘In a Glass Darkly’, is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising (1973), second of her series of the same name. I’m far behind in the readalong of this series (hosted by Annabel at AnnabookBel here), but kind of glad I read this close to December because of the gorgeous descriptions of Christmas in here. Not to digress any further, in the book, Will Stanton, who is just about to turn 11, finds something sinister in the atmosphere round him–fear, strange behaviour, a mysterious man lurking around, and warnings in his own subconscious. Then he learns that he is no ordinary young boy but one of a select group, the possessor of an extraordinary power, with a heavy burden on his shoulders, to defeat the evil forces of the darkness! I’m yet to write my review of the book but I found Cooper’s descriptions very evocative and also rather unsettling; as I child, I’d have been quite terrified, I should think.

Like Will Stanton who discovers his extraordinary power at the age of 11, many other heroes and heroines of children’s fiction do too. Among them, one of the best known today, is J. K. Rowing’s Harry Potter, who in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) discovers on his eleventh birthday that he is no ordinary boy either but a wizard. Whisked off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he is thrown into a world of magic and adventure, but also darkness and danger. This one still remains my favourite in the series for the wonders of the magic world that we are introduced to!

My next link builds on the darkness theme that seems to be running through my chain this time, as also the fact that Harry Potter (like most other boarding school children) makes a train journey to get to Hogwarts. E.C.R. Lorac’s Shroud of Darkness (1954) opens with a train journey to London, but London enveloped by a thick fog. So when one of the passengers is brutally attacked just as they disembark, there is no witness to the incident. Chief Inspector Macdonald finds help from another passenger, Sarah Dillion, secretary to a psychiatrist who is not only a keen observer but can read people rather well. A wonderful read.

A shroud of a different kind, in fact the shroud (of Turin) is involved in the plot of Seizure (2003) by Robin Cook, among the worst of his (and really also across my reading in general) that I’ve read; I don’t remember very much of this book but this is around two doctors who develop a ground breaking procedure using stem cells and who clash with a politician over using biotechnology, and then the procedure they’ve developed goes rather wrong; I also recall (and I may be wrong here), one character who quite willingly engages in all sorts of illegal activities for her research and then suddenly turns to moralizing in the latter part of the book. Perhaps by a stretch, this too can be said to include some darkness for there are people trying to play ‘god’ as it were and with things that may not fully understand, leading to horrifying consequences.

So that’s where my chain brings me to this time, with a thread of darkness running perhaps all through in some form or other–from a fairy tale retelling in a more sinister form, to more dark worlds in Agatha Christie’s short horror story and dark forces in Susan Cooper’s and J. K. Rowling’s books, to darkness real and metaphorical which impedes the solving of a mystery, and finally though a bit of a dud, darkness in the consequences of playing with science without fully understanding its consequences.

Where did your chains lead you this month?

Next month’s starter book is Beach Read (2020) by Emily Henry

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23 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From The Snow Child to Seizure (December 2022)

  1. Ooh I love your chain of books! I haven’t read House of Salt and Sorrows, but I’ve just added it to my TBR. It does sound really good. I remember I have read Robin Cook’s Seizure, but I can’t remember very much about the plot either. LOL!!

    Blessings for the Festive Season!

    Elza Reads

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you πŸ™‚ Hope you enjoy it when you get to it. I used to read lots of Robin Cook at one point-my late teens and early twenties, but eventually started finding his characters rather getting on my nerves, even in books that I enjoyed so I’ve never reread much except a couple of titles.

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  2. Such a good idea to have a thread of darkness running through your chain – just like life itself at the moment! There looks to be some good stuff here – I’ll see what the library can turn up fo me.

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  3. I love this chain! I like the dark twists it took and the way you made the connections. I already have House of Salt & Sorrow on myTBR, maybe it’s time to move it up the list….. Thanks for stopping by and seeing my list
    Terrie @ Bookshelf Journeys

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  4. I love your chain this month. The Dark is Rising is definitely a perfect read for this time of year! I haven’t read that particular Agatha Christie story yet – it sounds very intriguing.

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    1. The Christmas atmosphere amidst all the darkness still stood out and made it perfect for this time.
      The short story is very good. I have it as part of The Regatta Mystery and other stories I think and also another collection.

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  5. So many enticing books from favourite authors here – I can only be glad I’ve already read a couple of them! The Agatha Christie story is one I haven’t read, so naturally it has just made its way to my Kindle… πŸ˜€

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  6. So we both went with the fairy-tale retelling. I don’t think many did but I like it. I know a few of your other authors and enjoyed your links to them, but the only one I’ve read is Harry Potter. My son loved The dark is rising series though. It was recommended to me by a teacher when he was around 8-9 and reading voraciously.

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