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!

After a bit of a hiatus from writing blog posts since I’ve been buried under work, the Six Degrees meme was a great note for me to start back again.

This month’s book that Kate has picked is Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult (1976) by Gail Sheehy which as I can see from its Goodreads description is a guide to adult life, to what one can expect as we enter each new decade of our lives, things that challenge, and things that present new opportunities and purpose.

This isn’t a book I’ve read and nor one that I’d come across earlier so for my first link, I choose to take the rather obvious path, and go to A Passage to India (1924) by E.M. Forster. Adela Quested, travelling to Chanderpore India with the elderly Mrs Moore meets a charming but mercurial doctor, Dr Aziz who becomes their friend and guide. But a visit to the Marabar caves with Dr Aziz and a moment of mysterious confusion leads to a scandal which throws Dr Aziz’s life into turmoil. A book that I first read quite a few years ago, but as has been my experience reading Foster (really, with any of his books I’ve read), I was left with the feeling that I haven’t quite ‘got’ all he was trying to say.

My second link is also taking a somewhat obvious path, for when there’s Forster, Italy and Baedeker can’t be far behind, and all three of these come into Sarah Winman’s Still Life (2021), a heartwarming story of life, friendship, Italy and much more. This was a book that took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I really loved it!

One of the most memorable characters in Still Life is Claude, the Shakespeare-quoting parrot who turns out to be rather a hero in the book. A parrot or rather many parrots are also involved in the children’s mystery, The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot (1964) by Robert Arthur where seven talking parrots vanish into thin air and the three investigators, Jupiter Jones, Pete Cranshaw and Bob Andrews get on the trail. Robert Arthur wrote quite a few of these but there were also other authors that wrote this series. As a child I only had one of these but found more when I was older and enjoyed the creativity in the mysteries–some are really cleverly done.

I have a handful of the Three Investigators books in their republished avatar, but only one of the original books, which were always introduced by Alfred Hitchcock (the reprints did away with this). And Hitchcock was also the director of The Birds adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds and Other Stories (1952), a collection of very haunting stories which I’m hoping to read for DDM Week this time. A second link between the two is also parrots and birds!

My fifth link takes me from a favourite author (Du Maurier) to a favourite book, Wings Over Delft (2003) by Aubrey Flegg also connecting to the last link by the fact that birds do have wings! This young adult book is the story of Louise Eeden the daughter of a master porter in 17th-century Delft. Her portrait is being painted by Master Hatnik while rumours abound of her impending marriage to Reyner DeVries, son of the largest pottery house and something that will be a merger of two families and businesses. But as she goes to Master Hatnik’s home every day, she befriends his apprentice Pieter, and we get a story that is not only about love and relationships but also art and painting, philosophy and science, and religion and persecution. This was a chance find which turned out a wonderful read.

To close my chain this time, I’m staying in Holland, with Alexander Dumas’ The Black Tulip (1850) where Cornelius von Bearle, a tulip grower who only wishes to cultivate the elusive black tulip finds himself caught in political intrigue and conspiracy when a rival grower has him charged with treason. I remember this book starts off rather gruesomely but it does give one an interesting and engrossing tale once one is past this part.

So that was my chain for this month, which began with confusion and political intrigue in India, before moving on to some colourful characters including a blue parrot in Italy, a children’s mystery involving parrots, and birds in a frightening avatar before coming back to politics and intrigue in Holland, first with a young girl in Delft and then a tulip grower!

Where did your chains take you?


12 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Passages to The Black Tulip (March 2023)

  1. I started my chain with A Passage to India too, but went in a different direction after that. Still Life is a great link – I had forgotten that Forster appeared in that book! I loved both The Birds and Other Stories and The Black Tulip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 Still Life is such an enjoyable book too. Glad to hear you enjoyed The Birds. I’m a still sceptical since I don’t do too well with horror but then I do love Du Maurier


  2. A clever chain! First of all, The Three Investigators is my childhood companion, but I’ve always thought it’s written by Alfred Hitchcock! I remember reading them always made me imagining hiding between the rubbles at Jupiter’s uncle’s junkyard, with piles of books to read; no one would ever find me! :))
    Still Life sounds interesting, and I wouldn’t miss a chance to read about a parrot who quotes Shakespeare!
    I’ve read Dumas’ Black Tulip, it’s a wonderful little book!
    Mine brought me to another DDM’s: Rebecca


    1. Thank you! Yes ,The Three Investigators are great fun. I only had one of the old editions which don’t mention the author of the book but which have Hitchcock in them–I remember the boys meeting him too. The newer editions have sadly done away with the introduction and I think even mention of him.


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