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’s starter book is Born to Run (2016), the autobiography of singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen, which he decided to write after an exhilarating experience performing at the Superbowl in 2009. It traces his journey from his childhood in New Jersey to becoming a musician and the rise of the E Street Band.

Once again, not a book I’ve read, and for my first link, I’m picking music and another American singer (or rather, two) as my connections. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets (2005) by Eva Rice is set in 1950s England where rationing was coming to an end, jazz ruled large, and Elvis Presley was appearing on the scene. Here eighteen-year-old Penelope Wallace (who loves the music of Johnnie Ray) lives with her mother, society beauty Talitha in the crumbling old home Milton Magna, while younger brother Inigo (an aspiring musician) attends school. One day, at the bus stop Penelope runs into Charlotte, and through her, her aunt Clare and cousin Harry, a budding magician, and life becomes very different then on. This is light-hearted in tone and yet touches on numerous more serious themes as well. Rice is the daughter of lyricist Sir Tim Rice and as a result, music is something that runs through this book, which also has lovely little illustrations all through.

One of the books that The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets reminded me very much of, because of its eccentric characters and the crumbing old home, was I Capture the Castle (1948) by Dodie Smith. This is the ‘diary’ of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain who lives in a crumbling old castle with her father an eccentric author who locks himself in the attic to work but is suffering writer’s block; her Bohemian stepmother, Topaz, an older sister longing to fall in love, and brother Thomas (also a dog and a cat). As an American family moves into the neighbouhood things begin to change.

Besides I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith also wrote another famous book, The 101 Dalmatians, which is of course about dogs. Another book about a dog which forms my third link is Flush (1933) by Virginia Woolf, the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, and through the eyes of Flush the story of EBB herself.

Another of Virginia Woolf’s well-known books, Mrs Dalloway is the subject of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway: Bookmarked (2022) by Robin Black in which Black writes about Mrs Dalloway and her own relationship to the book which she has returned to several times. This one’s still waiting on my TBR though I have read and enjoyed another entry in the Bookmarked series, focusing on George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

In Mrs Dalloway, Clarrisa Dalloway is planning her dinner party. Another book involving a dinner party is Three Act Tragedy (1934) by Agatha Christie. The eleventh of the Hercule Poirot books, in this one a theatre veteran Sir Charles Cartwright is throwing a dinner party, one which ends up having thirteen guests, and as is usually the case with thirteen guests, one of them falls down dead, apparently poisoned. Luckily Poirot is another dinner guest and at hand to solve the murder!

And the theatre is what brings me to my final link, The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944) by Edmund Crispin. The first of the Gervase Fen books, in this one a theatre company is preparing to perform at the repertory theatre at Oxford. Actress Yseut Haskell who is pretty but spiteful and enjoys picking quarrels with every one, is found shot just some distance away from Gervase Fen’s rooms, and so of course he becomes involves in the investigation. A wonderfully written book, full of humour and literary allusions, this was one I really loved.

And this completes my chain which brought me from a musician to the theatre, via a story which involves even if it isn’t focused on music, eccentric characters living in a crumbling home, the story of a famous poet through the eyes of her dog, a writer’s reflections on a favourite book, a dinner party, and a couple of murders, both connected with the theatre in some way.

Where did your chains lead you this month?


33 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Born to Run to The Case of the Gilded Fly (April 2023)

  1. I Capture the Castle is one of my favourite books. Smith lived for a time in the part of Manchester where I now live – the house, now used as offices, still stands and has a blue plaque on it to mark its cultural significance.

    I’m not a huge fan of Virginia Woolf. I enjoyed Orlando, but hated Mrs Dalloway, a book which dogs me at every literary turn, and To the Lighthouse. Flush sounds interesting though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How lovely to live near there!

      To The Lighthouse I read for a course I took and I got on with it better than with Mrs Dalloway (which was a bi of a struggle when I read it as a student), but I still wanted to read the essay just to see if perhaps it might make me want to approach it again. Flush though is a delight, and I would recommend it (there are parts where he is kidnapped, but no harm comes to him). I also like her essays on reading (The Common Reader).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I shall look Flush out, in that case. I have a pdf copy of A Room of One’s Own on my e-reader. Every time I make a reference to Mrs Dalloway, I remember that I should read it!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved I Capture the Castle, so maybe I should read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets as it reminded you of it. Three Act Tragedy is a Christie I haven’t read yet, but am hoping to get to it soon. Great links!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A very smart linking of chain, Mallika! I loved how you linked Mrs. Dalloway to Three Act Tragedy through the dinner party. I would’ve never thought that.
    And you have a couple of interesting books I’ve never known before, oh my…. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.