Six Degrees of Separation – From Groff to…

Chain links…

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best. The idea is to start with the book that Kate gives us and then create a chain of six books, each suggested by the one before…


This month’s starting book is Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I haven’t read this one, but the blurb tells me…

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

Doesn’t appeal, in truth, but the word “fate” in the title made me think of…

f daniel kehlmann

F: A Novel by Daniel Kehlmann. A book I loved for its wit and intelligence, while frankly having no idea what it’s about! F is for family, or failure, or faith, or fraud, or fear, or fate. Or possibly it isn’t. Knowingly pretentious, wickedly funny, marginally surreal at points and superbly written – a joy to read!

…and Arthur described his idea to write a book that would be a message to a single human being, in which therefore all the artistry would serve as mere camouflage, so that nobody aside from this one person could decode it, and this very fact paradoxically would make the book a high literary achievement. Asked what the message would be, he said that would depend on the recipient. When asked who the recipient would be, he said that would depend on the message.

The book that Arthur writes is called My Name is No One, which reminded me of…


Patrick Flanery’s I Am No One. This book looks at our new surveillance culture through the growing paranoia of the narrator, who believes he is being watched both online and in real life. As always with Flanery, the writing is excellent and, in the first person telling of this one, he sustains the narrator’s almost stream of consciousness voice beautifully, without ever losing the reader. The uncertainty of the plot is brilliantly done and creates an atmosphere of growing tension as the story slowly unfolds.

Patrick Flanery
Patrick Flanery

Although the book is set mainly in New York, it refers to the narrator having lived for several years in Oxford, England, which made me think of…

saints of the shadow bible

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin, since as every reader of this series knows, Rebus’s favourite drinking den is The Oxford Bar. One of the things that I love most about this series is that Rankin always has his finger on the political pulse of Scotland, and this book is set to the background of the run-up to the recent Scottish Independence Referendum.

Ian Rankin in Rebus favourite pub, the Oxford Bar. Photograph by Murdo Macleod
Ian Rankin in Rebus favourite pub, the Oxford Bar.
Photograph by Murdo Macleod

But the plot also relates to the re-opening of a case from long ago – a case that Rebus worked on when he was just starting his career, which made me think of…

asking for the moon

Reginald Hill’s short story The Last National Service Man, in his collection titled Asking for the Moon. Written after the Dalziel and Pascoe series had been established for many years, Hill takes us back to their first meeting when young Pascoe was still wet behind the ears. Although the story could easily be read and enjoyed by a new reader, it’s full of little in-jokes and references for longtime fans, to whom Hill dedicated the collection with his usual wit…

Dedication 3

Throughout the series, Hill often included references to the works of Jane Austen in place and character names, and even occasionally in plot details, which made me think of…

northanger abbey

Northanger Abbey, the most deliciously light of all Austen’s books, filled with humour as Austen pokes gentle fun at her own class and gender. Catherine Morland is our naïve 17-year-old heroine, leaving her country parsonage home for the first time to visit the bright lights of Bath in the company of her generous neighbours, the Allens. Starry-eyed and romantic, she will soon be caught up in a horror story to match the Gothic sensation novels she loves – a product of her wild imagination… or is it??

Northanger illustration 1

She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can…

…I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance.

As part of the hideous Austen Project, the surprisingly enjoyable modern take on Northanger Abbey was written by Val McDermid, which led me to think of…

out of bounds

Out of Bounds, the fourth book in McDermid’s DCI Karen Pirie series. Karen is dealing with two cold cases, one regarding a horrific rape and murder, and the other of what looked at the time like a terror attack by the IRA. But as Karen investigates, she begins to think the motive may have been more personal. Set in her native Scotland, this series shows McDermid back at her best, and McDermid’s best is pretty much unbeatable!

Val McDermid
Val McDermid

 * * * * *

So Groff to McDermid, via fate, book titles, Oxford, early careers, Austen references, and modern re-tellings!

Hope you enjoyed the journey. 😀

42 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Groff to…

  1. I did indeed enjoy this journey! At first I couldn’t think what could be the link from Patrick Flanery’s book set in New York to Ian Rankin’s book – aahh, the Oxford Bar of course!! I’ve wondered about reading Val McDermid’s take on Northanger Abbey – I take it you liked it? Did you see her on University Challenge recently? – she was excellent.


    • Glad you enjoyed it! Haha – I must admit I enjoyed getting from New York to Edinburgh via Oxford! I did enjoy Northanger Abbey – the only one I enjoyed of the three Austen projects books that I read. With Northanger Abbey being about love, books and overactive imagination, it was easier to convert to the modern day, I suppose, than all the ones about class and the need for women to marry well. But McDermid kept the spirit of the thing and there was some lovely humour in it. I didn’t see her, but I’ve always liked her any time she’s appeared on book shows and so on – she seems like someone who would be quite fun in real life…


    • Oh yes, now you say that I remember him saying it had been his favourite book of the year! It’s got very good reviews, but somehow the blurb just doesn’t appeal to me…


  2. The Oxford Bar link? Genius.
    I just had a gander at your thoughts on the Austen Project. I have the Trollope take on S&S in the TBR stack but each time I go to pick it up… I don’t. Your review confirms what my instinct was suggesting!


    • Haha! Thank you – I must admit I enjoyed getting to Edinburgh from New York via Oxford.

      I thought the Trollope S&S was a total travesty, and yet the McCall Smith Emma was even worse! Thank goodness McDermid’s Northanger Abbey was fun – not a patch on the original, of course, but she kept the light tone and the gothic stuff, and there was plenty of humour in it. But I gave up then – couldn’t face the other three…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so clever, FictionFan! Titles, content, settings, you did that quite well. And included some really talented authors, too. Well done!


    • It’s certainly had loads of glowing reviews, but the marriage theme doesn’t really do it for me, I’m afraid, But it’s good to know you rate it highly – maybe I’ll give it a try one of these days… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A good journey – I especially liked the jump to The Oxford Bar, which was my local for a short period in the late seventies (pre – Rankin, unfortunately).


    • Oh, yes! I hadn’t made the connection about it being so close to where you lived. Phew! A dangerous place – from the books it appears the murder rate is phenomenal… 😉


  5. I *did* enjoy the journey, FF — thank you for letting me tag along! You are amazingly clever in these Six Degrees of Separation posts. And I must say, what an endearing dedication Hill has written — though I might take objection with his last statement! I mean, a poem is still a poem even if nobody but the poet reads it, right??!


    • Thanks, Debbie – glad you enjoyed it! Isn’t it a lovely dedication? I miss Reginald Hill so much – he’s one of those authors I always felt I’d love to meet. Ha! I suspect he was just flattering his readers… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 I love the Rebus books. It’s one of the most consistent series too – I can’t remember ever being really disappointed by one of them. Definitely worth trying!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – glad you enjoyed it. I always have fun doing it because I never know when I start where I’m going to end up. 🙂 I was tempted to read Fates and Furies, but the blurb didn’t do much for me, and as always my TBR is sooooooo long! Maybe one day… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • *curtseys* F&F has got loads of great reviews, so go for it if the blurb appeals, I say! Ha! Yes – and then Joanna Trollope set the bar really low… and yet Alexander McCall Smith still managed to crawl under it… 😉


  6. As always a totally inspired and entertaining post linking these books – I didn’t rate The Fates and The Furies and my donation to the book pile at work hasn’t had any takers either 🙂 I do love that inscription inside the Reginald Hill book!


    • Thank you! Ha! I always think it’s tragic when a book doesn’t find an owner even when it’s cheap or free – it’s like all those books that languish on Amazon Vine, some of them I even gave five star reviews to and yet still couldn’t persuade other Viners to request them!

      It’s great, isn’t it? I miss Reginald Hill…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just a tad disappointed by Fallen Land, but maybe I wasn’t getting enough chocolate that day… I shall try I Am No One and if I like it, I’ll give Fallen Land another shot… Uh-oh…. I just looked at the Amazon reviews and they blasted I Am No One, saying it’s wordy and rambling! Did you find this to be true? I’m conflicted now!


        • I didn’t think it was as good as Fallen Land, but I still thought it was well worth reading – here’s my review…
          However, you might prefer his first book, Absolution – it’s about post-apartheid South Africa, a kinda take on the whole truth and reconciliation thing, and the uncertainty of memory.

          You know, (I’m going to sound terribly pompous here – sorry!) I suspect he doesn’t go down too well in the US because he shines too bright a light on awkward bits Americans prefer not to acknowledge about their society. In Fallen Land, I felt strongly he was saying the society was on the brink of political meltdown, willing to allow authoritarianism in a bid for security, post 9/11. And pointing up the wide division between the liberals on the coast and the conservatives in the middle… hmm, sounds kinda as if he got it right! 😉 I must re-read it…

          Liked by 1 person

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