Six Degrees of Separation – From Wharton 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…

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. For once I’ve read it! My own little blurb says…

From the beginning of this beautifully written novella we know that it will end in tragedy, as we see the middle-aged Ethan Frome, half-crippled and withdrawn, and looking older than his years. We are told his injuries date back to his ‘smash-up’ twenty-four years ago. The book then takes us back to that time, when Ethan was a young man in his prime, but struggling to scratch a living from a failing farm and shackled to a sickly wife he couldn’t love. The only happiness in his life comes from his growing love for Mattie, cousin to Ethan’s wife Zeena – a young girl left on her own in the world and reliant on Zeena’s cold charity.

Made me sob buckets, quite frankly! Edith Wharton’s first name was Edith, which may seem a little obvious. A little less obvious is that the author of my first selection’s first name was Edith too! Carol Carnac was a pseudonym of ECR Lorac which was a pseudonym of Edith Caroline Rivett…Book cover and link to Amazon product page

Crossed Skis by Carol Carnac

A group of young people are off on a trip to the Austrian Alps for a skiing holiday. With sixteen places in the group, it’s been a mammoth job to get everyone organised and some last minute cancellations mean that a few places have been filled by friends of friends, not directly known by other people in the group. So when some money goes missing from one of the hotel rooms, suddenly suspicion begins to threaten what had been up till then a most enjoyable jaunt. Meantime, back in London, a body has been found burned beyond recognition in a house fire. The police soon have reason to suspect this was no accident however, and the print of a ski-stick in the ground outside the house has Inspector Rivers intrigued…

The Austrian Alps link me to my next book…

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

Set between the wars, this tells the story of two damaged people, Anton and Lena, who each look for a kind of healing in the Schloss Seeblick, a mental health sanatorium in a mountain valley in Carinthia. Along the way, we see events in the wider world through Anton’s experiences as a foreign correspondent, and get glimpses of the complex political situation in this part of Europe as extremism grows on both left and right. And through Martha, the daughter of the founder of the Schloss Seeblick, who now acts as both administrator and therapist, we are given some insight into the development of psychoanalysis in Austria in the wake of Freud’s theories. 

Psychiatry plays a large part in the plot of Snow Country and also in my next book…

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Chief Bromden has been on the mental ward for years, one of the Chronics who are never expected to recover. Everyone believes he is deaf and dumb, but his silence is a choice – a result of years of feeling that no one heard him when he spoke. Chief Bromden may be insane – or perhaps he’s too sane. As he puts it himself…

…you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please. It’s still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.

Into the ward one day comes a new patient, Randle P McMurphy: loud, brash, crude, funny. Maybe he’s insane, or maybe he’s faking it to get away from the work farm he was in for “fighting and fucking too much”. McMurphy is soon the “bull goose loony” in the ward, a gambling man challenging Nurse Ratched for supremacy…

A cuckoo is a type of bird, (see how educational my blog is?) and a different bird gets title billing (plus puns!) in my next choice…

Click for review

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

When luscious Miss Wonderly hires the detective firm of Spade and Archer to find her sister, Sam Spade might not believe her story but he’s happy to accept the $200 dollars she pays them upfront. So is Miles Archer, though his interest is more in the lady’s lovely legs. The job turns out to be more than either partner bargains for though, when Miles is shot dead. With Miss Wonderly begging for his help to protect her and find the Maltese Falcon of the title, Miles’ wife hoping his death means she and Sam can finally be together, and the police accusing him of murdering a man in revenge for Miles’ death, Spade is in trouble up to his neck. But nothing he can’t handle…

Humphrey Bogart starred in the movie of The Maltese Falcon, and also in the movie of my fifth pick…

The African Queen by CS Forester

It is 1914. When the Germans round up all the native inhabitants of the Reverend Samuel Sayer’s mission in Central Africa to take them off to fight in the war, the Reverend quickly succumbs to fever and dies, leaving his faithful sister all alone. Until along comes Charles Allnut, a Cockney mechanic who had been out on the river collecting supplies when the Germans came, and returned to find all the people at the mine where he worked gone too. He realises he can’t leave Rose here, so takes her with him aboard the little steam boat, the African Queen, planning to find somewhere safe to hole up till the war is over, at least in this part of the world. Rose, however, has a different idea. She wants revenge on the Germans for destroying her brother’s life work, and quickly convinces herself that they should take the African Queen down river to Lake Wittelsbach, there to destroy the German gunboat that patrols the lake. It takes her a little longer to convince Allnut…

The African Queen is a Belgian-owned steamboat working the Ulanga River in Tanzania. My sixth and final book also takes us on a steamboat journey along an African river, this time into the dark heart of the Belgian Congo…

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

One night a group of friends are aboard a boat on the Thames waiting for the tide before they can set sail. As darkness grows around them, one of the men, Marlow, tells the story of the time he worked as a pilot on a steamboat on the Congo and of the rogue ivory trader, Kurtz, whom he met there.

This book is an excoriating study of the horrors of colonialism in Africa. Conrad shows the devastating impact the white man had on both the society and the land of Africa, but he also shows that this devastation turns back on the coloniser, corrupting him physically and psychologically, and by extension, corrupting the societies from which he comes.

….“It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams….”
….He was silent for a while.
….“… No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream—alone….”

* * * * *

So from Wharton to Conrad, via Edith, Austrian Alps, psychiatry, birds, Bogart and African steamboats!

Hope you enjoyed the journey! 😀

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

  1. Oh, my, FictionFan! Edith to snow to birds to psychiatry to… I am impressed! What a clever chain you put together! Lovely, too, to see Lorac, Hammett, and a couple of other great authors, too. Funny, isn’t it, how very talented Lorac was, and how her work didn’t really get discovered until just a couple of years ago. I wonder how that happens?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, at least I managed not to get stuck in tunnels this month! 😉 It’s very odd how some authors stay in the public consciousness and others are allowed to fade. For my money Lorac isn’t quite up to Christie standard (who is?) but she’s pretty much up there with the other Queens of Crime and better than Margery Allingham, whom I could never quite see as the same standard as the rest. And yet Allingham has never faded. I often wonder if it simply depends on whether they got made into films or TV series.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I was proud of my Edith link so I’m glad you enjoyed it! Crossed Skis is good fun and especially for this time of year, although I prefer her Lorac books on the whole.


    • Haha, I was proud of that Edith link so I’m glad you enjoyed it! I try to only put good books in these chains – or occasionally terrible ones! These all count in the “good” category. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant, FF!! I haven’t read everything on your chain, but you’ve done a fabulous job summarizing them here. I don’t know how I managed to miss Heart of Darkness (I thought it was a classic), but maybe I should go back and remedy that. One day. Maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Debbie! 😀 Heart of Darkness is great but it’s not an easy read – it took me three reads before I really felt I was properly understanding it. Thank goodness it’s quite short! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That is a unusual chain and all the books are one I want to read. I have read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Maltese Falcon. I would try Heart of Darkness because it is a novella, it does sound very dark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All the books on this month’s chain are ones I would recommend quite highly. Heart of Darkness is quite a difficult read, though worth it – I had to read it three times before I really felt confident I was properly understanding it. So if you do decide to read it I really recommend getting a version with a good introduction and notes! 😀


  4. I enjoyed how you linked everything and learned a lot in the process! (well, I DID know a cuckoo and a falcon were both birds 😂) Seriously, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve read none of these, though I’ve seen a couple of film adaptations. (and will read OFOTCN for Classics Club)

    Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, yes, my schooldays were long ago too – in fact, a previous millennium! 😉 Given how hard I found Heart of Darkness now I’m really glad I wasn’t made to read it when I was young – I’ll never understand why they force that kind of book on kids!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’m glad you appreciated the educational aspects of the post! 😉 I read most of these when I was doing a Book of the Film thing a few years back, and this reminded me how much I enjoyed that – must start it up again! One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is great – I hope you enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I always like when my chain gets to some books that have been made into great films – then I can jazz the post up with images! 😉 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is great, but I wonder if I’d have appreciated it in high school… 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Speaking of Edith Wharton, I had never read anything by her until I was sent the short story Mr. Jones. Before Xmas I’m going to post a review of three little short stories, all xmas ghost stories, re-published by a small canadian press and newly illustrated. I think you will adore this series FF! I can’t wait for you to see this post of mine, so keep your eyes peeled…

    Liked by 1 person

    • That does sound like a wonderful idea for a series – looking forward to hearing what other you got! I’ve read a couple of Wharton’s ghost stories but not that one. I really enjoyed them – she’s great at creating a spooky atmosphere. I hope the Canadian publisher intends to get the series published over here too!

      Liked by 1 person

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