#6Degrees January 2021: From Hamnet to…

This is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month she chooses a book as a starting point and you have to link it to six other books to form a chain. It doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, merely to the one next to it, although some participants choose a theme for all of the links. This month we start with  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, which was one of my top reads of the year 2020.

So the first link is a very obvious one, namely another favourite read of the year, a book published in 2020, and whose author I got to see in an online literary event: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami.

The second link is the only other book I can think of with ‘eggs’ in the title, namely Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss. I not only loved it as a child, but I read it so many times to my own children (during their fussy eating phases) that I know it by heart. As a former fussy eater myself, I could really empathise with the candid cry: ‘I do not like them in a house./ I do not like them with a mouse./ I do not like them here or there./ I do not like them anywhere.’

The more spurious link to my next choice is the name Sam – a marginally less obnoxious character than that insistent, nagging Sam-I-Am is Sam Spade from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. The charismatic, brooding, cynical private eye was not the first hardboiled detective but truly defined the genre for all who followed.

Another book with the name of a bird of prey in the title is Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth, set in Roman Britain and exploring the supposed annihilation of the Ninth Legion of the Roman Army. I was fascinated by this book when I was a child, but my children never quite got into it.

By way of contrast, one of the series that my older son really got into and which I never quite loved was Harry Potter by JK Rowling. I thought they were quite poorly written and derivative, and much preferred Diana Wynne Jones. But of course I was an adult already by the time they came out, so who knows how I’d have felt about them as a child.

My final link is to the wonderful Tales of Beatrix Potter, which was much loved by all three of us. As a child I was probably most like Tom Kitten getting his clothes terribly mussed up, but nowadays I most identify with poor Mrs Tittlemouse desperately trying to keep her house tidy against a deluge of visitors. (Well, not this year, but you know what I mean…)

This has been a nostalgic little trip down memory lane – and I wonder if that is because subconsciously the theme has been one of motherhood (with the exception of Sam Spade, who perhaps needs a mother to soften him a little). Or maybe my subconscious is troubled by the endless debates about schools reopening safely (or not). Anyway, here is our beautiful edition of the Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter, a treasured birthday present for my older son’s second birthday.

31 thoughts on “#6Degrees January 2021: From Hamnet to…”

  1. I love the unexpected twist of your chain and its journey down memory lane. I too enjoyed The Eagle of the Ninth as a child. My children also did not. We share the same experience with Harry Potter too. Now all I need to do is to put Breasts and Eggs onto my TBR list.

    1. Isn’t that funny, how the tastes of different generations change? Mine were also not enamoured with Enid Blyton, but they did like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. And, luckily, we all had great fun reading the Narnia set together!

        1. They were the first books I was able to read on my own and I flew through them – and dreamt of an English boarding school until a friend of mine actually went to one and told me it was NOTHING like Mallory Towers.

  2. What a brilliant chain! I love your ‘Sam’ link. I couldn’t get on with Breasts and Eggs last year, but I found that with quite a few titles and realised it was probably me not them. So I will need to have another go at some point, particularly as you recommend it so highly.

    1. It’s so often a case of right book at the right time. I did have some moments at first when I thought it was a bit flat and pedestrian, but I stuck with it and it was worth it in the end. But you are right, I’ve had much less patience with books this past year. One hit and they were out!

  3. I love the way you wove in some childhood classics, Marina Sofia! And I, for one, consider your use of Sam as one of the links to be very clever. And you’ve reminded me that I still have not read Hamnet yet. I keep hearing about it, but I haven’t got down to it yet. I will…

  4. Good to see “The Eagle of the Ninth” in there. I read that in school when I was eleven and I loved it. Agreed on Diana Wynn Jones. “Dogsbody” is my favorite (although I have not read them all and it’s many years since I read it.).

    1. I remember at school we used to have a series of tiny little individual tales, all in a slipcover. I loved those, but it’s nice to have bigger illustrations all in one volume too!

  5. Goodness, I’m suddenly discombobulated at the idea of Sam Spade’s mum! I wonder what she was like… and what she thought of how her son turned out! 😀

  6. Gosh, your reading experiences in Britain are so different from mine in the States. I loved the Beverly Cleary books, then children-directed biographies, and then Nancy Drew books. Didn’t hear of Enid Blyton until I began reading blogs by English readers. I have never read one of her books. Then at 13 I was reading Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, Somerset Maugham. Not many women writers around here then. Read a few by Agatha Christie (got annoyed at her bigotry so I stopped), and one by Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey, I think. Was so happy when the women’s movement reverberated in the fiction world and then the mystery world, and when Black writers’ works were being published.

    1. I have a less conventional childhood reading experience than most, because I grew up between three cultures: I am Romanian and spoke/read Romanian at home, but grew up in Austria (so was exposed to a lot of German-speaking culture, including TV) and went to an English school (but it was international, so we did have quite a few American influences as well as English ones).

  7. I recognize Kawakami because I signed up for the Japanese Literature Reading challenge too. 🙂
    And so great to see Tales of Beatrix Potter here. And that reminded me of the movie Miss Potter (which I’d really liked). Look at how the mind just leaps forward! Six Degrees, indeed.

  8. I love your chain, MarinaSofia – and as you mentioned on my own chain, great minds thought alike re Green Eggs and Ham! Who would have expected two of us to choose that?

    Interesting thoughts re books we liked but our children didn’t. I too grew up on Enid Blyton. My children quite liked some of her Famous Five books, but not nearly so much as I had. I had also loved Malcolm Savill’s Lone Pine series, but when I started to read one to my children, I loathed it as much as they did. They all loved Harry Potter, but I am with you, I think JKR is very good at plotting but her writing is dull and pedestrian, with FAR too many adverbs. Whenever I came to another ‘said Hermione, shrilly’ my children knew I was going to stop for a quick tirade….

    We did all love Roald Dahl, especially The Witches and The BFG.

    I don’t think I am going to read Hamnet. I am sure it is brilliant, I just can’t deal with any more misery – which is ridiculous, as I have had a very easy time lately compared to so many people, but I still find myself wanting to read less harrowing stuff.

  9. I enjoyed your trip down memory lane – faced with an uncertain situation, there is comfort to be found in the familiar. Breasts and Eggs has been featured on quite a few blogs this year – I might check it out!

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