#6Degrees of Separation January 2023: From Beach Read to…

A very summery starting point to the monthly Six Degrees of Separation reading meme, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We start with the same book, add six linked ones and see where we end up!

January’s starting point is Beach Read by Emily Henry – which features writers struggling to complete their novels (a theme I usually cannot resist), but also romance (which I am less keen to read). I haven’t read this book, and I tend to read quite heavy-going books on the beach anyway, so am struggling to find a first link. Iin the end I thought I would go with other genres that I tend to bypass nowadays, although I loved them as a teenager. This is not because of any snobbery, but simply that I enjoy these kinds of books less or feel I have less time to read things outside my favourite genres. So, the other genre you will seldom see on my list of books and practically never on my shelves is horror. However, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham is a classic of the genre which I really enjoyed reading (and which properly creeped me out) when I was a teen. The spooky telepathic child villains are the stuff of nightmares.

A similar theme is explored in The Uninvited by Liz Jensen, but this time there is a global epidemic of child violence. I had the pleasure of meeting Liz at a Geneva Writers’ Group conference and she was very warm and kind, but a consummate storyteller and fascinated by ‘what ifs’.

The third book is also by an author I met at the Geneva Writers’ Conference: Laura Kasischke’s Be Mine. This precedes the recent Vladimir by Julia May Jonas by well over a decade, but is likewise a story about a middle-aged academic embarking upon a love affair with a younger man. It is not as satirical about academic pretensions, but a good deal more menacing and disquieting.

A huge leap to a very different kind of ‘mine’ in the next book in my chain, The Mine by Antti Tuomainen, transl. David Hackston. You may know Tuomainen as the writer of black crime comedies, but previously he wrote some quite dark books, and this might be called an ecological thriller, as an investigative reporter tries to uncover the truth about a mining company’s illegal activities.

The publication year 2016 is the common thread between The Mine and my next choice, Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City, was one of my favourite books published that year, weaving personal experience with biographical details of famous artists in their New York solitude.

It would be too easy to find a book with the word ‘City’ in its title as the final link in the chain, so I will make it more difficult for myself by choosing one such book written by another author whose name was Olivia, namely Olivia Manning’s The Spoilt City, the second in her Balkan Trilogy, describing an increasingly fraught marriage and city of Bucharest in 1940. High time I reread both of her trilogies.

So my travels this January have taken me from a small English village to a global phenomenon, a small university town in the States to a mine in the north of Finland, the bright lights of New York City and the war-dimmed lights of Bucharest. Where will your literary links take you this month?

19 thoughts on “#6Degrees of Separation January 2023: From Beach Read to…”

    1. I saw the old film (was it black and white, it seems so in my memory). Have you seen the recent adaptation – a mini-series on TV, I believe, with Keeley Hawes?

  1. What a great, clever way to link your books, Marina Sofia! I’d never have thought of that ‘genres I used to read but now don’t’ before, and I really like it. We all have those sorts of books and genres, I suspect. In any case, you have some clever choices here.

    1. Historical, romance, horror, science fiction are all genres I used to read a lot more, but now only read very occasionally… In some ways, it’s not a good thing that my tastes have got narrower rather than broader over the years, but it does mean that I usually quite enjoy what I’m reading, rather than experiencing quite a bit of trial and error.

  2. Haha, I love how you in one small step got from lighthearted beach reading to creepy telepathic child villains! Like you, romance and horror are amongst my least read genres. The Antti Tuomainen book sounds intriguing.

    1. To be fair, creepy and dark is more my style than lighthearted beach read. I am the pretentious teenager who used to read Sigmund Freud and Dostoevsky on the beach.

  3. I read The Midwich Cuckoos a few years ago and really enjoyed it, although it’s not a genre I read very often these days either. I still haven’t read the Olivia Manning trilogies, but maybe this will be the year!

    1. I haven’t seen the latest TV adaptation of the Midwich Cuckoos, was wondering if it was worth watching. And yes, I would recommend Manning’s trilogies. Perhaps not both in one year, unless you really get on with them like a house on fire!

  4. Ha ha, some creative links too. I love cheekiness in linking and your “mine” is certainly up there.

    I related a lot to your opening. I don’t go to the beach but when I think of summer or holiday reading, I simply think, reading. That is, l always read what interests me and that is usually darker and more serious, or satirical, works. Reading itself is escape, in a way, for me, not some light subject matter over dark. Also, like you, I don’t read horror, but in my teens I did get into John Wyndham, including the Midwich Cuckoos which is one of the more memorable of his I read.

  5. I also read John Wyndham as a teenager. I wonder what I’d think of him now? Maybe I should find out. An interesting chain as usual, with a very clever premise.

    1. We read a couple of his books at school – which, oddly enough, did not trigger a gag reflex, but made me want to read more by him. I did NOT feel like that about A Tale of Two Cities (although I enjoyed other books by Dickens).

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