#6Degrees of Separation: February 2023

Hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best, this is your chance to make free associations (or weird and wonderful ones) between books: we all start in the same place but usually end miles/continents apart. This month we start with Trust by Hernan Diaz.

I haven’t read it but it features wealthy families in the 1920s, which instantly makes me think of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of my favourite books, as my older son never ceases to remind me – luckily, he thought it was pretty good too, even though he did not do English Literature for his A Levels (or maybe because of that).

Next link is a book (ok, a play) that I did study for my university entrance exam and therefore did not like as much as I might have done otherwise: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. I suppose in Communist times it was regarded as an indictment of the American Dream and therefore Capitalism – and so it should be! Incidentally, this is a further link with The Great Gatsby, since that book also shows the feet of clay of the American Dream.

Willy Loman is the disappointed salesman in Miller’s play, so my next jump is to another character called Willy, namely Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I loved this story as a child, and my children enjoyed it too, although it turns out that the author was not that nice as a person. I think we can catch glimpses of that in his work too – but then, children are often not very nice either, so they chortle at naughtiness and evil deeds in their fiction.

Chocolate forms my next link to Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I saw the film quite a while back but never read the book until a few years ago and… no, it’s not my kind of book, but I do like its description of small-minded, small-town France (although it could describe small-town mentalities anywhere, but just with better food and weather).

It is tempting to use France as the lynchpin for my next book, especially since I am doing a #FrenchFebruary reading challenge, but instead I will turn to a writer from neighbouring Switzerland who is a master at describing the rural villages of the Vaud canton on Lake Geneva: C.F Ramuz: Beauty on Earth, which I have read and reviewed a while ago (and, which appropriately enough was translated into English by the very friend in whose house I was staying last week).

A tenuous final link: for the longest time, I got Ramuz confused with Frédéric Mistral, born and built in Provence, who wrote in Occitan and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1905. [Ramuz partly overlapped with Mistral but wrote in French/Suisse romande and did not win the Nobel Prize. As you can see from their portrait photos below, they don’t look that alike either, although they both seem to appreciate a hat.] Mireille/ Mireio is considered Mistral’s most important work, a long narrative poem, a sort of Romeo and Juliet for the region. I don’t know how many people still read him today, outside his native region?


So my literary travels have taken me from America to England, from France to Switzerland and back again. Can’t wait to see where the others went with their literary links!


9 thoughts on “#6Degrees of Separation: February 2023”

  1. You have some clever links here, Marina Sofia! And you chose a few (Death of a Salesman, The Great Gatsby) that really do explore the whole family dynamic. And after reading your other links, I want some chocolate!!

  2. I haven’t read Trust either, but The Great Gatsby is a good first link! I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a child too, and of course at that age I never thought about what the author might have been like as a person.

  3. So thrilled to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in your chain. I would agree about not liking books one reads for exams or school. Little Women was one of those for me.

  4. What an interesting chain. I’m intrigued by Frédéric Mistral – I didn’t know anybody still wrote in Occitan. I’d be interested to try to read this. It’s not that hard to decode the language with French, Italian, Spanish and Latin at your disposal.

    1. Well, this was over 100 years ago – he also compiled a dictionary of the Occitan language. I think he was trying desperately to save it… not with all that much success, it has to be said.

      1. When we lived in France, there were quite a lot of Adult Education classes in Occitan available. But it was a bit of a niche pursuit, and nobody went home and conversed in Occitan after the class I think! But like any good inhabitant of the Ariege, I can sing every word of Se Canto in Occitan 😉

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