#6Degrees of Separation for January 2, 2021.

From “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell to “Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler.

This is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:

  • Link the books together in any way you like.
  • Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books are My Favourite and Best.
  • Share these rules in your post.
  • Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
  • Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
  • Share you post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hash tag.
  • Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.


This month we start with “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell (my favorite book of 2020)!

Hamnet UKThis month (January 2, 2021), the chain begins with “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell. YES! I get to start with a book I’ve not only read, but loved. Of course, my regular readers already know that this was my #1 favorite book of 2020, and I consider this winner of the Women’s Fiction Prize to be O’Farrell’s masterpiece (so far)! I’ve been a fan of O’Farrell’s works for many years, and I actually pre-ordered this in print, and then was totally chuffed when I got approval to read the ARC as well (no, I didn’t cancel my order. This is one of those books you want to display proudly on your shelf). I couldn’t resist this fascinating investigation into Agnes (Anne) Hathaway, the wife of the great William Shakespeare, and the tragedy of their losing their only son at only the age of 11. (By the way, although I try not to use the same books twice in these, I reserve the right to use this particular book in a future #6Degrees post, because it was Kate’s pick, and not mine).

First Degree. 

29245653There are many ways I could go from this starting point, but I think I’ll use Shakespeare for this link. Well, modernized Shakespeare, and for that I have “Hag-Seed” by Margaret Atwood. This novel was commissioned Hogarth Press to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, where authors were asked to write modern versions of his famous plays. Atwood picked The Tempest, and to tell the truth, this is one of his plays I didn’t know at all. But through Atwood’s eyes, and her masterful storytelling, I think I now get the gist of it now, and it certainly is an unusual one. To be honest, I’d say this play is a bit too fanciful for my taste, but what Atwood does with it, is amazing!

Second Degree.

271c8-handmaidstaleKeeping with Atwood, and back to masterpieces, I guess one might say that “The Handmaid’s Tale” is hers. I was very glad to have read this book before the TV series came out, although it did make me have some criticisms of the first season. Because of this, I noticed all the things that were in the book and those that were added for the series. There were also things in the book that were talked about only in passing, but upon which the series put more emphasis. That wasn’t a bad thing, to my mind, and I think they did a very good job with the series, and added on to the story very nicely with the second and third ones. Mind you, I’m not ready to read the sequel to this book.

Third Degree.

d5a1b-thefourthhandI’m going to be a bit obtuse with this next connection and use only part of the previous book’s title, that being the word “hand”. For this, I’m going with one of the last books I read by John Irving before giving up on him, which is his “The Fourth Hand”. This unusual story is about a handsome, but mediocre TV news reporter who loses gets his hand bitten off by a lion from an Indian circus. After this accident (well, he was partially to blame, he gets three hand transplants. But all of those are rejected, until he gets the fourth one. Strangely enough, with that hand, he becomes involved with the widow of the donor. Yes, it really is an unusual story, that borders on being almost fantastical, which I didn’t really care much for, but it wasn’t too bad. I guess if you’re willing to suspend disbelief, you might enjoy this novel more than I did, but I couldn’t give it more than three stars.

Forth Degree.

9543c-a-perfectly-good-man-hb_largeThe protagonist in the previous novel is called Patrick Wallingford. One of my favorite authors is Patrick Gale, and so I think my next connection will be to his novel “A Perfectly Good Man”. This story takes place in a small Cornish village, where Barnaby, the minister, tries to deal with the complex problems of his constituents, and in particular the young man Lenny, who Barnaby was unable to stop from committing suicide. What intrigued me about this novel was that the title can be interpreted in different ways. Who was the one who was perfectly good – Lenny or Barnaby? And was being “perfectly good” ironic, or sincere? This is a beautifully written novel, that might sound confusing – due to the mixed-up timelines – but which comes together… well… perfectly, in the end. Gale is truly masterful at portraying troubled characters, that we can easily empathize with.

Fifth Degree.

031d8-campari2bfor2bbreakfast2bsara2bcroweI don’t have too many books that deal with suicide that I haven’t already used, but there is one. That being “Campari for Breakfast” by Sara Crowe, which strangely enough, is a very comedic novel! See, our protagonist here, Sue Bowl, is only 17 years old, when her mother commits suicide, and soon thereafter, her father starts up with another woman. On top of this, her grandfather has recently passed away. Feeling at loose ends, Sue’s Aunt Coral generously invites her to her remote village outside of London, to spend a gap year in her mother’s ancestral home, in hopes of giving her comfort while also receiving some in return. In this isolated location, Sue finds plenty of time to work on her romance novel, and she even gets involved in her Aunt’s creative writing group to help her along. This was Crowe’s debut novel, but you might also know of her from her comedic acting work (such as her part as the “first bride” in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral).

Sixth Degree. 

0edfc-vinegar-girl-anne-tylerAnd weddings are what I’ll use for my last connection! I have quite a few options here, but I think the one that works the best would be “Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler. Now, I almost made this one into an earlier link in this chain, but decided to go another route. And yet, it still got into this chain (fate?)! You see, this too is an updated version of a Shakespeare play, that being his “Taming of the Shrew,” and was also one of the Hogarth Press commissioned novels. Why I think this is the most appropriate for this link is because the movie Crowe was in was about weddings – plural, not singular. We all know that the shrew in this play is the older of two sisters. Their father insists that the elder get married before he’ll allow the younger daughter to wed the man she loves. But she’s a difficult woman to match with any man! Although this isn’t my favorite of Tyler’s novels, and not the best Shakespeare modernization I’ve ever read, the play that it’s based upon is one of my favorites, so why not, right?

There you have it – my chain of books for this month. So… the question is, does this last book connect in any way back to our starting novel?

Absolutely, it does. Because… Shakespeare, DUH!

If you don’t know any of these books, I hope you’ll click on the links to my reviews and check them out!

#6Degrees 02 Jan 2021

If you decide to join in on this meme, I hope you’ll give me the link to your post in the comments below, and/or put your link on the linky page that Kate has on her blog for this meme.

Next month (February 6, 2020), we will start with Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler (the link here is to my review of this book)!

53 thoughts on “#6Degrees of Separation for January 2, 2021.

  1. Love how you wove Shakespeare into your thread. I am a great fan of Ann Tyler, but have not read Vinegar Girl. I probably should before next month’s, so that I can tie it into The Redhead By The Side of The Road (February’s starting point). It’s nice to “meet” you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an interesting chain – you enjoyed Hamnet much more than I did! But I did love Patrick Gale’s beautifully written book. And I have to say The Fourth Hand sounds a bit too odd for me – I didn’t get on very well with A Prayer for Owen Meany, although I thought parts of it were brilliant.I also read The Handmaid’s Tale long before the TV series, but I didn’t watch that – I dislike noticing how script writers change the story – and usually the book is better than its adaptation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, since Atwood consulted on the TV series, I think she wasn’t upset with the changes. Irving is a very odd writer, so I get that. Did you read Gale’s latest? Take Nothing With You? Absolutely fabulous – his best yet, if you ask me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t read Gale’s latest – yet. Thanks for your recommendation. I’ve only read two of his books, Notes from an Exhibition and A Perfectly Good Man. Although I do have A Place Called Winter on my TBR shelves.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A Place Called Winter is excellent… semi-biographical about his grandfather, actually. But Take Nothing With You is semi-autobiographical, partly based on his own childhood.


    1. Actually, I gave up on Irving in the middle of reading “Until I Find You”. My husband got “In One Person” as well, but I didn’t even bother. Owen Meany… masterpiece.


  3. Ooh, Hag-Seed is awesome! And Vinegar Girl is on my list too, because … Shakespeare after all.

    John Irving’s Fourth Hand caught my attention. You know, I’ve often come across movies/ shows where the hero receives a heart transplant from a dying donor, and then takes on personality traits of the donor — including falling in love with donor’s fiancee. Perhaps they were all inspired by Irving’s story — though in their case, it wasn’t their hand, but their heart. ;-E

    ~Six Degrees Post @Lexlingua

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I don’t think Irving was being all that innovative. The phenomena of transplant people becoming attracted or attached to a relative of or someone close to the donor has been going on since transplants began – long before this book of Irving’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Davida! Aaaah I’m so impressed with your chain. I got Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth for Christmas. That is also part of the Hogarth Press Shakespeare list. I haven’t read any of them, but I did know that Hag-Seed was one of them. Didn’t know about Vinegar Girl. Will seriously have to check out that series.

    Happy New Year!

    Elza Reads

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad to hear you think they did a good job with the adaptation of at “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I mean to watch it, but I normally prefer to wait a bit after having read the book, so I don’t remember the details – then I would just be annoyed if it didn’t follow the book. Nicely done chain, always nice when it ends up circular!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great chain! I used Hag-Seed in last month’s chain, so I found a different Shakespeare link this month instead. I would like to try one of the other Hogarth retellings (Hag-Seed is the only one I’ve read), but I’m not sure if Vinegar Girl appeals to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your enthusiasm for Hamnet encouraged me to buy it when I secretly knew it was more to my taste than my sister’s! However, I am sure she will like it once she gets into it. I haven’t read any Atwood except the Handmaid’s Tale. There was actually an opera and I was able to attend the dress rehearsal world premiere about 18 months ago. My friend and I could tell everyone was gawking at someone in the audience and we assumed that Atwood had arrived a day early. I wished we had brought binoculars. The next day we read it was Baryshnikov, whose daughter had done the choreography and I must admit I was extremely disappointed not to have caught a glimpse of him, although most celebrities do not interest me. Envisioning him as a proud father was quite charming!

    I really wish that Blogger was as user friendly with its images as WordPress but I am not ready to make a change. I had to use Wix for a school assignment last year and it was very user friendly, in contrast. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shame… I would have liked to have seen him in person as well… I remember as a kid watching a TV show with him dancing and… WOW. As for Blogger… yes, the new version is a bit of a pain. I still have my old blog on there which I use as a landing page for here. The thing is, in all the years there I never got more than 12 followers and all of 5 comments.


    1. I’ve given up on Irving. I think the last one I was able to finish was A Widow for One Year, which I liked but the next one… it just rambled on and on an on, going off on tangent after tangent that I eventually gave up. It was something about a tattoo artist, I think?


  8. Love the reference back to the opening book Davida. Well done.

    BTW I have not sent myself the rule of not reusing titles in chains. I have often done so over the years. No-one’s every complained yet, though, who knows? Maybe they grumble under their breaths “she linked that book to X three chains ago and it was a much better link” but are too polite to tell me!

    Seriously though, I enjoyed your chain and explanations as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! For now, I would like to try not to repeat books in chains, but I will do if that’s the best choice. But that’s just me, and there is nothing in the rules that say we can’t, or even if we have to use only books we’ve reviewed (which I do).


      1. Yes, my only rule is that I like to only use books I’ve reviewed. Having done this meme for a few years now, and with needing to find 72 books every year, I do start to run out of appropriate books for the meme. I don’t review 72 books a year so you can probably see the problem re not re-using titles.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I started in October 2016 so have so far had to find over 300 books. I have reviewed more than that over the history of the blog but not all are good link choices and I really want to make the links interesting!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. There are no rules about reusing! Or about using books you haven’t read! Or books you have read but haven’t reviewed! There are no rules! 🙂

      I frequently use books I haven’t read or reviewed, or books more than once (although I do try to form a link on a different aspect of the book if I’m reusing).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I didn’t really think there were Kate. I think it’s more that Davida and I have our own little rules of thumb. But it’s good to know we aren’t offending anyone, So thanks!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Good to know, but as WG says, sometimes we like to add our own rules just for ourselves. This is my favorite meme, and I look forward to it every month. I’m already thinking about what the February chain will start out with. Thank you SO much for this!


  9. Yes, I’m the same… I was bowled over by The Handmaid’s Tale which I read before the Taliban and Saudi Arabia showed it was all perfectly possible, and quite liked the TV series for a while but then got totally sick of the Scowling Face and stopped watching it. I don’t particularly want to read The Testaments, I probably will if I see it at the library, but otherwise I have so many other books I’d rather read…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I had no idea that Sara Crowe had written a book. I still think of her, from way before even Four Weddings, as the character in the adverts for Philadelphia cream cheese, which were on British TV all the time 🙂 in the early ’90s.

    Liked by 1 person

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