TCL’s #6Degrees of Separation for October 2, 2021.

From “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson to “The Girl on the Landing” by Paul Torday.

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.

THANKS FOR PLAYING!

This month we start with “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson!

LotteryThis month (October 2, 2021), the chain begins with a short story – “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Well, I can read a short story as quickly as anyone, and this one, first published in The New Yorker in 1948 was easy to get my hands on, and I zipped through it in only two sittings, in less than one day! That’s very fast for this dyslexic reader, and you can find my review of it here. Now, this story has been touted as “one of the most famous short stories in the history of American literature,” and well… I don’t know how famous it is, because I’d never heard of it before. Now, my regular readers know that I honestly believe that a really well-written short story is a joy to behold, so I have no problem with the format, and the story isn’t bad. I’m just unsure that this should be considered all that famous. But you know, hype is hype and always will be hype!

First Degree. 

the-kalahari-typing-school-for-men-2When I think of hype, I can find many books that I thought weren’t worthy of all the excitement. One of those would be “The Kalahari Typing School for Men” by Alexander McCall Smith. I know, maybe I should have started with the first of the books in that series, but that was the one that someone (my sister?) told me they loved and recommended to me (or gave me – I forget). In fact, tons of people said I should read them because I like Agatha Christie’s books. Well, I’m sorry, but although it was cute, and I liked Precious, I wasn’t bowled over, and I’ve never gone back to reading any of the others. (I’m also sorry to say that I tried to watch the TV series based on these books and although it was fun, I’ve decided there are better things to watch.)

Second Degree.

13ed2-miniaturist-1Speaking of a novel that was turned into TV series, I think for this next link, I’ll go with “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton. Now don’t feel bad if you didn’t know that this was made into a TV mini-series; I found it by accident myself. Now, obviously, after enjoying this book so much, I was reasonably wary of any film version. However, I’m very happy to report that this is one of the best adaptations I’ve seen in a very long while. It is all of two (fairly long) episodes, but I think they really captured what Burton was trying to convey here, and I didn’t notice any real changes from the novel. What’s more, the actress who plays Petronella, the main protagonist in the book, was none other than Anya Taylor-Joy, the girl who swept everyone off their feet with her amazing performance in the TV series “The Queen’s Gambit”!

Third Degree.

ed0dc-death27s2bheadimage-ashxAs you know, “The Queen’s Gambit” was about a young girl who becomes a grand master at chess, and chess is the next link in this chain. This next book is a fairly unknown novel called “The Death’s Head Chess Club” by John Donoghue. It is a fascinating story about how an officer in Auschwitz, is tasked with raising morale among his staff, which he does by starting a chess club. When the club starts to wane, he finds out about the Jewish prisoner known as “Watchmaker” who is rumored to be unbeatable at chess. Obviously, the Nazi is sure that the Jew is no match for his officers and to spice things up for the club (and thereby also prove the inferiority of the Jews to the Aryans), he decides to have him play against his fellow officers and enlisted men, with the only condition being that the Jew must play to win. No spoilers, but 20 years later, Watchmaker and this SS Obersturmführer find themselves both competing at the 1962 Amsterdam Chess Tournament (which also makes a connection to our previous book, and not just the TV show).

Fourth Degree.

JackMaggsNazis, of course, were hateful people, which brings me to the next link, with a hateful character. If you recall the Charles Dickens novel “Great Expectations” there’s a character called Magwitch, who is being deported to Australia for his crimes, when Pip shows him a little bit of kindness. Author Peter Carey uses this as the basis of his novel “Jack Maggs” where the main characters come together in a type of continuation of Dickens’ novel. There’s a whole lot of subterfuge going on here, and quite a few underhanded deals being made, all unbeknownst to our protagonist, who is called Philips (instead of Pip). I wasn’t thrilled with this novel, although I have to admit that the premise is very good, even if he did rip it off from Dickens.

Fifth Degree.

e91fd-the-deal-of-a-lifetime-9781501193491_lgNow, the connection to my next link is a touch tenuous here, so bare with me, please. As I said, Carey’s book uses elements of a Dickens story. When I read this next book, my immediate thought was that this was a new Christmas Carol of sorts (which was, of course written by Charles Dickens). I’m talking about Fredrik Backman’s “A Deal of a Lifetime.” In this book too, the main protagonist isn’t a very nice person (like Scrooge), and the whole “deal” here is a way for him (he’s unnamed) to find some kind of redemption before he dies. Thankfully, as the story progresses, we come to have quite a bit of sympathy for this man, and can appreciate his relationship with a young girl who is also dying. In my review, I called it “a thought-provoking novella about love, death, choices and consequences.”

Sixth Degree. 

girl on landingNow, I could have gone the Christmas route for this next link, but October is the month for Halloween, and I thought instead I’d us a holiday themed link up to a novel with some unexplained, slightly spooky stuff going on. That’s why I chose to end this chain with “The Girl on the Landing” by Paul Torday. This is a bit of a psychological thriller type of story, and was not something I was expecting from Torday. Furthermore, another thing that connects this story to the previous one is how the protagonist here (Michael) begins to change his behavior, and in Backman’s novella, the protagonist also changes from the start of the story. In both these books, the way these men evolve from the start of their stories, also changes our perception of them by the end of our reading.

There you have it – my chain of books for this month. (Which has far more male writers than usual.) So… the question is, does this last book connect in any way back to our starting point story?

The only thing I can think of is that both stories are psychological thrillers (of sorts), and neither end very well! Also, both Torday and Jackson died at the heights of their writing careers.

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 October 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 (November 6, 2021), we will start with Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through.

42 thoughts on “TCL’s #6Degrees of Separation for October 2, 2021.

  1. What a wonderful chain Davida. I have not read any of these books but have The Deal of a Lifetime and The Miniaturist on my TBR. I will have to get them both read then see if I can find the mini-series.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m only just catching up this month Davida. Your chains are always so interesting. I have to say I very much enjoyed the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency TV series, but I’ve never even tried to read the books. My mother loves them. I did, however, read several in his Scotland Street series; he does really nail the characters and behaviour of certain Edinburgh ‘types’, but I think if you hadn’t lived there these wouldn’t seem nearly as funny. I also felt he started to run out of steam, and make the stories increasingly ridiculous, so I haven’t read the more recent ones.

    I tried his series set in London – Corduory Mansions – and thought it was much less entertaining than Scotland St – I think this is perhaps because McCall Smith is Edinburgh through and through, whereas I get the impression he’s never lived in London. There again, London is so big and disparate that maybe it’s just harder to satirise.

    And I do agree, he is NOTHING like Agatha Christie! That does seem a very strange comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I finally got to read your chain, Davida! Some great choices. I felt the same as you about the McCall Smith’s series, although I did enjoy the tv adaptation. I certainly wouldn’t set them alongside Christies books – what a strange thought! Magwitch proved to be kinder than he appeared by the end of Great Expectations. I’d not heard of Jack Maggs. I find spin-off and continuation novels intrigue me to the point that I have to try them, knowing I’m bound to be frustrated and/or disappointed. So onto the list goes Jack Maggs. (I suppose I keep hoping for those rare good ones.) The Backman novella certainly sounds intriguing – and a great link. Another for the list and maybe a read this Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really need to read The Miniaturist, although I think I have just packed it into a box so it won’t see light of day until next year now! Jack Maggs is the only Peter Carey book I have read, which I guess makes me a bad Australian!

    Enjoyed your chain this month.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your approach to this topic. If it helps, I LOVE the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, but only in audio and now, sadly never again, as the reader of 20+ books of an African series, written by a white Scotsman, was dropped and a new “more appropriate” reader was found–and ruined the series for me and many others.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, I also meant to say that I did read the first book in the series by McCall and was very disappointed. Definitely not worth the hype for me. It didn’t even make me feel like trying the 2nd volume

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As ever, a great chain from you Davida. I’m not an Alexander McCall Smith fan, either. I’m sure he’s well intentioned, but his books make me feel uncomfortable because they are stories of Black people told through a white lens.

    I loved The Miniaturist, but didn’t watch the TV series. I might look it out now that I know you rate it. And you’ve reminded me that I still haven’t found time to watch The Queen’s Gambit.

    I’m intrigued by The Death’s Head Chess Club. I hadn’t heard of that one. And I didn’t know that Jack Maggs was a continuation novel from Great Expectations. I do enjoy Peter Carey’s novels, and that is one that I haven’t read.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The only one I have read is Jack Maggs (pre-blog) and I remember liking it a lot.

    You’re not the only one who doesn’t get on with Alexander McCall Smith. I remember his books being all the rage in the early 2000s and one of my colleagues let me borrow ‘The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ and I thought it was stupid. Now, if a white man wrote a book about a black woman in Africa they’d be howled out of town!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have read the first book in the Alexander McCall Smith series and enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it was anything very special. I haven’t rushed to continue with the series, but might try another one at some point. Did you know there’s a sequel to The Miniaturist coming next year? Something to look forward to!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I didn’t know that. I have a copy of her second book, The Muse, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. She’s one of those writers that I can forgive for putting some slightly magical stuff into her books. Joanne Harris is another one.

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  10. I always love going through other chains and was surprised that I had read the first two degrees in your post. I understand your disappointment about “The Kalahari Typing School for Men”. I think, the only reason why I read many of the books in this series was that I really liked the first one. But I totally agree, they are not all great and if you came upon one that you disliked, I understand, that you don’t want to read more.

    I had seen that they made “The Miniaturist” into a series. Same as you, I’m always very careful with that and I’m happt to hear that you liked the tv version. Maybe I’ll have a look myself one day.

    My Six Degrees of Separation led me to The Wave, a great book that explains a lot about human nature and why we have so many problems in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The TV version of The Miniaturist sounds interesting. As do – well actually, all the others. Though like you, I find the McCall Smith books ultimately unrewarding, though pleasant enough. A really interesting chain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, pleasant enough. I mean, I’d not go out of my way to read another one, but if say… I was on vacation and my Kindle went dead, if I saw one of his books on a B&B book shelf, I might pick it up to read.

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  12. Well, of course as you know, I don’t think The lottery is hyped, so I don’t really agree that your first link is valid! Ha ha! And then we get to that link. I have absolutely no interest in Agatha Christie . Never read her, and really didn’t much like the Miss Marple or Poirot TV series, though we watched the odd one. However I quite enjoyed the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books of which I read the first six or seven. They didn’t make me want to go onto read more of his books but for a few years the next book in this series was my family’s beach holiday read (by whom I mean my husband, parents and mother-in-law. It was a nice little tradition we had in the 2000s and I am fond of McCall-Smith for that!)

    I also liked Jack Maggs but I really can’t remember much about why or whether I had reservations. I have one Today on my TBR – you can probably guess which – but have never read him.

    My post is scheduled for a couple of hours away!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, there are many bloggers I follow where I see the email and almost automatically just open the message and delete it. Not with you – even though our tastes vary, I always know I’ll read something interesting and insightful in your reviews. Thanks for being there for me!

      Like

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