Six degrees of separation, FROM Rules of civility … TO …

I started last January’s Six Degrees with “Woo hoo! A New Year at last after what has really been a doozy for us all, in one way or another. So glad to see the back of it”. Little did we know – still, there was no harm in hoping for better. Regardless of what the year brought us, I hope you all had an excellent Christmas wherever you were and however you were able to spend it. And, given this year’s first Six Degrees of Separation meme actually happens on New Year’s Day, now’s the time to also wish you every good thing for 2022. Now, on with the show. If you don’t know this meme and how it works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book. This month, she’s chosen a book that’s on my TBR (given to me by my wonderful Californian friend, in fact) and that I want to read, Amor Towles’ Rules of civility. One day!

I’m going to start the year’s links by being a bit silly, and so my link is on a three-word title with “of” in the middle. I was surprised to find I had quite a bit of choice – including Book of colours and Field of poppies – but the title that felt closest in flavour to Towles’ is Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of travel (my review). This novel inspired and challenged me in so many ways.

Graham Greene, Travels with my aunt

Staying with the idea of travel, I’m linking to a novel whose title starts with “travel”, Graham Greene’s Travels with my aunt (my review). I loved reading Greene again after a long hiatus. It was because my reading group selected it as our “classic” pick for 2017.

William Makepeace Thackeray, Barry Lyndon

So, my next link is my reading group’s 2016 “classic” pick … a book that I didn’t enjoy so much, though it had its moments, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The luck of Barry Lyndon (my review). (For those of you who think I LOVE every book I read – think again!)

Book cover

The luck of Barry Lyndon is a good example of a traditional – classic – picaresque novel. When I wrote my post on Eve Langley’s 20th century novel, The pea pickers (my review), I observed that it had elements of the picaresque, and so it is on that idea that I chose it for my next link.

Frank Moorhouse, Cold Light

The two sisters in The pea pickers take to the road, finding work as they can, while exploring the country. In order to find work in those times – the 1920s – when women rarely went on such adventures, and for safety reasons, they dressed in men’s clothes and adopted male names. Ambrose in Frank Moorhouse’s Cold light (my review), however, cross-dresses (in the mid 20th century) because he likes to do so, and fortunatelyfor him the wonderful Edith doesn’t mind.

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Aussie readers will know that Cold light is the third book in what is known as the “Edith trilogy”, so I decided to take the trilogy idea for my last link. I initially thought to choose the third in a trilogy – for a strong link (if some links can be stronger than others) – but, despite having a candidate or two, I decided for various reasons (including a change of continent) to go with Marilynne Robinson’s trilogy, which starts with Gilead (my review).

Coincidentally, we’ve ended up in the country where we started – the USA – but instead of 1930s New York, we’ve moved to 1950s Iowa (in the midwest). Between these books, we’ve travelled more than usual – after all, two of the links are books about travel – and we’ve gone back to 1844. We’ve also visited various 20th century decades, and dipped our toes in the current century. We’ve met ne’er-do-wells and ministers, earnest young woman and cross-dressing diplomats, as well as travellers and migrants. We’ve seen it all – or, at least, a lot.

I like, too, that I’ve started the year with half of my books by men and half by women. How very even of me!

Now, the usual: Have you read Rules of civility? And, regardless, what would you link to?

38 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM Rules of civility … TO …

  1. Oh god, how did I miss that today was the first Saturday of the month? I have not prepared a 6 Degrees and have something else scheduled instead. Oh well. From your chain I have read the de Kretser and the Graham Greene. I actually chose the Greene for my London book group and everyone loved it. We had a great discussion about it.

    • Yes, I know what you mean, kimbofo … I would usually post my Blogging Highlights post today, but will do it tomorrow, and then Monday Musings on Monday. It’s a bit much, but this time of year always seems to end up like this!

      My reading group liked the Greene too.

    • I’m always impressed when bloggers mention their ‘schedules’ – apart from scheduling the #6degrees posts (because I feel some responsibility to get it up first thing on the day), I never schedule any posts. Instead, I sit down and write them, and hit ‘publish’. Maybe my new year’s res is to become a little more organised?!

      • I never schedule them either … except for today! I wanted to get my AWWW21 post up and out of the way because it takes sooooo long to do. My blogging is purely spontaneous. Hence it’s generally one post a week … when I’ve got time spare to do it on a Saturday or Sunday 😜

        • Interesting how different we all are, isn’t it. Some blogging advisers say you must have a schedule, but I must say that except for bloggers who have regular posts – Sunday lowdown, Things that are making me happy this week, The week that was – I’m never really aware of when people post and am not put off reading them because they are not regular. The posts come to my emails and I check them and read when I can!

      • What you do seems to work fine Kate. For me, it’s just about spacing my posts. I might finish a book the same day as, say, my Monday Musings day, so I’ll want to post the review, probably on the Wednesday. I will write it, and schedule it. Other times I schedule posts can be when I’m going away and would like some posts to publish while I’m away, like Monday Musings, Six degrees etc, without the pressure of writing them on the road.

        However, these days most posts I write I might schedule to publishers few hours later, just to give me time to think about them and tweak. I still seem to end up tweaking typos and expression afterwards, though!

  2. Hi Sue, Happy New Year. I have not read Rules of Civility, but I do have it on reserve at my library. I thought for sure you would have chosen a novel by Jane Austen. My list begins with Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (because my grandson at Christmas asked me if I could find a copy for him at my op shop – I did yesterday). Next is 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan; The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton; Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; and Normal People by Sally Rooney.

    • Oh Meg, I love that you thought I’d go with Austen, but I do love to surprise (occasionally at least!)

      What a great request from your grandson. How old is he now? I don’t think my 3-year-old is quite there yet! Anyhow, I enjoyed you chain, particularly going from Marcus Aurelius to Kitty Flanagan.

      • Hi Sue, you did surprise me without a Jane Austen nomination. My grandson is 16, and loves to debate! He is very confidant and into philosophy. My eldest grandsons did well in his ATAR score and will came to Victoria to study at Monash, Computer Science. He could get into Melbourne or Canberra but wants to go to Monash because of its social life. The youngest 15, wants to be a Rock Star (seriously), plays the bass guitar!

  3. Happy New Year Sue.

    I loved Questions of Travel – I’ve read other books by her but I think Questions remains my favourite.
    I haven’t read the Edith trilogy and suspect it’s a large gap in my reading history!

    • Thanks Kate, and back at you!

      I think it’s my most memorable of hers too, though I’ve read most – not all – of her oeuvre. I haven’t read the middle of the Edith trilogy. It seemed to have average reviews when it came out so I didn’t read it, though I have it, but the other two are really excellent. I feel I should read the middle one.

  4. I read Barry Lindon in grad school. All I remember about it is that it’s VERY LONG. In a nice juxtaposition, the movie version came out during the semester we were reading the book, and a bunch of us went together to see it.

    • And it feels long Mary, doesn’t it? I really can’t remember whether I’ve seen the film or not, which probably means I didn’t. It’s possibly one of the few where I might prefer the film!

  5. I love Six Degrees of Separation and I am sad that I’ve missed a month or two last year. It’s always so much fun to see where everyone’s chains lead to and where they get their inspiration from.

    I don’t know any of your books! Will have to take a closer look I guess.

    Happy new year!

    Elza Reads

  6. I so enjoyed Questions of Travel. I’ve recently read her latest, Scary Monsters, and am keen to see what other readers have made of it. Sincerely hope you can ‘woohoo’ the next new year in!

  7. I’m always pleased to see the Edith Trilogy get a mention, I really did like it a lot.
    PS I’m going to remember that ploy for a three word title with ‘of’ in it for a time when I’m stuck!

    • Haha, Lisa … always pleased to provide some new linking approaches. I just wanted to get away from the expected or likely. I love that Meg thought I’d go with Austen!

      It’s always good to remember Edith, I agree, though I have still to read the middle book because a few friends were not enamoured when it came out.

  8. Taking “to be young and broke in New York” as the theme, I offer

    Heyday by W.M. Spackman (, set in the 1930s.

    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, though nobody seems to be that out of pocket (1920s).

    The Wicked Pavilion by Dawn Powell (1940s)

    The Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan (late 1800s), though Levinsky does end up well off.

    Tales of Old New York by Edith Wharton (18??s)–most of the characters are well off, not all.

    Go Tell it On the Mountain by James Baldwin (ca. 1940?)–the main character is too young, and one character really in right condition of young, broke, and aspiring, does not long survive. Still…

    I have read Rules of Civility. It struck me as very much a first novel, a work in which the writer is figuring out how to put things together. It did not strike me as a promising first novel, in that Towles seemed less to have something to say than to have a lot of bits and pieces that might be fit into a novel. It had plenty of period furnishings, though with here and there some odd stuff. My wife’s other book club did read A Gentleman in Moscow and will read The Lincoln Highway. She did not think well of the former.

    (Is “broke” in the American sense current in Australia–short on money, but not necessarily as a long-term condition?)

    • Great links George, though I love your proviso for The great Gatsby and most not being short of money. I have wanted to read Dawn Powell for a long time, and I love Wharton. In fact, I have heard of, or read, more of the books in this chain than I often have in yours.

      Interesting comment about Rules of civility. I found things of interest in A gentleman in Moscow, but as I recollect Towles himself just said her wanted to explore the idea of living in a fancy hotel. Maybe that’s his thing? To explore situations rather than to express a strongly held idea? If so, it can result in more set pieces, perhaps, than a coherent whole. That said, most of my reading group enjoyed the gentleman’s situation, and the warmth of his relationships with others, but one strongly disliked the book.

      And yes, we do use “broke” in the same sense of being short of cash but not necessarily for the long term.

  9. I laughed at your review of Barry Lyndon. I only saw the film of Barry Lyndon and loved the music but thought the film boring. But, by a twist of fate, the plot line of Barry Lydon was linked to the judge about whom I wrote my thesis – the kidnapped heiress was the great great grandmother (or something) of ‘my’ judge’s first wife. Small world.

  10. How clever to go for the ‘of’ in the title! At this rate I’m going to have to do something similar with next month’s book, which is so far failing to inspire me in any way whatsoever…

    I’ve never heard of the Edith trilogy, but it sounds good and i am about to look it up. I haven’t read any Marilynne Robinson either, but I know a book blogger who absolutely loves those books so I keep intending to give her a try. I do have an as yet unread copy of When I Was A Child I Read Books – have you read that?

    Another book blogger told me that she hated the Barry Lyndon film so much that she and her friend both left the cinema early. I heard a very abridge version on BBC Sounds and enjoyed it, so i dind’t realise it was such a long book! I enjoyed Vanity Fair but I haven’t read any of his others.

    I also liked Travels with My Aunt, and a later book by Julia Llewellyn Smith, Travels Without My Aunt: In the Footsteps of Graham Greene, in which the author visited the places he mentions to see how much they have, or have not, changed.

    • Oh thanks Rosemary for taking the time to respond in such detail. Love it. Good luck with the next chain. Can you tell me the name of your blog? It doesn’t seem to be linked on your name.

      I am keen to read more Marilynne Robinson, and no I haven’t read that title. An abridged version of Barry Lyndon would probably be good!

      I’ve head of that Travels without my aunt book, and would love to read it – if I ever had the time!

      Anyhow, good luck with the next Six degrees. I sometimes do them very early but I haven’t thought about the next one at all yet. Have even forgotten the name of the book, so I’d better get the brain juices going.

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