Friday, February 2, 2024

Six Degrees of Separation: From The Optimist's Daughter to Wave Me Goodbye


The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest. The idea behind the meme is to start with a book and use common points between two books to end up with links to six books, forming a chain. The common points may be obvious, like a word in the title or a shared theme, or more personal. Every month Kate provides the title of a book as the starting point. Last month she did not supply a title and asked us to start with the last book on our previous Six Degrees post. So for me, the starting book will be The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty.

The Optimist's Daughter was published in 1972 and won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Laurel McKelva Hand is a widow, living and working in Chicago. Laurel returns to her hometown in Mississippi for her father's funeral. The story explores her relationship with her father, her mother who died when she was younger, and her new stepmother who is much younger than her father and has inherited the house that Laurel grew up in. It also focuses on her memories of losing her husband during World War II, not very long after they were married. There is a lot of depth to the novel, which is only 180 pages long.

1st degree:

I chose the first book in my chain, Kissing the Gunner's Daughter, because of the title, the mention of a daughter. It is a perfect link, because there are two daughters that figure in the story. This is the 15th book in the Ruth Rendell Inspector Wexford series. A family is attacked at dinner time and a famous author and her daughter and son-in-law are killed. Only the teenage granddaughter lives through the attack. And while Wexford is investigating this horrible crime, he is worried about his daughter Sheila, who is in a relationship he disapproves of. Kissing the Gunner's Daughter is a dark story of psychological suspense.

2nd degree:

My next book, Henrietta Who?, is also a police procedural mystery which features a daughter. Grace Jenkins has been killed in a hit and run accident. When her daughter is called home from college, Henrietta learns that she cannot be Grace's daughter because the woman has never had a child. This is not only the search for a murderer but also the story of a very young woman coming to terms with questions about her parents and her origins.

3rd degree:

My next book in the chain takes me to The Hollow by Agatha Christie, which features another character named Henrietta. This is the 25th book in the Hercule Poirot series although as I remember it, there is not much of Poirot in the book. The story is built around a country house weekend; the characters are interesting, somewhat quirky, and all seem to be hiding something. Henrietta Savernake is a successful sculptor who is in love with Dr. John Christow, who has a wife and children.

4th degree:

Gallows Court is the first book in a relatively new series by Martin Edwards featuring Rachel Savernake, the daughter of a hanging judge, and an amateur sleuth. The setting is London in the 1930s. I have not read this book but the series is doing well and I am eager to try it soon.

5th degree:

My next link is to Perfect Gallows by Peter Dickinson. This book is about a murder that occurs in 1944 in the UK, on an estate occupied by US forces preparing for the invasion of France. It is primarily set during World War II, with a framing story set in 1988. Peter Dickinson was a wonderful writer who has written many books in the mystery and fantasy genres.

6th degree:

Using World War II as a link, my next book is Wave Me Goodbye: Stories of the Second World War. The book is comprised of short stories that take place during the war or the years immediately afterward; the authors are all women and all but one story was written during that time. The stories are mostly home front stories. I have read only a few stories in that book so far.

My chain starts out in Mississippi in the US but moves to the UK after that. Was there any connection between the first book and the last? Only the tenuous connection to World War II because the death of Laurel's husband was connected to that conflict.

Have you read any of these books? And where did your list take you, if you participated in this month's Six Degrees meme?

The next Six Degrees will be on March 2, 2024, and the starting book will be Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.


Jerry House said...

To THE WIZARD OF OZ whose witch was melty
To the wizards in Terry Pratchett's SOURCERY about the Unseen Academy
To the Halls of Academe in Dorothy L. Sayers' GAUDY NIGHT
To the Rural South in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER by Davis Grubb
To THE HUNTER by "Richard Stark" (Donald E. Westlake), featuring the criminal Parker
Then I threw my hands up in the air and went off to play MONOPOLY, a game by the Parker Brothers.

Dang you, Tracy! I fell into your rabbit hole!

TracyK said...

That is very clever, Jerry, and also funny. That makes me want to read some of those on the list, especially Sourcery by Pratchett and Night of the Hunter by Grubb.

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

A wonderfully mysterious chain!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read books by most of these authors but not sure if it was this exact book exceot for the Welty, the Christie and the Rendell.

TracyK said...

Davida, the chain is full of mysteries, isn't it? I always try to mix it up and not depend on mysteries so much but this time I could not stay away from them.

TracyK said...

Patti, with the exception of Gallows Court, which I haven't read yet, I liked all the books in this chain. Hoping to read more of the stories in Wave Me Goodbye soon.

Lisa of Hopewell said...

Good work. I'll wait on your review of Wave Me Goodbye

TracyK said...

Thanks, Lisa. I read another story from Wave Me Goodbye last night, and plan to read more soon.

CLM said...

This is a great chain (I like Jerry's too)! I have never read Eudora Welty but I also like books with a Mississippi theme (hey, I've been there twice!) and this might be good for my book group in a short month.

I am a big Catherine Aird fan, as you know, although I don't remember that one specifically. I've also read the Christie but don't have a memory of it either. I guess that is embarrassing but many I only read once as a teen.

Although I like Martin Edwards' books, I could not get into Gallows Court at all. This is disappointing because I think I own several of this series. But I found the early going confusing and distasteful so am not motivated to try again.

I am in the middle of the fourth Thursday Murder Club and although I worked all day today I don't think I have anything to do tomorrow except sleep late and read (and maybe I should take down the Christmas tree as there is no one else to do it).

Margot Kinberg said...

You have such good choices here, Tracy! I really like Martin Edwards' work, and of course, in my opinion, you can't go wrong with Agatha Christie. Henrietta Who? is a classic, I think, and Ruth Rendell created some truly suspenseful stories. I like the way you linked these together.

TracyK said...

Constance, I don't think it is embarrassing to forget about books and their plots. I cannot remember many books that I read before I was 40, except for the Rex Stout books that I kept rereading. Catherine Aird is another author I need to read more often to get further into the series.

I hope I like Gallows Court. I could tell from recent summaries or descriptions of the plot that is isn't like his previous mysteries.

I have heard about other people taking down the tree around this time of year. I think my family used to have to tree taken down in two weeks or less after Christmas, maybe because it was often warmer that time of year in Alabama.

TracyK said...

Margot, I need to read more of all of Martin Edwards' series. It was good for an Agatha Christie book to fit into the chain. Those are always fun, although The Hollow was a bit more serious than usual. And I think I have about three books in the Inspector Wexford series that I missed back in the 1990s.

Marg said...

Fun chain!!

My chain took from from art history to a book set in Chile!

TracyK said...

Marg, I am so glad you stopped by to comment. I will come over and see your post. I am not sure I have ever read a book set in Chile.

Clothes In Books said...

What a great chain! And I have read most of them, which makes me feel good when I read your Six Degrees posts.

Marina Sofia said...

I always enjoy your criminally good chains so much! I have to read more of the Marting Edwards series, they sound like fun.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Moira. Some of it felt like a trip down memory lane, going back to books I read and reviewed in my early blogging years. I think we are both coming up on 12 years of blogging, or are you past that?

TracyK said...

Marina Sofia, I often try not to lean on mysteries so much for the Six Degrees links, but that is what I have always read the most of. I look forward to reading more by Martin Edwards fiction also. The three series are very different.