Six Degrees of Separation: from Mason to MacIntyre

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

Six Degrees of Separation: Kate

Regular readers know that I’ve spent the last month in the Balkans and Barcelona, where copies of this month’s starter book, Meg Mason‘s Sorrow and Bliss weren’t readily available. So I haven’t read it. But I will.

It appears to be about a woman struggling with mental illness. So I’ll go for my first link to the struggles of a teenage girl, Sal, by Mick Kitson. This is the story of Sal and her half sister Peppa’s escape from life with their alcoholic mother and abusive step-father. Thirteen year old Sal, who narrates the story, has long planned this escape, making use of carefully learnt bush skills to live rough in Galloway Forest Park Scotland. Circumstances have made her wise beyond her years, though failing at school. It’s an incredible, yet credible story of the consequences of one man’s unremitting abuse, and of a mother totally unable to protect her daughters. An involving read both for an adult and YA audience.

I’ll link this to Mary Lawson‘s A Town called Solace. This is a small, fictional town in Northern Ontario, where it’s easy to imagine that life is simple, perhaps a little dull. But 7 year old Clara’s rebellious but much-loved older sister has run away – disappeared completely. Clara’s responsible for feeding her elderly neighbour Elizabeth’s cat during a hospital stay. And during this time, an unknown man, who turns out to be called Liam, seems to be moving into Elizabeth’s home. Clara, Elizabeth and Liam each have a story which develops told from their own perspective. It’s multi-layered: in their own ways these characters are dealing with grief, bewilderment and remorse. They have secrets they’re reluctant to share, and have lost faith in at least some of their fellows. They’re richly developed as complex, satisfyingly likeable characters. This is a book to savour.

The next character has a simple and apparently dull life too, just like Solace. She appears in Convenience Store Woman by Sakaya Murata.  Our heroine, Keiko, despite her university education, has contentedly spent her whole 18 year career working in a convenience store. She lives for her work there, striving to be a dependable employee. No husband, boyfriend, or child: she doesn’t feel the lack of these, though her family worries. She’s a misfit, a cog, but a contented one. And then …. A quick and quirky read, though one which poses questions to ponder after the last page has been turned.

Another loner is the hero of The Janus Stone, by Elly Griffiths. The second book in the series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway lives up to the promise of the first. The character of Ruth herself, and the detective with whom she works on this case continues to develop in an interesting way. The plot, involving the discovery of the bones of a child on a site currently being redeveloped is intricate enough to be intriguing, without being over-complicated. I took this book with me on holiday. Ideal reading in the circumstances.

A long-ago crime brings me to my next link. The Statement by Brian Moore. My recent life in France had made me familiar with tales of the Resistance in WWII France, as well as knowing something of the unpalatable doings of the Vichy Government and their unpleasant foot soldiers, the Milice. So I was eager to read this story, based on a true one, of one man’s unsavoury war time crimes and of his post-war protection by the Catholic church. Will he escape justice in the end? This is a clever, complex thriller leaving us in little doubt as to Moore’s feelings about the Catholic hierarchy. There are twists till the very last page. To be read perhaps more than once for full impact.

Although we’ll stay with WWII, we’ll lighten the mood. Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre. A really absorbing and interesting read. This book tells the story of an ultimately successful attempt by the British to deceive the Nazis about their plans to invade in Southern Europe. Such an attempt is bound to be complex, involving political acumen, spying know-how, involvement of those in high places and yet secrecy at every level. Ben Macintyre handles his material and the wealth of characters skillfully, and turns out a rollicking tale. Yet he does not ignore the pathos surrounding the life of the almost unknown Welshman who is at the centre of this story: you’ll have to read the book to find out what I mean.

Next month’s starting book is one that formed part of the very first Six Degrees chain that I ever joined in on. It’s Katherine May‘s Wintering. And very appropriate for the less than sunny British summer we’re currently experiencing here.

Finally, an apology. Last month, hardly any of you who commented on my post received replies. I’m so sorry. I planned to write these on my return from Europe, but WordPress decided otherwise and firmly closed comments, despite my best efforts to open them again.

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

45 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from Mason to MacIntyre”

  1. I haven’t seen the recent film Operation Mincemeat but I have seen The Man Who Never Was, the 1956 film adaptation based on the book of the same name by Ewen Montagu who had a leading role in Operation Mincemeat.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s an interesting chain. I’ve been wanting to read something by Brian Moore and The Statement sounds as though it could be a good one to start with.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a huge Ruth Galloway fan! And A Town called Solace sounds interesting. As for comments can’t you go into Settings, Discussion settings and change the time limit on Other Comment Settings – Automatically Close after XYZ days?

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  4. Like Cathy, I’ve seen The Man Who Never Was based on Ewan Montagu’s memoir of Operation Mincemeat. I believe both Montagu’s book and the DVD are available.

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  5. You chain makes me want to add all six to my TBR pile. I particularly like the idea of Sal, but I’m also fascinated by novels about World War II, especially when it’s stories centred around ordinary people living through it (rather than the battles). Have you read anything by Natasha Lester (an Australian author who write historical fiction set during World War II, often set in France)?

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  6. I enjoyed your chain and have read some of these books – A Town Called Solace, The Janus Stone and Operation Mincemeat – all very good. I’m not sure I’d like Sal – a story of unremitting abuse, and a mother totally unable to protect her daughters sounds grim, although Sal’s escape in the Galloway Forest Park sounds interesting.

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    1. In fact, we only get enough of the ‘back story’ as it were, to have us understand why Sal ha taken this drastic step. It’s their story as they live it out in the wild that takes centre stage.


  7. I like the sounds of several of these books. I will make a note and see if I can find any at our local library. The Statement sounds really good.


  8. Oh thanks Margaret for reminding me of Brian Moore. I read quite a few of his books when I was in my twenties, but missed ‘The Statement’. Your tantalising review has prompted me to add it to my Audible Wish List. I was surprised when I Googled him to read he’s been dead for over twenty years.


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