Six Degrees of Separation September - Wild Swans to...

Last month I really enjoyed my first go at the Six Degrees of Separation meme hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite And Best so decided to have another go this month despite not having read the first book in September's chain, Wild Swans by Jung Chang. If you'd like to join in too, the rules are here.

So, Wild Swans then. It's one of those books I've never quite got round to despite it seeming like everybody else was reading it back in the early 1990s. In 1997 Waterstones announced the results of its Books of the Century poll to find out what the public considered to be the hundred greatest books of the twentieth century and Wild Swans was voted in 11th place.

In 12th place was a book I have read, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Unlike for many people it wasn't a set text at school although I was only in my late teens or early twenties when I read it. I really enjoyed it and so when I was working as a veterinary nurse and rescued a rabbit, I named him Gatsby!

I also rescued a cat when I was a vet nurse and named him after the poet I'd loved studying for A-Levels, T.S. Eliot. My Eliot wasn't a very Practical Cat but he was the sweetest, most gentle creature (he was scared of Gatsby!) and lived with us for 18 years.

In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot references the next link in my chain, Hamlet;

 No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I was given The Complete Works of Shakespeare for my 18th birthday so although we studied The Merchant of Venice for G.C.S.E English, and King Lear and The Winter's Tale at A-Level, I read a few plays myself (in bed at night!), including the Prince of Denmark.

This leads me nicely to my next title, and this one I only read a few years ago rather than in my youth! One Big Damn Puzzler by John Harding features an ageing tribesman, Managua who is struggling to translate Hamlet's famous soliloquy. His fellow islanders have no concept of nobles, nor do they use slings and arrows. Eventually "To be, or not to be, that is the question:" becomes "Is be, or is be not, is be one big damn puzzler:" and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are "Clubs and bamboo pits of real damn bad luck."

Managua's wife, Lamua hunts his pet pig, Cordelia (there are plenty of Shakespearean references!) as she believes he loves the animal more than her. This brings me to my final book, inspired by another literary pig - the Empress of Blandings from P.G. Wodehouse's books. Although the pig isn't in this one, most of the action does take place at Blandings, I couldn't miss my favourite Wodehouse character and book, the wonderful Leave it to Psmith.

So this month my chain started in China before moving to America, onto Denmark, then the South Pacific, before finishing in England. Where will yours take you? Follow the #6Degrees hashtag on Twitter to discover more chains.


  1. When a schoolgirl my daughter wrote to Jung Chang to say how much she liked Wild Swans. She received a delightful, hand-written letter of appreciation in return. By the way The Great Gatsby is my favourite (along with The Waves) short novel. You might want a squint at this short piece from a very old blog:

    1. How lovely to receive a personal reply, particularly knowing how popular the book was a few years ago.
      Thanks for sharing your piece, I really should read The Great Gatsby again soon, my daughter read it for her A-Levels and discussing it with her reminded me how much I loved it years ago.


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