Six Degrees of Separation: From Vanity Fair to The Underground Railroad

Hooray! It’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation post. This is a meme hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a common starting point and participants then link to six other books to form a chain. It is endlessly amazing to see all the different results and I love taking part.

This time, I have something a bit different for you in my list, or should I say lists…..

two chains for the six degrees of separation book meme

The starting point is William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. When I began thinking about the first leap from here, two possible paths popped into my mind: the first being other Fair-related links; the second being VF’s intriguing subtitle, ‘A Novel Without a Hero’. I could not choose between the two, so decided to follow both paths with the aim of picking whichever one I preferred.

I could hardly contain myself, therefore, when both paths ended up with THE SAME BOOK – can you believe it!!!

So, the first chain takes us initially from Vanity Fair to Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge. This book opens at a country fair. Michael Henchard is drunk and auctions off his wife and daughter. He spends the rest of his life trying to make up for it.

This links to another book where the main character does something wrong at the start, then works to find redemption, namely Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Ex-convict, Jean Valjean manages to create a new life for himself, becoming a wealthy factory owner and mayor of his local town.

The acquisition of a ‘new life’ provides a clear link to Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life, in which her main character experiences multiple lives. And I could not resist linking from this novel to You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming, where we encounter one of James Bond’s most celebrated villains, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his ever-present pet cat. So that takes me to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams.

Finally for this chain, I thought about books set in Tennessee, which led me to Colson Whitehead’s brilliant and powerful novel, The Underground Railroad. I read this last year and also heard Whitehead speak about it at Edinburgh’s Book Festival. It has stayed with me ever since.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, let me share with you my second chain….

I mentioned above Vanity Fair’s subtitle, A Novel without a Hero. This made me think of books which very definitely do have heroes and I picked The Iliad. Homer’s epic tale set during the Trojan Wars, with the warrior Achilles fighting against King Agamemnon, links perfectly to Pat Barker’s recent reworking of this classic in the form of her novel The Silence of the Girls

Barker opens her story with Achilles leading the Greeks into battle. So how about linking to a book with another Greek character? What else could it be, but Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. Here we have a story which starts with a young intellectual deciding to leave his books behind in favour of exploration and travel, a premise which made me think of Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad.

It is perhaps an obvious leap from there to the next book – Age of Innocence by the wonderful Edith Wharton. She won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel and guess which other book won this prestigious prize? Yep, none other than The Underground Railroad – woo hoo!!

So there you have it. Two chains for the price of one. And if you fancy even more six degrees fun, why not check out my accompanying playlist over on my music blog Leaping Tracks.

Next month, we start with Charles Dickens’ timeless seasonal novella, A Christmas Carol. Bring it on! 🙂



43 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Vanity Fair to The Underground Railroad

  1. Doubly inventive this month, and intriguing that your paths led back to the same book, Liz. I think I’d have to choose your first route on account of that Atkinson/Fleming link. Lovely illustration at the beginning, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Susan! I must admit that the Atkinson/Fleming link was particularly pleasing. And I’m really glad you like the picture – I had fun doing it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aren’t you something?! I can tell how much fun you have with this exercise–and it’s fun for us to follow your thought processes. I really need to remember to get the Underground Railroad–maybe the library is in my immediate future!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aw thanks Kerry! The Underground Railroad is definitely worth sourcing – and it’s always good to support one’s library! 🙂


    1. “I attain a different kind of beauty, achieve a symmetry by means of infinite discords, showing all the traces of the mind’s passage through the world, achieve in the end some kind of whole made of shivering fragments.” ~ Virginia Woolf

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Very, very good! It’s fun for me to just sit with that first book titles and sort of let my mind float. Something or several somethings always comes through. For you, even more somethings. Ha! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your graphic! That’s a creative way to do it. I find myself having to decide which path to choose often with each book as I can go in several directions. I love the connections you made! I hope you have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haha, very funny (and clever) Liz – and I love your image. How beautiful.

    I really feel I should read The underground railroad. I have read a couple of the books in your chain, including the wonderful Wharton.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you so much! Yes it is my creation – I make digital art with an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil using the Procreate app. So it is hand drawn but using technology instead of paper and pen. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I love this to bits (the two chains and the graphic) – you’ve upped the ante, Liz! *buys an Apple Pencil, an iPad Pro and the procreate app*

    I was very late to the Kate Atkinson party and only just read Life After Life, quickly followed by A God in Ruins. Wow. Both incredible books, but Life especially so – I cannot stop thinking about it and I’m sure I will reread it in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you such Much, Kate – I am delighted that you have enjoyed my antics this time. I am completely with you about Life after Life, and I am re-reading it now as it happens!


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