Six Degrees of Separation: From Rodham to When Women Were Birds

It’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation post – yay!

This month we start with Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, in which the author imagines what life would have been like for Hillary if she had not married Bill. Of course in real life, Hillary became a Clinton and thus was First Lady. So for my initial chain link, I am picking The First Woman by Jennifer Mukambi, who I enjoyed watching recently via the online Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Sticking with women authors and women in titles allows me to link to The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson. I have this in audio version and am looking forward to listening to it. Hopefully I will be able to find out exactly what a sealwoman is. Might she be related to the Selkies? According to Scottish mythology, these are beings who can transform themselves from seals to humans, a legend which is retold in Sealskin by Su Bristow. Amazon tells me that I purchased this in 2018 so I had better get around to reading it some time.

One book that I definitely have read, with a sea-related theme, is Susan Fletcher’s The Silver Dark Sea. Set on the fictional Scottish island of Parla, this is the tale of a mysterious man who is one day washed up on shore. Fletcher is one of my favourite authors and I loved this book.

Thinking about silvery things puts me in mind of Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones – another book which I have purchased but not yet read.  Jones is more famous for her Women’s Prize-winning novel An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow looks to be just as compelling.

And so to my final link, which builds directly on thoughts of sparrows, but also sweeps up the ‘women’ theme of this month’s chain:  When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. I came across this book recently and was immediately intrigued by the opening:

“I AM FIFTY-FOUR YEARS OLD, the age my mother was when she died. This is what I remember: We were lying on her bed with a mohair blanket covering us. I was rubbing her back, feeling each vertebra with my fingers as a rung on a ladder. It was January, and the ruthless clamp of cold bore down on us outside. Yet inside, Mother’s tenderness and clarity of mind carried its own warmth. She was dying in the same way she was living, consciously. “I am leaving you all my journals,” she said, facing the shuttered window as I continued rubbing her back. “But you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I am gone.” I gave her my word. And then she told me where they were. I didn’t know my mother kept journals. A week later she died. That night, there was a full moon encircled by ice crystals. On the next full moon I found myself alone in the family home. I kept expecting Mother to appear. Her absence became her presence. It was the right time to read her journals. They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful clothbound books; some floral, some paisley, others in solid colors. The spines of each were perfectly aligned against the lip of the shelves. I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It, too, was empty, as was the fourth, the fifth, the sixth—shelf after shelf after shelf, all my mother’s journals were blank.”

So I look forward to reading this and the other as yet unread titles in this month’s chain. Next month we will be starting with The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. See you then! 🙂

Featured image: Photo by Carlos Galindo on Unsplash

37 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From Rodham to When Women Were Birds

  1. Your’s is the second Six Degrees to have brought birds into your links that I’ve read! I thought of the two Jones novels, Silver Sparrow was the better book. I’ll be interested to see what you think, Liz.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Liz! This is a marvellous chain and my must be read NOW list just got a lot longer! (Susan Fletcher is a favourite of mine too but I’ve not read this one.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson on Audible. This is going to be an excellent read, Liz. Thank you for the recommendation. I read the Goodreads comments and it looks like a page turner….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really hope they carry on with an online element of the festival in future years – it has greatly increased accessibility which is marvellous.


  4. This looks such an interesting chain. The nearest I’ve come to knowing any of these authors is having read An American Marriage last year. I enjoyed it, though not enough to put her latest on my TBR list, but I see some people here rate it so perhaps I should put Silver Sparrow on the list after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve had The Sealwoman’s Gift sitting at the end of my bed for a couple of years and something prevents me from picking it up, hopefully your review will help!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another post, another ton of books that I haven’t come across before. I feel so underread…again! However The Turn of the Screw for next month is at least one that I have heard of, and maybe it can be squeezed in before then, if I can get the time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I recently noticed that I have over 700 unread books on my Kindle. I haven’t counted the unread titles on my shelves. We’ll clearly never not be underread!! 🤣📚

      Liked by 1 person

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