Six Degrees of Separation: From What Are You Going Through to Artful

I’ve be AWOL from the Six Degrees meme, and indeed this blog in general, in recent months. But when I saw that the starting book for this month’s Six Degrees chain was one that I picked up from the library just a few days ago, it seemed like a sign to jump back in.

The Six Degrees From Separation meme is hosted by Kate at BooksAreMyFavouriteAndBest. Participants all start with the same book and provide a chain of links to six additional titles. It’s always fun to see how different everyone’s chain is.

This month we begin with What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez. This is about a woman who is supporting a friend who has terminal cancer. I’ve read that despite this seemingly heavy subject-matter, it is a positive and uplifting read. We shall see.

For my first link, I am going with the other library book that I collected alongside the Nunez: The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. This has won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize and explores the rights and freedoms of Native Americans.

My second link is a rather obvious leap to a book with a similar title: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. I remember reading and enjoying this when it first came out. It is the story of four Londoners during the blitz, one of whom, Kay, is an ambulance driver.

A female ambulance driver links me to my third title: Noonday by Pat Barker. This book is the third in Barker’s Life Class trilogy, the whole of which I found absolutely gripping. It is the fictionalised story of real-life artists who studied together at the Slade School of Art. In Noonday, we find main character Elinor forced to abandon her art practice in favour of helping out with the war effort, specifically by driving an ambulance.

I recently discovered David Boyd Haycock‘s book A Crisis of Brilliance which is the non-fiction account of the artists featured by Barker. The blurb says: “Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Mark Gertler, Richard Nevinson and Dora Carrington were five of the most exciting, influential and innovative British artists of the twentieth century. From diverse backgrounds, they met in the years before the Great War as students at the Slade School of Art, where they formed part of what their teacher Henry Tonks described as the school’s last ‘crisis of brilliance’.” I’m really looking forward to reading this.

From one art biography to another for my fifth link: Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life by Eleanor Clayton. My Mum bought me this for my birthday a couple of months ago and it really is a sumptuous read. We are planning to visit the Hepworth Wakefield museum next year, so it will be good to have read this first.

The introduction to Clayton’s book is written by Ali Smith, an author who I have come to love in recent years and this gives me my final link. I am currently listening to her essay collection Artful, which is absolutely fascinating. I particularly recommend the audio version, which is read by Smith herself and really gives a much better sense of her lyrical and innovative writing than one can get from the page.

So my chain this month goes from a thoughtful book about what it means to be alive to a thoughtful set of essays about life and art.

Next month the starting point is the wonderful Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, Maybe see you then! 🙂

29 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From What Are You Going Through to Artful

  1. Lovely to ‘see’ you here, Liz! And a wonderful chain. I could pick up any of these and enjoy them but I’d probably begin with the Barker. This particular trilogy of hers has totally passed me by. Hope all is well 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thanks so much Sandra – great to hear from you too! I’m so pleased you like the sound of these books. I listened to the audio version of the Barker trilogy which was fabulous.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like this chain very much, Liz! A couple of books have been added to my wishlist and indirectly, it has made me regret getting rid of all my Pat Barker books. I knew I would regret it but I reasoned to myself that I needed the room on my bookshelf and I could always get e-book copies. There is nothing like getting a book off the shelf and reminding oneself of the story and sometimes when and where it was read. Of course I haven’t got round to buying the e-books yet. How are you? xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Clare. And I know all to well what you mean about getting rid of books. It’s so difficult to achieve the balance isn’t it. And I’m well, thank you for asking. I hope you and the family are all doing ok? X

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the way you link these all together, some familiar to me and others not, but enticing. I’ve looked at The Night Watchman but baulked a little at the length, I seem to have an aversion to lengthy books at the moment.The Hepworth book and an anticipated visit to the museum sounds like a worthy project and a promising, satisfying read and connection too.

    Nice to see you dusting off the blog, thanks for the follow, I seem to have lost a few when I changed to a dot com domain name.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so interested to learn about all these art-related books, especially Artful. And I’d never heard of the Pat Barker trilogy, it sounds great.

    I also love to tie a book in to an expedition or holiday. When, a few years ago, I realised we were in the very church in Venice featured in Miss Garnet’s Angel I was over the moon with joy.

    I had an entirely wrong idea about The Night Watch – heaven knows why – but now I want to read that too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this, Rosemary, I’m delighted you enjoyed the chain. And Miss Garnet’s Angel is one of my most favourite books ever. How marvellous that the church actually exists!


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