Six Degrees of Separation: From The Turn of the Screw to The Cider House Rules

This month we’re starting with The Turn of the Screw, a Gothic horror novella about a governess and her charges – and one of only two Henry James novels I’ve read (the other is What Maisie Knew; I’ve gravitated towards the short, atypical ones, and even in those his style is barely readable). Most of my links are based on title words this time, along with a pair of cover images.

#1 On our trip to Hay-on-Wye last month, I was amused to see in a shop a book called One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw (2000) by Witold Rybczynski. A bit of a niche subject and nothing I can ever imagine myself reading, but it’s somehow pleasing to know that it exists.

#2 I’m keen to try Muriel Spark again with The Driver’s Seat (1970), a suspense novella with a seam of dark comedy. I remember reading a review of it on Heaven Ali’s blog and thinking that it sounded deliciously creepy. My plan is to get it out from the university library to read and review for Novellas in November.

 

#3 Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead was one of my favorite debut novels of 2012. An upper-middle-class family prepares for their heavily pregnant daughter’s wedding weekend on an island off Connecticut. Shipstead is great at capturing social interactions. There’s pathos plus humor here; I particularly liked the exploding whale carcass. I’m still waiting for her to come out with a worthy follow-up (2014’s Astonish Me was so-so).

#4 The cover lobsters take me to The Rosie Project (2013) by Graeme Simsion, the first and best book in his Don Tillman trilogy. A (probably autistic) Melbourne genetics professor, Don decides at age 39 that it is time to find a wife. He goes about it in a typically methodical manner, drawing up a 16-page questionnaire, but still falls in love with the ‘wrong’ woman.

 

#5 Earlier in the year I reviewed Cider with Rosie (1959) by Laurie Lee as my classic of the month and a food-themed entry in my 20 Books of Summer. It’s a nostalgic, evocative look at a country childhood. The title comes from a late moment when Rosie Burdock tempts the adolescent Lee with alcoholic cider and kisses underneath a hay wagon.

#6 My current reread is The Cider House Rules (1985), one of my favorite John Irving novels. Homer Wells is the one kid at the St. Cloud’s, Maine orphanage who never got adopted. Instead, he assists the director, Dr. Wilbur Larch, and later runs a cider factory. Expect a review in a few weeks – this will count as my Doorstopper of the Month.


Going from spooky happenings to apple cider, my chain feels on-brand for October!

Join us for #6Degrees of Separation if you haven’t already! (Hosted the first Saturday of each month by Kate W. of Books Are My Favourite and Best. Her introductory post is here.) Next month is a wildcard: start with a book you’ve ended a previous chain with.

Have you read any of my selections? Are you tempted by any you didn’t know before?

31 responses

  1. Wonderful links. I must try Maggie Shipstead – I have Astonish Me on my shelves – but Victoria liked it, so maybe I will even if you found if just ok. I totally agree about the screwdriver book – it certainly should exist – I’d’ve been tempted to buy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Somehow the ballet world didn’t draw me in, but I think others have preferred her more subtle writing in that one to the broad comedy in her debut.

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  2. One good turn actually sounds intriguing. But I’m more likely to read the Shipstead. A great list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nearly 200 pages about a hand tool? I’m not so sure 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’d flick through it at least if it turned up in the library.

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  3. That’s a very Bookish Beck first link!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alyson Woodhouse | Reply

    The writer of the book about the history of screwdrivers clearly had too much time on his hands. The Driver’s Seat is worth a look though, I think you might like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great chain! Enjoy Cider House Rules… it is a very good book, although I still think his A Prayer for Owen Meany was his masterpiece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would agree with that: they’re 4* and 5* for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the way you’ve done your links Rebecca and I’m completely intrigued by the book about screwdrivers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, everyone seems intrigued by that one!

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  7. The Driver’s Seat is on my list too – must get to it soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Novellas in November is a good excuse, if you’d care to join in.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the screwdriver link! The only book in your chain that I’ve read is Cider with Rosie, which I enjoyed, but I would like to read The Driver’s Seat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think The Driver’s Seat is meant to be pretty dark, so it’s a good one for Halloween time as well.

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  9. I kept my chain pretty scary for Halloween but yours is very pleasingly fall-like! I’ve read and enjoyed The Rosie Project and Cider House Rules. Cider House might be my favorite Irving, possibly because I was in Maine when I read it. Being on location always adds an extra little something to a book for me.

    I haven’t read any of Muriel Spark’s books but I’ve always heard good things. I’ll have to look out for her! Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting! I love reading on location. When I first read The Cider House Rules in 2007, I started it on our honeymoon road trip through New England. I remember I was reading it in Vermont, so it’s likely that I was reading it once we got up to Maine, too. But it took me ages to finish it afterwards, once we were back in England.

      I’ve read a couple by Spark before. Her books are always short, which I admit is a draw!

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  10. Seating Arrangements has been on my mental list for my book group – thanks for the reminder. I have not read any of these yet but I have a friend who has been urging me to read Cider with Rosie and it is certainly the right time of year to do so!

    My chain when in a different direction: http://perfectretort.blogspot.com/2020/10/six-degrees-of-separation-from-turn-of.html

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I love your very literary chain! David Lodge is one of my favorite novelists and I felt so bad for him — who could have predicted that several people would publish novels about Henry James at about the same time?! I’m keen to read Myself When Young, and I’m intrigued by The Return of the Twelves, which I’d never heard of.

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  11. Mareli Thalwitzer | Reply

    Oh this was absolutely brilliant! I could very easily follow how they all link up. Well done!

    I loved The Rosie Project and resently finished the third one (The Rosie Result). Loved it as well.

    Happy Ghostober and here’s my 6 Degrees of Separation – The Ghost Edition

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, you’ve gone for an all-spooky one. I love Lincoln in the Bardo and The Graveyard Book! Thanks for stopping by.

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  12. I’ve read one of Rybczynski’s books, but I can’t remember which. (In the early days of my reading log, I didn’t often include NF. Because originally the impetus for recording was just to track which books I’d read so I didn’t lose my place in series and that kind of thing, which wasn’t something to be concerned about with NF.) The James and the Spark, I’ve read; I’ve contemplated the others. You’ve reminded me of the awesome second-hand-bookstore-shopping dream that I had the other night, which included a couple of very worn John Irving novels (no idea why, really, not like I’m a huge fan or anything).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He seems to have written on some interesting topics!

      A dream about shopping for secondhand books, now that’s the kind of dream I’d like to have! Most of mine are weird combinations of family stuff and buildings I’ve been in and people I haven’t seen or thought about in ages.

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      1. Maybe this will spark something for you; I have them regularly but not often, maybe a few times a year. But I don’t always remember what I’ve bought/found!

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    2. Funny you should say that … on Wednesday night I dreamed about being at a charity warehouse (but decidedly not the actual charity warehouse we went to a couple of weeks ago) and being pleased with the 2 for £1 books I found, but then seeing a box of remainders on a conveyor belt and feeling the urge to rummage through. One was Middlesex, it was the cover with the crocus bulb and had deckle edge; another was by “Alexander Peden” — a real historical figure, but not an author as far as I can see. However did my mind come up with that name?! The box started to move and I panicked that I wouldn’t be able to find what I was looking for so asked the staff to stop the belt. Bizarre!

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      1. LOL that’s amazing! So glad I could help. (Well, except for the panic part.)

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      2. I guess it shows you how seriously I take my secondhand book shopping 😉

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  13. I’ve read The Rosie Project, and from the rest of your list I like the sound of Cider with Rosie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  14. Thanks for reminding me of The Cider House Rules, one of my favorite novels. (I’ve read it 2 or 3 times.) Great chain!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m halfway through my reread and enjoying it so much. One of Irving’s very best.

      Like

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