Six Degrees of Separation is the brainchild of Kate from Books Are My Favourite and My Best. Each month there is a different starter book and through six books, with what can be, on my part, extremely tenuous links, you see which book you end up at.
The starter book this month is Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. The 2020 winner of the Women’s Prize for fiction, this is the tale of Hamnet Shakespeare, son of the playwright and inspiration for the character of one of his father’s most famous plays.
Another shortlisted author was Natalie Haynes with her book A Thousand Ships. Her latest book, Pandora’s Jar, discusses 10 women from mythology and how their representation has been altered over time.
Another famous Pandora, sans jar, is the focus of the protagonist’s affection in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend.
Perhaps the most famous mole in fiction appeared in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, the long-suffering friend of Toad, who spends much of his time trying to stop the amphibian joy-riding.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, forever immortalised in the film of the same name, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937.
Colson Whitehead has won the prize twice, in 2020 with The Nickel Boys and in 2017 with The Underground Railroad, which tells the story of Cora and Caesar, slaves escaping the plantations on the underground railroad.
A different, literal railroad, from a different time and place is found in The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis move to the countryside with their mother, befriending a Russian exile, a schoolboy and a friendly old gentleman who they wave to on the passing train, little realising he will come to their aid.
So there we have it, from 16th Century Stratford to the early 20th Century countryside in six rather unseemly steps. Where would your steps take you?