Six Degrees of Separation From The French Lieutenant’s Woman to A Second Chance.

I know that I am horrendously late with this post, but I had it all planned out when the dreaded lurgy struck and I am loath to waste the thought that went into a meme hosted by Kate at Books are my Favourite and Best, which I have to come to really enjoy participating in. So, ten days late – here goes.

January’s Six Degrees of Separation has as its starting point John Fowles novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  I am of the generation who was bowled over by the 1981 film staring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. I remember the wonderful scene shot on the Cobb at Lyme Regis and I did think about making my first leap into Jane Austen’s Patience, which also has scenes set in that picturesque South Coast town or possibly to Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier for the same reason.  However, in the end I decided to stick with one of the stars of the film, Jeremy Irons, an actor I saw several times at Stratford but whose ‘acquaintance’ I first made through the televisation of Evelyn Waugh’s book, Brideshead Revisited.  There has been a later cinematic version of this, but for me it didn’t come anywhere near that earlier dramatisation which was my first introduction to Waugh’s works and which prompted a splurge on almost everything he had written.

Jeremy Irons played the part of Charles Ryder.  One of the novel’s other leading characters is, of course, Aloysius, Sebastian Flyte’s Bear.  As many of you know I too share my life with a number of distinguished and erudite Bears (they are looking over my shoulder as I write so I wouldn’t dare say anything else!) one of whom is also called Aloysius.  In our previous home Aloysius sat on the same shelf in the bookcase that contained all our Harry Potter books and as a result, in a reference to Hagrid’s role at Hogwarts, he became known as The Keeper of the Harry Potters.  My second link, therefore is to the first of the Harry Potter novels, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  I read this in my role of Lecturer in Children’s Literature and am therefore very proud of the fact that I was a Harry Potter fan before most of the world knew that he existed.

In this earliest novel Voldemort is searching for the philosopher’s stone in the hope that it will grant him everlasting life. Another novel in which the search for eternal existence is key is Peter Ackroyd‘s The House of Dr Dee.  Again, this was the first novel that I had read by this particular author and again, it sparked off something of a binge where Ackroyd’s novels were concerned. It could link into my fourth choice, in two ways. Firstly, there is a title link and secondly it is a novel which takes place in two different time spans.  As I want to use the second link between my next two books, I am going to go with the first of those and claim a link through the title of Daphne Du Maurier’s The House on the Strand.

As some of you know, I run a Summer School each year, where we read three books linked thematically in some way and several years ago now that theme was ‘Then and Now’; all three books were set in both the author’s present and a particular moment in history. The House on the Strand was one of these, featuring a character who moves between his own time and the fourteenth century.  Another choice was Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott.  Stott is one of a number of writers who have written excellent books that I have really enjoyed but who appear to have vanished from the literary scene.  She is well known for her academic writing, but this 2007 work and a slightly later novel The Coral Thief, are her only works of fiction.  Ghostwalk is excellent.  It is a literary murder mystery set in present day Cambridge but also exploring that city’s past, in particular the life and work of Isaac Newton.  In fact, it links back to two earlier choices because the victim, Elizabeth Vogelsang, is writing a book on Newton’s involvement with alchemy.  Vogelsang dies with a prism in her hand and that, along with the Newton connection provide me with my final link to Jodi Taylor’s novel A Second Chance.

A Second Chance is the third in Taylor’s series The Chronicles of St Mary’s, which relates the adventures of an intrepid group of historians who explore historical events in contemporary time.  Don’t call it time travel. Dr Bairstow doesn’t like it.  At the beginning of this particular book Taylor’s heroine (?), Max, is busy preparing for the expedition of a life time, to visit Troy immediately before and after the Trojan War of The Iliad.  However, as a favour to Dr Bairstow she agrees to take a old friend of his back to seventeenth century Cambridge to catch a glimpse of his hero, Isaac Newton.  It is a the St Mary’s equivalent of the prime directive that its historians must in no way interfere with past events but sometimes Max just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or as she would see it the right place at the right time and who knows if Newton would ever have made all those discoveries about light if it hadn’t been for the small hand mirror that she carries to help her see what is going on when she is supposed to be keeping her eyes modestly to herself?  Newton runs off with her mirror and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, from the nineteenth century Cobb at Lyme Regis to a seventeenth century Cambridge quad in six moves.  Next month’s six degrees starts with Fight Club, a work I haven’t read turned into a film I haven’t seen.  I shall have to do some digging!



15 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation From The French Lieutenant’s Woman to A Second Chance.

  1. A Life in Books January 14, 2019 / 5:44 pm

    Always pleased to see a 6 Degrees post, not matter how late in the month!


  2. Cathy746books January 14, 2019 / 8:26 pm

    I do enjoy these posts! As I’ve read Fight Club I might even join in next month.


    • Café Society January 14, 2019 / 9:11 pm

      I shall have to do some homework if I am going to join in.


  3. Helen January 14, 2019 / 9:39 pm

    Great chain – I love the Aloysius link! I haven’t come across Rebecca Stott, but I like the sound of Ghostwalk.


    • Café Society January 14, 2019 / 9:41 pm

      Aloysius Bear will be delighted you approve Helen. And yes, I think Ghostwalk would definitely be your sort of book. I wish she would write more fiction.


  4. BookerTalk January 14, 2019 / 10:16 pm

    A Jeremy Irons fan and a Waugh fan. I could hug you……Yes the Brideshead adaptation in which Mr Irons starred was vastly superior to the more recent film version. We have a collection of bears though none of them qualifies as erudite. They are apt to misbehave, especially the one that goes under the name of Sebastian….


    • Café Society January 14, 2019 / 10:25 pm

      Oh! We have a Sebastian Bear too, but he is a very gentle Bear who enjoys nothing better than toasting his toes in the sunshine when it comes through his window.


      • BookerTalk January 14, 2019 / 10:50 pm

        Maybe his good behaviour will rub off on our rebel


  5. FictionFan January 15, 2019 / 2:18 am

    Love that one of your Bears provided a link! I’m still disappointed to have discovered (maybe forty-five years ago) that Aloysius isn’t pronounced Alloy-See-Us. I was a literal-minded child… 😉


    • Café Society January 15, 2019 / 5:58 pm

      Well, that’s the English spelling system for you! What really annoys Aloysius is that no one can spell his name.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. mlegan January 15, 2019 / 4:54 pm

    I have never read The House on the Strand, have added this and Ghostwalk to my kindle list. (Library doesn’t have them.) I think that Brideshead was my first encounter with Jeremy Irons. i watched a few of The Hollow Crown over Christmas and was delighted at how good he was.


    • Café Society January 15, 2019 / 6:00 pm

      Ghostwalk is excellent, Mary Lou. I don’t think The House on the Strand is one of Du Maurier’s best, but it is definitely readable.


  7. Jeanne January 15, 2019 / 10:07 pm

    I was also bowled over by that 1981 film, as I’d just read and loved all of John Fowles’ novels.
    Fight Club was made into a film, which I’ve watched, so I get the idea. I imagine the novel is interesting in terms of point of view, but the subject matter doesn’t interest me enough to try it.


  8. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) January 16, 2019 / 7:57 am

    Glad you’re better. Some elegant links. I’m sure I’ve read Ghostwalk, but can’t remember it at all – it would have been just pre-blog.


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