6 Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘Normal People’ to ‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’

Six degrees of separation logo for memeIt’s the first Saturday of the month, which means it’s time to take part in Six Degrees of Separation, a book-themed meme hosted by Kate from booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

Every month Kate chooses a particular book as a starting point. The idea is then to create a chain by linking to six other books using common themes.

Here’s this month’s #6Degrees. As ever, click the book titles to read my review of that book in full.

The starting point is:

‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney (2018)
This is a stylish novel that revolves around a series of set-pieces comprised almost entirely of dialogue. It charts an on-off romance between two Millenials from the same Irish country town over the course of four years and won Rooney many plaudits and literary awards. Another book which has been compared favourably to Salley Rooney is…

‘Exciting Times’ by Naoise Dolan (2020)
This newly published novel is about a young Irishwoman who moves to Hong Kong to reinvent herself. The story charts what happens when she becomes torn between two lovers: a rich English banker who is older than her and a well-educated Chinese woman of the same age. Another book set in Hong Kong is…

‘Fragrant Harbour’ by John Lanchester (2003)
This is a really immersive novel spanning 70 years about three different characters who live in Hong Kong, but the real character of the book is the city itself: Lanchester brings Hong Kong to life with rich descriptions as well as providing a strong sense of history, including its key political events. Another novel that makes a city its central character is…

‘Between Two Rivers’ by Nicholas Rinaldi (2006)
New York City truly comes to life in this remarkable novel set in an apartment block in downtown Manhattan. It intertwines the stories of a cast of eccentric characters in a series of vignettes that are linked via alternate chapters told from the point of view of the building’s concierge. It’s an interesting concept for a book’s structure, but it works. Another book set in an apartment block is…

‘The Yacoubian Building’ by Alaa Al Aswany (2002)
Set in downtown Cairo at the time of the 1990 Gulf War, this intriguing novel, translated from the Arabic, shows modern Egyptian life through the eyes of a diverse range of characters, all of whom live in an apartment block called the Yacoubian Building. I love the way it contrasts the lives of the underclass who live on the roof of the building with that of the wealthy residents who inhabit the building’s individual apartments. Another book that contrasts the lives of the haves with the have nots is…

‘The Tortilla Curtain’ by T.C. Boyle (1997)
Structured around two narratives told in alternate chapters, this novel follows a pair of illegal immigrants from Mexico who have no home, no money and little hope with that of a middle-class Californian family living in a gated community who want for nothing. Another book about Mexican immigrants in the US is…

‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’ by Yui Herrera (2015)
This short, sharp and occasionally violent novella focuses on a young Mexican woman who crosses the border between Mexico and the United States in search of her brother, who had gone there to “settle some business” for an underworld figure.

So that’s this month’s #6Degrees: from a Millennial romance in Ireland to a story about Mexican immigrants on the run in the US, linked via trips to Hong Kong, New York, Cairo and California!

Have you read any of these books? Care to share your own #6Degrees?

21 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘Normal People’ to ‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’”

  1. Great links Kim – I just posted mine but have realised that I have inadvertantly been doing 5 degrees of separation because I’ve been counting the starting book! D’oh!


    1. I’m not sure it was ever published in the UK (I actually bought my copy in New York) so that may explain why you’ve not come across it before. I’m sure you’d be able to find a secondhand copy online somewhere…


    1. The Tortilla Curtain is certainly unforgettable. It’s a novel I was years and years ago, and one of the first to be reviewed here, but I’ve often thought about it. I am sure that somewhere deep inside it has shaped my views on immigration and the social injustices so many face in order to pursue a better / safer life.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Haven’t read any of these although Between Two Rivers sounds excellent. And of course, your review of Exciting Times had already done the trick and it’s on my TBR stack.


    1. Will be interesting to see what you make of Exciting Times. It’s very easy to read because it’s written in a very flat style, but she asks great questions about language (where certain words are from/how they came into usage etc) and class (why do posh people have so much hair?!), which makes it a kind of offbeat read.


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