6 Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘Rodham’ to ‘Tampa’

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

The starting point is:

‘Rodham’ by Curtis Sittenfeld (2020)

I haven’t read Rodham, but I know it’s based on Hilary Clinton and imagines what might have happened to the trajectory of her life had she not met and married Bill Clinton. Another book that takes a real person and fictionalises their life is…

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry

‘Beatlebone’ by Kevin Barry (2015)
This brilliantly inventive, funny, sad and wise novel fictionalises a short period in John Lennon’s life.  You don’t need to be a Beatles fan to enjoy it, because it’s a glorious adventure tale and the 37-year-old man at the heart of it could be almost anyone going through a personal and creative crisis.

Another book that is based on a real person, albeit someone who isn’t famous, is…

‘Annie Dunne’ by Sebastian Barry (2002)
This eloquent, heartfelt novel is about two children who go to stay with their aunt one summer in the late 1950s. That aunt, Annie Dunne, is actually Sebastian Barry’s own aunt — and Barry, himself, is the four-year-old boy in the story. Annie is not an easy person to like: she struggles with jealousy and rage, and is cantankerous and difficult. But her heart is in the right place.

Another book featuring a main character who is cantankerous and difficult is…

‘Amongst Women’ by John McGahern (1991)
Shortlisted for the 1990 Booker Prize, this is about an Irishman holed up at home in his dying days, surrounded by his three adult daughters who want him to get better despite the fact the relationship between them all is very strained. McGahern depicts Moran as all-too-human, someone who is so emotionally starved that you can feel nothing but pity for him. It’s a wonderfully realised portrait of an Irish Catholic family headed by a widower who manipulates his children using violence, emotional blackmail and an obstinate refusal to do anything that is not on his own terms.

Another book about a domineering, brutal father is…

‘The Book of Emmett’ by Deborah Forster (2010)
Set in working-class Melbourne, this story follows the lives of one family between the late 1960s and the present day. The central figure in the novel is Emmett Brown, an abusive, alcoholic father of four children, whose violent behaviour has long-lasting repercussions on his family. The book opens on the day of Emmett’s funeral. Another book that begins with a funeral is…

‘Death in Summer’ by William Trevor (1999)
In this rather dark story by one of my favourite writers, a widower interviews several young women in his search for a nanny to look after his baby daughter. One of the nannies he rejects develops an unhealthy obsession with him: she essentially becomes his stalker. While there’s a lovely aching quality to the overall storyline, there’s also an unspoken tension and unease, a kind of creepiness that pervades the woman’s motivations, which makes the book difficult to put down.

Another book about a woman who develops an unhealthy relationship and is similarly creepy is…

‘Tampa’ by Alissa Nutting (2013)
This book is quite outrageous and won’t be for everyone, seeing as it is about a female teacher grooming young male students for her sexual pleasure. It charts eighth grade English teacher Celeste Price’s obsession with a teenage student, Jack Patrick, and it’s fascinating and horrifying in equal measure, the literary equivalent of a car crash.

So that’s this month’s #6Degrees: from a book about Hilary Clinton, to a story about a female teacher who is a paedophile, linked via a fictional story about John Lennon, a cantankerous auntie, a dying man, an abusive father and a widower stalked by the potential nanny he rejects. How dark this all sounds, but honestly, I heartily recommend each and every one of these titles.

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

32 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘Rodham’ to ‘Tampa’”

    1. The cover of Tampa is very clever, as is the title because the story is set in Tampa, Florida, but could also be read as “tamper”. Which is what Celeste does with her students.


      1. I have a teacher friend in California who had a female teacher in her department who was convicted of this – not common for women. This woman had a husband, and young children, and was a well-liked colleague. Shocking – but it’s shocking whoever does it really, isn’t it.


        1. Urgh, how disturbing. There have been a few high profile cases of women convicted of such crimes and I vaguely remember a Californian teacher case, so suspect it’s the same one.


          1. Could be. There aren’t many! There was one reported in our area just the other day… This one and the Californian one, like that high-profile Jewish one in Melbourne are all women with girls.


  1. Oh… that turned dark, didn’t it? No matter. Here’s my chain. https://tcl-bookreviews.com/2020/09/05/6degrees-of-separation-for-september-5-2020/ By the way, if you like the Beatles, my friend just published a novel about the time when they were in Hamburg, before they became famous. It is called “The Boys Next Door” by Dan Greenberger and it is very good. My review is here. http://tcl-bookreviews.com/2020/08/14/young-american-male-overseas/


  2. I’ve never quite got over Tampa… such a grubby book, especially the cover. Yes, interesting to look at abuse from a different perspective but ultimately I thought the writing was so poor that it was distracting. Certainly was car crash reading.


    1. Oh, it’s a grubby book all right. I can’t recall the poor writing; I just know I raced through the pages eager to find out if she would get away with her crime.


    1. Annie Dunne is a gorgeous book. It’s not an easy read… Barry writes it as Annie’s interior monologue so you get all her moods and confusion, but the story has stayed with me ever since I read it.


      1. It’s difficult to summarise, I thought it was an interesting exploration of the different ways we view and treat offenders according to gender, and of narcissism as a personality trait but the purported elements of satire and humour escaped me. I have a review on my blog that’s slightly more succinct


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