6 Degrees of Separation

Six degrees of Separation: From ‘The Lottery’ to ‘The South’

It’s the first Saturday of the month, which means it’s time to participate in Six Degrees of Separation (check out Kate’s blog to find out the “rules” and how to participate).

As ever, click the title to read my full review of each book.

This month the starting book is…

‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson (1948)

In this short story, which you can read online at the New Yorker magazine, a lottery is staged in a small village every year. The “prize”, which is totally shocking, is revealed right at the end. It will give you the chills…

‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ by Shirley Jackson (1962)

Another book that will give you the chills is Jackson’s last novel (she died in 1965). We have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously creepy tale about two sisters living in a secluded Gothic mansion with their uncle. The people of the nearest village, where they do their shopping, treat them with scorn and it’s clear they are hated. But why? Well, it’s something to do with poison… (you’ll need to read the book to find out more).

‘The Aosawa Murders’ by Riku Onda (2020)

Poison features in this complex murder mystery from Japan in which 17 members of the same family die after they consume a toxic drink at a celebratory party. The prime suspect is the family’s blind daughter, the only family member spared death, but why would she want to kill her loved ones? Again, you need to read the book to find out — although there are no neatly drawn conclusions.

In the woods by Tana Frence

‘In the Woods’ by Tana French (2008)

There are no neatly drawn conclusions in Tana French’s debut crime novel about a policeman with a secret past. When detective Rob Ryan was a young boy he was found clinging to a tree in the local woods, his shoes filled with blood, and the two friends he had been playing with are nowhere to be seen. Now, 20 years on, that event comes rushing back when a 12-year-old girl’s body is found in the same woods.

‘In the Forest’ by Edna O’Brien (2002)

Another Irish murder mystery set in the woods is this controversial novel by Edna O’Brien. Based on a real life triple murder, it is a dark and brooding book. One of the victims had set up home in a remote dilapidated cottage on the edge of the forest to concentrate on her art, unaware that there was a disturbed man living wild nearby…

‘A Line Made by Walking’ by Sara Baume (2018)

Another tale about a woman who moves to a remote house to concentrate on her art is this intriguing novel by Irish writer Sara Baume. It turns out that the young female narrator is having a kind of break down and while she’s living in the house under the guise of looking after it for her late grandmother, she is, essentially, running away from her problems.

‘The South’ by Colm Toíbín (1990)

Running away to focus on art is the central theme in Tobin’s debut novel, which is set partly in Ireland and partly in Spain in the 1950s and 60s. It’s a beautiful, languid story, which looks at history, memory, violence and trauma. I would easily add this novel to my Top 10 of all time, I adored it that much.

So that’s this month’s #6Degrees: from a creepy Gothic novel about outsiders to a luminous literary novel about art via tales about poisonings, childhood disappearances, murder and creativity in the countryside.

Have you read any of these books? 

Please note, you can see all my other Six Degrees of Separation contributions here.

29 thoughts on “Six degrees of Separation: From ‘The Lottery’ to ‘The South’”

    1. And I’ve read quite a few books about crime involving art! Two of my favourite subjects.

      The O’Brien isn’t true crime – it’s a novel – but she got a LOT of flack about it, because she was seen to be profiteering off the misery of a real crime that she based the story on.


  1. I have somehow missed out on this Colm Tóibín book – I’ll look it out as I love his writing too. Sara Baume I didn’t get on with when I tried her out. But on the whole, you’re adding to my TBR list. Grrr.


    1. It was his first novel and republished under the Picador Classics livery a few years back.

      Did you try the first Sara Baume, because that one is COMPLETELY different to A Line Made by Walking?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read the Tana French, and of course, Jackson, but will be adding the others to my list! I love how your chain went to Ireland–I think some of the best literary writing is coming from Ireland today.


  3. What a great chain. I haven’t read any of the titles in it – yet. I have my eye on Jackson’s novel and the Aosawa Murders. In The Woods sounds like a good read, too.


      1. I’ve done that with writers – found someone new and read avidly, only to turn myself off them. But then, if I try to pace myself, I forget about them and never go back to them. Especially if they’re writers I borrow rather than buy.


  4. That’s a Colm Toibin I’ve not heard of but boy does it sound good. Barcelona is my favourite European city.
    You’ve reminded me I have a copy of the Edna O’Brien novel lurking somewhere. She does seem to attract controversy doesn’t she but doesn’t care at all for all the flak. I saw her speak at Hay Festival a few years ago and she has a wicked sparkle in those eyes still


    1. LOL. The Lottery is shocking, isn’t it? I read it years ago and then reread it for the purposes of this exercise and because I knew what was coming it was kind of more chilling to read.

      Liked by 1 person

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