6 Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘The End of the Affair’ to ‘Your Voice in my Head’

Six degrees of separation logo for memeIt’s been a couple of months since I participated in Six Degrees of Separation^. It always seems to sneak up on me and then I lose the energy or inclination to take part. I’ve been feeling decidedly lacklustre of late and this week I discovered why: I am anemic and my Vitamin D levels are low. So on to the high-dose supplements, under my GP’s supervision, we go — and after a few days’ dosage, I’m already feeling better (although I know it’s going to take months to get my iron levels up).

But anyway, on with the show! As ever, click the title to read my full review of each book.

This month the starting book is…

‘The End of the Affair’ by Graham Greene (1951)

This dark but compelling tale is about a doomed love affair that takes place in 1940s war-torn London. Maurice Bendrix, a successful writer, falls for Sarah Miles, the wife of a dreary civil servant with whom he has struck up a business relationship. For five years Maurice and Sarah conduct an illicit, passionate affair until Sarah calls it off without warning or explanation.

Another book about a love affair during the Second World War is…

‘Fair Stood the Wind for France’ by H.E. Bates (1944)

I always describe this novel as the loveliest book about war you will ever read. It tells the story of a Royal Airforce pilot who crash lands in Occupied France, together with his crew of four, and is nursed back to health by a young woman with whom he falls in love. It’s not a sappy romance, though, for there are dangers lurking everywhere — can the woman and her family be trusted not to betray them to the Germans, for instance — and the pilot is caught in a heart-breaking dliemma: should he stay or should he go?

Another book about forbidden love in France is…

‘Lie With Me’ by Philippe Besson (2019)

This modern romance is about first love between two teenage boys in rural France in the 1980s. Their affair, kept hidden because of the shame surrounding homosexuality at the time, begins in winter but is over by the summer. During those few intense months, their love is passionate but furtive. For both boys, it is a sexual awakening that has long-lasting repercussions on how they live the rest of their lives.

Another book about gay love in prejudiced times is…

Fairyland by Sumner Locke Eliott

‘Fairyland’ by Sumner Locke Elliott (1990)

Published after the author’s death, this novel is supposedly a thinly veiled memoir based on his first-hand experience keeping his homosexuality secret. Set largely in Sydney, the book explores what it is like to grow up in the 1930s and 40s hiding your real self from the world. It is a heart-rending, intimate and harrowing portrayal of one man’s search for love in an atmosphere plagued by the fear of condemnation, violence, prosecution and imprisonment.

Another novel with similar themes is…

The Waking of Willie Ryan by John Broderick

‘The Waking of Willie Ryan’ by John Broderick (1963)

This story — of a man who escapes an asylum in rural Ireland to confront the people who put him there — is a damning indictment of how easy it once was to remove troublesome people from society by merely labelling them “insane”. Willie is not insane and probably never has been. But he has dark secrets, about his childhood, about his love for another man, about the real reason he was incarcerated in a mental institution all those years ago.

Another book about escaping from a psychiatric unit is…

‘My Friend Fox’ by Heidi Everett (2021)

In this evocative memoir, we learn what it is like to be a resident on a psych ward, where every facet of your life is controlled by rigid medical protocols and unwritten rules. Everett has spent much of her adult life in and out of psychiatric institutions. Her story shows the devastating impact of mental illness on one person’s life, but despite the trauma at its heart, this survivor’s tale brims with hope and optimism.

Another memoir about a woman struggling with mental illness is…

‘Your Voice in my Head’ by Emma Forrest (2012)

Emma Forrest was a successful young music journalist when she tried to take her own life. She developed a close relationship with her therapist, but when he died unexpectedly (of lung cancer) she was left distraught. This memoir is not only an unflinchingly honest account of her psychiatric problems, it’s an insightful look at grief and what it is like when a patient loses someone they trust and rely upon. Oh, and it’s also about a doomed love affair — with the Irish actor Colin Farrell who is referred to as GH (which stands for Gypsy Husband) throughout.

So that’s this month’s #6Degrees: from a novel about a doomed love affair to a memoir about a doomed love affair, via tales of forbidden love and a memoir about life on a psychiatric unit.

Have you read any of these books? 

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

^ Check out Kate’s blog to find out the “rules” and how to participate.

23 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘The End of the Affair’ to ‘Your Voice in my Head’”

    1. I have been seriously fatigued for months… just put it down to busy workload, hot weather etc… but the 10-day break over Christmas didn’t make me feel any better… at least I now know it can be fixed! And yes, you must get hold of the HE Bates, it is such a wonderful novel. I’ve not read anything else by him for fear it won’t live up to my expectations. He wrote all those Darling Buds of May books that I can’t quite bring myself to read…

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        1. This is true… had terrible problems concentrating too… as well as heart palpitations… and seems this is all linked to low iron. I’m blaming Richard Flanagan, because my main source of iron has long been salmon and I stopped eating it after I read his book last May!

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  1. It’s amazing what can throw our health out isn’t it, but how lovely that the treatment is straightforward. Glad you are starting to feel better.

    Enjoyed your chain. I have heard of the HE Bates all my life, but have never read it. I’m intrigued that you say it’s not a sappy romance, as I do like WW stories.

    I haven’t heard of many of the rest of your books, but I enjoyed your chain.

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    1. Well, I thought I was feeling better yesterday but today has been a bit of a write-off. Guess I just need to be patient. Hope you get to read the Bates… it’s so wonderful and written in beautiful prose. In my review I include a quote about teacups and the sound of summer…it’s all so elegant and evocative…as is the entire book.

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      1. I don’t normally jump in with health advice but when I had an iron deficiency 6 or so years ago, the bottled supplements didn’t work. I had 2 iron infusions a few months apart instead that did the trick. Just something to keep in mind… and I hope you feel better soon. I feel like I’ve been permanently fatigued since the onset of perimenopause!

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  2. The End of the Affair is one to read closely and re-read, one of my all time favourites. Must look into some of the others as my reading is patchy to say the least. Thank you.

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  3. Actually, apart from the Graham Greene, I’ve read none of these, but they all seem to earn a place on my TBR shelf. I hope your recovery moves apace now you have a diagnosis.

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  4. I hope the Vitamin D supplements continue to help with the fatigue, something I struggle with thanks to MS. It’s no fun at all! I read Fairyland last year thanks to your recommendation, a useful reminder – particularly at the moment – that some things really do get better.

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    1. The Vit D isn’t really the problem (although it was in 2016/17 when I suffered neurological issues linked to bone-deficient levels of Vit D… took a long time to recover) but the lack of iron. Hopefully my prescription-level Fe tablets will do the trick.

      Fairyland is fab… I hadn’t clocked I have a bit of a LGBTQI theme going on here, which is fitting because it’s Mardi Gras in Sydney.

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