6 Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘Notes on a Scandal’ to ‘You Belong Here’

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 meme hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest. In this meme, Kate suggests a starter book and the idea is to then create a chain of six more books, linking each one as you see fit.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the six books I have chosen for my chain. As ever, click the title to read my full review of each book.

This month the starting book is…

‘Notes on a Scandal’ by Zoë Heller (2003)

This is one of the first books I ever reviewed on this blog. I read it in one sitting and described it as a “cracking read”. Essentially it’s two intertwined stories about two very different relationships: the secret and scandalous love affair between a teacher, Sheba, and her 15-year-old pupil; and the developing friendship between Sheba and her confidante, Barbara, a history teacher at the same school.

The Best Kind of People

‘The Best Kind of People’ by Zoe Whittall (2016)

Another novel about sexual misconduct at a school, this one was shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2016. The book explores the outfall on three members of a family, whose patriarch, George Woodbury, a popular science teacher, is accused of sexual misconduct with three female students under his charge on a school ski trip.

‘Vladímír’ by ulia May Jonas (2022)

This is a story about a popular English professor whose husband — a professor at the same small upstate New York college at which she teaches — stands accused of inappropriate relationships with former students decades earlier. But the narrator has her own sexual picaddilloes and develops an obsession with  a new male colleague, Vladímír, which highlights timely issues about power and consent.

‘Stoner’ by John Williams (1965)

Another campus novel, Stoner charts the life of one man — William Stoner — from the time he begins university to study agriculture in 1910 to his death as a just-retired English professor more than 40 years later, covering his career, which becomes slightly curtailed by university politics and his rivalry with another professor as time goes on, and a loveless marriage that falls apart.

‘Matrimony’ by Joshua Henkin (2008)

Marriage between a young academic couple forms the major focus of this compelling novel which covers a 15-year-period, from the pair’s college courtship to the onset of middle-age. It’s essentially a novel about domesticity, and how easily we fall into it, but it’s also a story about friendship and how  life happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.

‘Everybody has Everything’ by Katrina Onstad (2012)

Another portrait of a marriage, Everybody has Everything is about what happens when a happily married couple — a high-flying corporate lawyer and an out-of-work documentary filmmaker — have parenthood unexpectedly thrust upon them when a friend’s toddler is left in their care. The tensions come to the fore because one is ambivalent about parenthood while the other embraces it with enthusiaism.

‘You Belong Here’ by Laurie Steed (2018)

The long-lasting impact that parents can have on their children forms the hub of this brilliantly written novel, which spans more than 40 years. It tells the story of Jen and Steven who meet as teenagers, marry young and begin a family. It then charts how the marriage disintegrates and then looks at the impact the divorce has on their three children who struggle with various psychological issues long into adulthood.

So that’s this month’s #6Degrees: from a tale about an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student to a novel that explores the long-lasting impact of a divorce on three children well into adulthood, via stories about sex scandals on campus, academic life and marriages under stress. 

Have you read any of these books? 

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

15 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘Notes on a Scandal’ to ‘You Belong Here’”

  1. The Best Kind of People sounds my kind of book. As you went down the path of sexual mis conduct in an academic setting, my mind veered to Disgrace by J M Coetzee. An absolutely loathsome central character who pursues one of his students . Cracking read though

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, I read Disgrace back in the day but I wasn’t a sophisticated reader then and feel like I need to revisit it again because I know I would appreciate it much more now.


  2. Great chain, and I love that I’ve read the last one, which was a great read. Stoner is on the virtual wishlist. One day maybe. And your first made me chuckle because it could also have been linked on author’s first name.


    1. Well spotted re: the Zoe link! 🙂 You should give Stoner a go… it’s a really interesting look at how our lives are shaped by the choices we make rather than destiny.


      1. It was on my reading group list of “classic” suggestions for a while, but kept being passed over for other books. I do keep it in mind though. I must say that I agree that the choices we make are the largest part of it … though not everything. But I’ll stop there as this could get too deeply philosophical.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s years since I read Stoner, but I found it a marvellous book. I do think Williams is a bit under the radar. I don’t know any of your others, but they all sound worth a go.


    1. The Stoner went through a massive revival in my early days of blogging — 2005/6 I think — and then it got revived again, about a decade later, when Vintage reissued it with a new cover. It took me until quite recently to read it, even though I had two copies (from circa 2005 & 2015). I liked it a lot… it’s one of those novels that makes you think about the shape of your life and how much of it is up to your own choices.

      Liked by 1 person

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