April’s starting book for Six Degrees of Separation is Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Kate, who hosts the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best, chose this recent Booker winner to set us off with a chain of six more books that are somehow linked together.
I haven’t read Shuggie Bain yet, but I know it’s about growing up poor in post-industrial, working class Glasgow.
Shuggie is a Scots alternative to Hugh. Hugh Nesbitt is cousin to Mary Doll in the tv show Rab C. Nesbitt. Mary Doll is played by Elaine C. Smith, who I saw play Jackie Kay’s mum in the theatre adaptation of Red Dust Road, Kay’s autobiography about trying to find her birth parents. So here we have the first book in my chain.
Red Dust Road was performed at the Home arts centre in Manchester, where I also saw an adaptation of Angela Carter’s Wise Children.
Wise Children is about the theatrical twins Dora and Nora Chance who celebrate their 75th birthdays on the same day as their father Melchior Hazard’s 100th. The novel reveals the complicated family history of the Chances and the Hazards. It’s widely believed that Melchior is their uncle and his missing twin brother Peregrine is the women’s father.
Wise Children was Carter’s last novel, as Daniel Deronda was George Eliot’s.
Eliot’s novel was adapted for television and shown on the BBC in 2002. The novel follows the eponymous hero who doesn’t know who his real parents are. He’s raised by a wealthy benefactor who wants great things for Deronda, but his life takes a different path.
Sugar is the daughter of a prostitute and doesn’t know her father. Her mother pimps her out and her specialist services are taken up by businessman William Rackham. Rackham becomes Sugar’s benefactor as well as client, setting her up in her own home where she works on her novel.
Sugar’s mother is played by Gillian Anderson. Anderson played Miss Havisham in the 2011 BBC adaptation of Great Expectations.
In Great Expectations, orphan Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, doesn’t remember his parents and is rescued from poverty to be turned into a gentleman by an unknown benefactor only to return to poverty again.
The lawyer who is appointed to be Pip’s guardian is Mr Jaggers, portrayed by David Suchet in the 2011 adaptation. Suchet also played Augustus Melmotte in the adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now.
In Trollope’s critique of the financial crises of his era, Melmotte is a financier of mysterious origin who rises in society through his shady business deals. Melmotte’s past is never discovered, though. His deceptions threaten to ruin him, so he takes matters into his own hands before the truth is uncovered.
Unlike Shuggie Bain, who knows both his parents, the books in my chain are about people whose birth parents are in some way unknown to them. A few, like Shuggie, have difficult starts in life. A few have difficult ends. They are all looking for something. Some of them discover truths about themselves that open up new avenues, others keep secrets that ultimately lead to their undoing.
What tangled webs will you unravel in your chain? Why not head over to Kate’s blog to discover other readers’ chains?