Saturday, May 7, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation – from True History of the Kelly Gang to Crooked Heart

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, about an Australian bushranger/outlaw.
First Degree

I have not read this, which may be why the words “Kelly Gang” made me think of the real Kelly family – Tacy Kelly and her 10 siblings, first introduced in Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (1940).  The Kelly family lives across the street from the Rays.  All roads lead to Betsy-Tacy, so if you don’t know, now you know!
Second Degree

The quintessential large family is Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth (1948). I found this in my elementary school library and read it and its sequel numerous times. I loved the antics of the father and all the siblings. When I was in Montclair, NJ for a funeral right before the pandemic, I had the brilliant idea of looking up the address of the Gilbreths’ house so we could go check it out. Alas, I learned at the library it had been torn down!
Third Degree

Beneath a floorboard in the old farmhouse into which his family has just moved, eight-year-old Max Morley discovers twelve time-worn wooden soldiers in The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clarke (1962). This book is a treat for Bronte fans but I read it slightly before I enjoyed Jane Eyre and tried to enjoy Wuthering Heights. My elementary school library had everything! I get upset when I read that of the 125 Boston Public School buildings, 58% lack their own full-time libraries with staff. Only 52 schools have a library. Although there are neighborhood public library branches, children are much more likely to use a school library if one is available and those librarians teach students how to use and enjoy a library.
Fourth Degree

Another use of the number 12: Patricia Wentworth’s The Clock Strikes Twelve. This is a Miss Silver mystery I reread recently:

New Year's Eve, 1940, is unusual for the Paradine family. Departing from tradition, James Paradine makes a speech that changes the course of many lives. Valuable documents have disappeared. A member of the family has taken them. The culprit has until midnight to confess and return the papers.
Pardine should really have known better than to challenge his unpleasant family in that way! When he is found dead shortly after midnight, it is up to Miss Silver to find his killer.

Fifth Degree

Clocks are my link here. Peter Swanson has become a New York Times bestselling suspense author since this noir-ish book, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart (2014), about a man whose mysterious first love reappears after 20 years. George knows she is bad news and will betray him again but he is powerless to say no . . . It’s the kind of book where you would scream at the protagonist not to behave so stupidly but then realize you don’t like him enough about him to care about his downward spiral!
Sixth Degree

Both the fifth and sixth books involve crooked hearts.  So does Ned Kelly, I assume!  Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans (2014) is an unusual evacuation story, which I highly recommend about a ten-year-old orphan who is evacuated during WWII and ends up with a scam artist as his temporary guardian. This begins a dark, crazy and very funny partnership. Plus, there’s a prequel, Old Baggage, which I have not yet had time for!
Have you read any of these? Did you play #6Degrees this month? Next month (June 4, 2022), Kate will start us off with Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason.


Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

Well, I read Old Baggage, but I haven't read this one (and I'm not sure how the two connect). Interesting chain.

Sue in Suffolk said...

Just one out of 6 this time - the last on your list. Plus I've read the follow-up V for Victory.

Helen said...

I haven't read any of these, but The Return of the Twelves sounds like a book I would have loved as a child. It's sad that so many schools don't have libraries.

Mary @ Notes in the Margin said...

Was there also a Nancy Drew book called The Clock Strikes Twelve, or am I just imagining that there certainly should have been? Very interesting connections, Constance.

CLM said...

Davida, I need to read more by Lissa Evans but I guess I should check which are connected first. Her books all sound a bit quirky; you must have liked it, Sue, or you wouldn't have gone back for more, presumably!

Helen, did you come across any of her books? I liked Five Dolls in a House but not all the books in that series were published in the US so I did not read them all.

Mary, the very first Nancy Drew is The Secret of the Old Clock. I think it is the best known although I agree The Clock Strikes Twelve sounds like a much-used title. I liked The Secret of the Old Clock because it explained about wills and codicils, which I found fascinating.

Lisa of Hopewell said...

What a different chain! I love big family stories and I loved Old Baggage!

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

I think there's also a movie/ documentary on the Ned Kelly gang, which I'd wanted to watch at some point but never got around to it. And if you're going to recommend The Return of the Twelves for Bronte fans, I am all-in! I really love those old books with those really fascinating titles and covers - Return of the Twelves seems to match all of these conditions!
~Lex (

TracyK said...

I love how you jumped immediately to a connection to Betsy-Tacy.

When I started reading Patricia Wentworth's books again, The Clock Strikes Twelve was the first one I read. I liked it a lot; there are others I enjoyed more but that is a good one.

I have read Crooked Heart and loved it, and have a copy of Old Baggage but haven't read it yet. I am pretty sure the two connect, but only by having one character in common. Could be wrong though.

Marianne said...

I have read (and watched) "Cheaper by the Dozen", such a lovely story. And what a great idea for the chain, well done, Constance.

My Six Degrees of Separation ended with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.