Saturday, October 1, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation – from Notes on a Scandal to Lady's Maid

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 Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller (2003) which my book group read back when I lived in NYC. It’s about two teachers who are friendly until one of them begins a relationship with a student. It was compelling but depressing as the friendship was flawed, the seduction repellent, and the scandal inevitable.
First Degree

Frances Murray was a Scottish writer, primarily of historical fiction, and I just read that she died in 2019. Her books can be hard to find but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ones I have read and recommend them. The link here is scandal. The Belchamber Scandal (1985) is about a young woman forced to become a governess in late 19th century England, after her father’s suicide. Her new position is initially challenging for Amelia but becomes absolutely disastrous after her employer, Mr. Hoggett, departs for a business trip to America, leaving her at the mercy of his family.
Second Degree

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer (1962) features Ancilla Trent, a young woman of quality who also became a governess after her father committed suicide. She is treated much better by her charge’s family than Amelia was but feels she has come down in the world and is not a worthy bride for the man she loves.  There is a silly misunderstanding but I still like it very much.  
This was one of the first Heyers I read multiple times as it was in my school library, long before I had my own copies.  
Third Degree

Miss Slighcarp in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1962) is an evil governess who takes advantage of her employers’ absence by stealing their possessions and dumping their daughter and niece in a workhouse/orphanage. This is a wonderful book with actual wolves roaming the countryside as counterpart to the humans with wolfish tendencies.
Fourth Degree

My next link is wolves. Hilary Mantel died last week and many believe her masterpiece was Wolf Hall (2009), a historical novel about Thomas Cromwell’s career as a merchant and statesman for Henry VIII that was the first of a trilogy. The title comes from the name of Jane Seymour’s family home at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire and the Latin saying Homo homini lupus ("Man is wolf to man") which describes the pitfalls Cromwell navigates – until his enemies bring him down.  As a 16th-century History and Literature major, I really enjoyed this but must admit I was surprised so many others did as well!
Fifth Degree

Jane Seymour produced Henry VIII’s only legitimate son, Edward VI, who died when he was just 15. As Regent, the Duke of Northumberland realized Edward was in poor health and married his son to Edward’s cousin, Lady Jane Grey, planning to seize the throne in her name, although the rightful heir was Edward’s sister Mary. Another Spring by Katherine Wigmore Eyre (1949) is a very appealing YA historical that tells the story of Jane Grey, the Nine-Day Queen from the perspective of her maid.
Sixth Degree

Another historical novel told from the perspective of the maid is Margaret Forster’s Lady’s Maid (1990), based on the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. My dorm in London was just a few blocks from Wimpole Street where she lived so, naturally, I dragged several of my classmates to see it in June.
Have you read any of these? Not sure there is any connection from the starting novel to my last except that a lady's maid always knows her employer's scandals!
 Did you play #6Degrees this month? Next month, we’ll start on November 5, 2022 (which is Guy Fawkes Day) with a cookbook – Kate chose The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver.
50 Wimpole Street, Marylebone


Anonymous said...

Wolves of Wiiloughby Chase!

Helen said...

Great chain. I'm reading one of Joan Aiken's adult suspense novels at the moment, but still need to read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase! I'm also looking forward to The Nonesuch, which is a Heyer I haven't read yet.

TracyK said...

I like your last two books the best because I like stories from the point of view of the maid.

I do hope to participate next month because Six Degrees will be on my birthday. I will have to start working on it right away to have enough time to come up with links.

Marianne said...

What an interesting chain you created there. I have only read Wolf Hall (and the other two books in the trilogy) which I absolutely loved. What a shame Hilary Mantel had to leave us so early. Imagine the books she still could have written.

My Six Degrees of Separation took me from Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller to Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

Annabel (AnnaBookBel) said...

Lovely chain! I must confess, I've still never read Mantel.

Adrian said...

I read all three Mantel books, one after the other, during Lockdown. I felt like I was submerged in that world for a couple of months, like I was sitting on Cromwells shoulder. I wonder if they'll ever get Mark Rylance and Damien Lewis back together to make another series. Great chain.