#6Degrees of Separation: From What I Loved to Learning to See

July 4, 2020

Happy Birthday U.S.A.!


 #6Degrees of Separation: From What I Loved by Siri Hustved to Learning to See by Elise Hooper

#6Degrees of Separation (a collage of covers in this post)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


#6Degrees of Separation: from What I Loved by Siri Hustved to Learning to See by Elise Hooper.

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I’ve seen this meme around for a while and Davida’s posts at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog inspired me to give it a try this year! Making connections between books is challenging, creative, and fun!

Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:

  • Link the books together in any way you like.
  • Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
  • Share these rules in your post.
  • Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
  • Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
  • Share your post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hash tag.
  • Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.

Play Along?

This month’s prompt starts with What I Loved by Siri Hustved and is a book I have not read. I notice in the summary that an extraordinary painting is discovered, so my chain will be built around an art theme.

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (cover) Image: a girl in a red spaghetti stap dress sits with her back to the camera and rests her left hand on the side of her dark short hairAmazon Summary: “What I Loved begins in New York in 1975, when art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery. He buys the work; tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler; and the two men embark on a life-long friendship. Leo’s story, which spans twenty-five years, follows the growing involvement between his family and Bill’s–an intricate constellation of attachments that includes the two men, their wives, Erica and Violet, and their sons, Matthew and Mark.

The families live in the same New York apartment building, rent a house together in the summers and keep up a lively exchange of ideas about life and art, but the bonds between them are tested, first by sudden tragedy, and then by monstrous duplicity that slowly comes to the surface. A beautifully written novel that combines the intimacy of a family saga with the suspense of a thriller, What I Loved is a deeply moving story about art, love, loss, and betrayal.”

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (cover) Image a solitary house stands on a windswept prairieFirst Degree. From the summary of What I Loved, I notice that an extraordinary piece of art is discovered. This reminds me of A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting, Christina’s World..

Goodreads Summary: “A stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

“Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.”

Christina's World painting by Andrew Wyeth (Image:) a young woman drags herself across a prairie toward a solitary house on a hill
Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century. My Goodreads review of A Piece of the World.

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (cover)Second Degree: Another story involving art is Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain. Here, the story involves an imagined mural.

My Summary: “Secrets, prejudice, and making peace with the past …. Two young women living several decades apart are focused on the same mural….one is creating the mural in 1940 and the other is restoring the same mural in 2018. In alternate viewpoints and dual timelines, we hear both stories, the mystery of what happened to the original artist is uncovered, and connections between the two are revealed.” My review of Big Lies in a Small Town.

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (cover) Image: 17th cuntury portrait of a girl looking over her shoulder at the camera wearing a blue and gold head covering and a pearl earringThird Degree: The next book to involve art is is Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. The subject of the painting (as depicted on the cover) by the Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, is anonymous.

Amazon Summary: Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer’s most celebrated paintings.

History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . . . even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil.” (***I gave this one 3.5 stars but didn’t write a review except to note that is is “an enjoyable and interesting character-driven story”).

The Dutch House by Anne Patchett (cover) Image: a young girl with long dark hair and in a read coat sits for a portraitFourth Degree: Connecting to the strong theme of art is The Dutch House by Anne Patchett in which two siblings (older sister and younger brother) return to their childhood home where paintings are prominently displayed and evoke many memories. The portrait on the cover is the sister.

My Summary: Siblings Danny and Maeve are living in The Dutch House when their mother abandons the family. Their father remarries, but after he dies, their stepmother kicks Danny and Maeve out of her life and out of the house. Suddenly, all Danny and Maeve have is each other. This story explores their complicated lives and relationships.My review of The Dutch House.

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (cover) White text over moonlit treesFifth Degree: Continuing the theme of art, the story in A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny is focused on the art world and Clara’s solo art show in this 7th installment of the Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Series.

 Amazon Summary: “Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”
But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow’s garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara’s solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they’ve found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.  (***not reviewed, but I gave this 4 stars)

Learning to See by Elise Hooper (cover)Sixth Degree: The final link in the chain is a slight departure from the first five traditional art-themed stories into the world of photography. Learning to See by Elise Hooper shares the imagined story of real-life photographer, Dorothea Lange.

My Summary: “Learning to See is a fictionalized biography inspired by real-life photographer, Dorothea Lange. We first meet twenty-two-year-old Dorothea Nutzhorn in 1918 as she arrives in San Francisco with her best friend. Through wit and a determination to create her own life far from her home in the Northeast, Dorothea changes her name to Dorothea Lange, takes a risk in opening a portrait studio, and marries an older established artist, Maynard Dixon. Dorothea’s portrait studio enjoys success and it provides a steady and dependable income for their growing family of two children. When the economy collapses in the 1930s, economic troubles place tremendous strain on an already fragile marriage and Dorothea desperately seeks out ways to support her two young sons and a drunken, disillusioned, and out-of-work husband. As Dorothea’s portrait business declines in the economy, she begins to take pictures of the poor and desperate people on the streets of San Francisco. In addition, she travels throughout California and the Southwest documenting labor conditions on farms, gradually realizing that these pictures are more meaningful than what she produces in her portrait studio because her pictures from the streets and fields tell a true story of the economic hardships that people are facing. Later, the United States enters WW11 and Dorothea accepts a government job photographing the internment camps into which the Japanese have been placed. Not everyone appreciates seeing the truth of these pictures and she is censored, threatened, and discouraged. This doesn’t deter Dorothea from her travels, her photographs, or her purpose. There’s a dual timeline running through the story which allows the reader to know Dorothea at the end of her life.” My review of Learning to See.

I hope you enjoyed this #6Degrees of Separation chain from What I Loved to Learning to See!

Even though I haven’t read What I Loved, the most striking thread that connects the stories in this chain is Art. I have read all six in the chain and can highly recommend each one! (available reviews are linked)

I need to note that these are the first six books I thought to connect. Many stories are out there that could also fit this chain. Can you think of another title?

The choice for next month (August 1, 2020) is How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell.


February #6Degrees of Separation post here.

March #6Degrees of Separation post here.

April #6Degrees of Separation post here.

May #6Degrees of Separation post here.

(skipped June)

If you have a July #6Degrees of Separation post, please leave a link in the comments!


Do you have ideas for creating your own chain?
What book would you add to this chain?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

The book cover and the author’s photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

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  1. I do love an art theme in a book (and The Dutch House will by favourites for 2020). Learning to See looks interesting.

  2. Love your arty theme and you’ve included two of my favourites, Girl with a Pearl Earring and A Trick of the Light. I would very happily read all the rest in your chain too!

    • Well…I have only done this a few months….but I like it when a theme jumps out at me and I can run with it because other books with similar themes immediately comes to mind. In June “art” and in May “journeys” …..the first time I did it, I let each book lead me to the next and that was more difficult. Last month (June) I just skipped because nothing came to mind and I had read mixed reviews of the book and didn’t know if I wanted to promote it. I think the most difficult part is not having read the beginning book and only have the summary as a jumping off point. I told my husband yesterday how time consuming these posts are to put together! On the other hand, I enjoy a creative thoughtful meme!

    • You can get bogged down sometimes – I find now and again that I get to book three and then can’t find any link so have to start again. I find it helps to go back to my review archive and see if something pops out as a link

  3. you’ve picked two of my favourite books – the Chevalier and the Louise Penny. I’m kicking myself for not thinking of Penny’s novels because the artist Clara does feature in several of them.

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