January 2, 2021
#6Degrees of Separation: From Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell to The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Women Behind Famous Men!
#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 hashtag.
- Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.
This month’s prompt starts with Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and I’m thrilled because it was a favorite, top read for me in 2020.
An important aspect of the story is the woman and the family behind a famous man, so my chain is held together with this idea. Also, all of these books are written by women authors!
My Summary: “Hamnet is set in 1580s Warwickshire, England, and it is the highly imagined story of William Shakespeare’s family, especially his son, Hamnet, and his wife, Agnes (Anne). It’s the story of a marriage and family. Shakespeare and Agnes had three children. It’s also a story of grief as we know from history that Hamnet dies. O’Farrell imagines that he might have died as a result of the 1550s plague. William Shakespeare is “off-stage” for the majority of the story and is never mentioned by name (referred to as husband, father, etc.). This centers Agnes (and the children) as the main character of the story and grief as the main theme. Agnes is a beautiful woman who has some supernatural gifts of healing with herbs, is entirely devoted to family, and frequently experiences glimpses into the future.” My review of Hamnet here.
First Degree. From Hamnet, I continue the central idea of the woman and family behind a famous man with My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, in which the story focuses on Eliza Hamilton.
My Summary: “A general’s daughter, Elizabeth Schuyler meets and marries Alexander Hamilton amid the union’s fight for independence and the uncertainties of war. Eliza and Alexander find themselves establishing their life together at the same time as they are at the center of our nation’s founding. Authors Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to imagine Eliza’s story as a patriot, loving wife, political partner, loyal friend, supportive sister, and devoted mother of eight.” My review of My Dear Hamilton here.
Second Degree: Another story by the same authors is America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. This story focuses on the daughter behind the famous man.
My Summary: “A fast-paced read, this well-researched novel draws from thousands of letters and original sources as it tells the story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph. Patsy shares her father’s devotion to their country and becomes his partner, protector, and loyal companion after the death of her mother. As a young girl, she travels with him to Paris when he becomes the American minister to France, and it is here she eventually learns of his relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave girl about her own age. According to the authors, it’s during these Paris years that Patsy falls in love with William Short, her father’s assistant and protégé who is an abolitionist and aspiring diplomat. Patsy is torn between love, principles, and family loyalty, and she questions whether she can be married to William and remain devoted to her father. This is a story of sacrifice and grit as Patsy tirelessly protects her father’s reputation and supports him as he guides and leads the nation he helped found.“ My review of America’s First Daughter here.
Third Degree: The next book to involve the family of a famous man is Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Sons (Middle Grade) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This is a Middle-Grade read that is enjoyable for adults, too.
Goodreads Summary: “Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston are Thomas Jefferson’s children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and while they do get special treatment – better work, better shoes, even violin lessons – they are still slaves, and are never to mention who their father is. The lighter-skinned children have been promised a chance to escape into white society, but what does this mean for the children who look more like their mother? As each child grows up, their questions about slavery and freedom become tougher, calling into question the real meaning of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Told in three parts from the points of view of three of Jefferson’s slaves – Beverly, Madison, and a third boy close to the Hemings family – these engaging and poignant voices shed light on what life was like as one of Jefferson’s invisible offspring.“
Fourth Degree: Connecting to the strong theme of a woman and family behind a famous man is Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict.
My Summary: “Clementine Churchill is the devoted wife, partner, and best friend of Winston Churchill. Lady Clementine is brilliant, ambitious, innovative, and fascinating, and she devotes all her energy and loyalty to her husband and country.” My review of Lady Clementine.
Fifth Degree: Continuing the theme of a woman behind a famous man, the story in Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan is centered around a deep friendship and love story between Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis.
Goodreads Summary: “Struggling with an unhappy marriage, her writing career and health, and matters of faith, Joy Davidman begins writing to well-known author, C.S. Lewis (Jack). Joy and Jack are both writers and poets and experience a robust and heartfelt correspondence through which they develop a warm and intellectual friendship. Soon, Joy takes a break from her unpredictable, angry, drunken husband and travels to England in hopes of restoring her health, finding inspiration for her writing projects, and meeting C.S. “Jack” Lewis. After spending time with Jack and enjoying a mutual fondness, Joy begins to realize her growing love for him. Despite a lack of personal financial resources and continuing heartbreak over her circumstances, Joy finds the courage to risk it all and the voice to end her marriage and move permanently to England. Through her great friendship with Lewis, she finds enduring love, a trusted friend and confidant, and a true writing partner. During this time in history (the 50s), Joy’s independence and decisions regarding her marriage and children were most likely questioned. In addition, Jack received criticism for his involvement with a divorced woman. However, we know that Jack called her “my whole world” and upon her death, he wrote his popular “A Grief Observed.” In this biographical historical fiction, you will be treated to a poignant love story along with beautiful descriptions of England and bookish references.” My review of Becoming Mrs. Lewis here.
Sixth Degree: The final link in the chain is one more story of a woman behind a famous man, The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin.
Goodreads Summary: “When Anne Morrow, a shy college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family, she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong. Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. In the years that follow, Anne becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States. But despite this and other major achievements, she is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.”
One of my lifetime favorite reads is Gifts From the Sea, a series of reflective and inspirational essays by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
I hope you enjoyed this #6Degrees of Separation chain from Hamnet to The Aviator’s Wife!
The most striking thread that connects the stories in this chain is the women and families behind famous men. I have read all these books can highly recommend them all! Also, each of these books is by a woman author!
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 that features the women and family behind a famous man?
Next month (February 6, 2021), we’ll start with Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. Join us?
(skipped a few months)
If you have a January #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?
Have you read one of these stories?
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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