January 1, 2022
#6Degrees of Separation: From Rules of Civility to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
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Young women living in or near New York City (late 1800s to early 1900s)…
#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. 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 Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, and even though it’s not one of my favorite stories, I have an idea for a chain that features…
“Young women living in or near New York City from the late 1800s to the early 1900s…”
I love New York City and stories set there (or near there) in the late 1800s and early 1900s are fascinating!
Even though Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is beautifully written and has received high praise, I remember feeling rather meh about the story when I read it years ago.
Amazon Summary: “On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.
With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.”
FIRST DEGREE. From Rules of Civility, it’s an easy leap to another young woman living in New York City, Vera in The Way of Beauty by Camille Di Maio.
My Summary: “As a child in the early 1900s in New York City, Vera Keller falls in love with a childhood friend who is nine years older than she. Through the years, they remain close. Although Angelo acts like her older brother, Vera is convinced that someday they will marry. One day she is shocked when he introduces her to his fiance, Pearl. Despite her heartbreak, Vera and Pearl become friends and Pearl introduces her to the Suffragette Movement. As Vera becomes entangled in their lives, her love for Angelo never dies. As a result of her love for Angelo and her commitment to Pearl’s cause, Vera has many challenges and difficult choices to make. The latter half of the book is told from Vera’s daughter’s perspective. Her daughter, Alice, enjoys benefits from the Suffragette Movement but also faces her own challenges in caring for her ailing father and in choosing between two men whom she loves.” My review of The Way of Beauty.
SECOND DEGREE: Another story of a young woman living in New York City features Laura in The Lyons of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis. One other fascinating aspect is that the setting features the New York Public Library.
My Summary: “Told in two timelines, The Lions of Fifth Avenue tells the stories of Laura Lyons (1913) and Sadie Donovan (1993) and their experiences at the New York City Public Library. In 1913, Laura’s husband is the superintendent of the library and their family actually lives in an apartment inside the library. Laura wants more from life and is bored at home with her two children, so she enrolls in journalism school and becomes involved with a radical group of women feminists meeting in Greenwich Village. Meanwhile, valuable books are stolen from the library and her family is under suspicion. In 1993, Sadie is the Curator at the New York City Public Library and also shares a secret connection with the famous essayist, Laura Lyons. The library experiences the theft of a few valuable pieces and Sadie’s job is in jeopardy. Truths come to light regarding Sadie’s family history as the case is investigated.” My review of Lions of Fifth Ave.
THIRD DEGREE: Another fascinating story about a young woman living in New York City (with connections to a library) features Belle in The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray.
My Summary: “The Personal Librarian is the fictionalized biography of Belle da Casta Greene, personal librarian to business tycoon, John Pierpont Morgan. Belle curates a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for the Pierpont Morgan Library. In addition to becoming powerful in the art and book world, Belle develops a reputation as a shrewd negotiator and earns her place in New York Society. However, she has a well-guarded secret…..she is passing as white.” My review of Personal Librarian.
FOURTH DEGREE: Although we’re moving a bit away from New York City, our main character does visit the city. Connecting to the New York City setting and the strong theme of a female passing as white is the story of Anita from The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe.
My Summary: “The Gilded Years shares the important and compelling experiences of Anita Hemmings and her dream of attending an exclusive school for women, Vassar College, in the late 1890s. To accomplish this extraordinary feat and pursue her chance for a better life, Anita must pass for white. It is interesting to me how her family and community support her in the implementation of her decision and work to protect her as she lives it out. At first, Anita maintains a distance from her college peers. However, as the years pass and Anita becomes friends with her socialite roommate from a prominent family in New York City, the risk of discovery grows greater. Can she maintain her assumed identify? Will she graduate?
FIFTH DEGREE: Let’s continue the connection of women living in New York City and high society with Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt from The Social Graces by Renée Rosen.
My Summary: “Set in the late 1800s, The Social Graces shares the story of the historic and notorious feud/rivalry between Mrs. Caroline Astor and Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt as witnessed by New York Society during The Gilded Age. In this time, when women often found their power in society, simple wealth wasn’t enough. Your status in society depended upon old money or new money. Caroline is from old money and is the reigning Queen of society while Alva is from Mobile, Alabama and married into the wealthy Vanderbilt family. Alva soon discovers that mere wealth isn’t enough to get accepted into the top 400 of New York Society, so she sets out in cunning and devious ways to get accepted and perhaps even dethrone Caroline. My review of The Social Graces.
SIXTH DEGREE: The final link in the chain moves far away from high society and is a classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I love Francie and this is my favorite of Betty Smith’s stories.
Amazon Summary: “From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness. Betty Smith has captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life―from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Smith has created a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as deeply resonant moments of universal experience. Here is an American classic that “cuts right to the heart of life,” hails the New York Times.”
I hope you enjoyed this #6Degrees of Separation chain from Rules of Civility to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!
The most striking thread that connects the stories in this chain is young women who live in or near New York City during the late 1800s to the early 1900s. I have read all these books and can recommend them all! (although Rules of Civility is my least favorite in the chain).
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 young women living in or near New York City during the late 1800s and the early 1900s?
Do you have ideas for creating your own chain?
What book would you add to this chain?
Have you read one of these stories?
If you have a January #6Degrees of Separation post, please leave a link in the comments!
Happy New Year!
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