6 Degrees From Normal People To Turn Of The Screw

We start this month’s Six Degrees Of Separation with Normal People by Sally Rooney, a novel it’s been impossible to ignore since the BBC adaption went live a few weeks ago.  

I’ve not read it but do have a copy of the book, having had it thrust into my hands by a very enthusiastic niece. Will I read it? Probably at some point though when a novel has garnered as much attention as this one has, I tend to lose interest.

It’s about a complex relationship that begins when Marianne and Connell are at school together. Their lives weave in and out of each other as students at Trinity College, Dublin.

On-off relationship. University students. Sound familiar? It should do because this is the territory of another best selling book (and another successful film): One Day by David Nicholls.

The novel visits the lives and relationship of two people who get together as new graduates at Edinburgh University. The narrative spans a couple of decades with each chapter focusing on their situation on a single date: 15 July (St Swithin’s Day). While their friendship endures, coincidences and misunderstandings keep conspiring to prevent it flourishing into something more.

One Day reminded me of another artfully constructed novel about missed opportunities and the choices we make in life. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett imagines three versions of one woman’s life, starting from an episode on a day when she is cycling to a university lecture. Each version stems from a decision she makes on that day and asks ‘what if this had happened instead, what if she hadn’t missed that opportunity?“.

Opportunities of course are not the only things in life that go missing.

In Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey it’s not things, but people who have gone missing. Ninety-year-old Maud had a sister called Sukey who disappeared without trace seventy years earlier. Now Maud’s long-term friend Elizabeth seems to have gone missing. No-one believes her but Maid is convinced something is wrong and she will not rest until she finds an answer.

A missing girl leads me to Kate Hamer’s debut novel, The Girl in the Red Coat , in which a young girl wanders away from her mother during a story-telling festival, and is abducted by a religious extremist. This is a dark psychological novel that cleverly alludes to the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.

Every time I see the title of that book I think of the film Don’t Look Now, a thriller based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier in a 1971 collection of the same title. The story depicts a married couple who visit Venice in the wake of the accidental death of their daughter. Traumatised by grief, the husband begins to experience mysterious sightings, including the figure of a small child wearing a red coat similar to the one his daughter was wearing when she died.

It’s a story that follows some of the conventions of the Gothic ghost story as does my final choice in this chain, which also happens to be a short story.

The Turn of The Screw by Henry James was originally viewed as simply a spooky story about the experience of a young governess and children in her care who are tormented by two ghosts at an isolated country manor house. Later interpretations suggest that the ghosts are hallucinations, the products of a delusional mind.

So that’s my #6Degrees; moving from a novel of love to a dark about a disturbed mind. From Normal People to maybe An Abnormal Person?? It wasn’t the chain I originally planned but as I was writing it, entirely different connections came to mind. Not sure what that says about the condition of my own imagination!

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best. It works like this: each month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six others to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the titles on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on June 7, 2020, in Six Degrees of Separation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I loved Versions of Us and still think about it often.

  2. it is always interesting to see where these chains take us, and it isn’t always where we thought we wanted to go.

  3. I preferred the book in Elizabeth is Missing but agree that the protrayal of Maud was superb. And again, the book won out for me in One Day but by then I was getting excited – might I possibly have read all the books in someone’s chain! But no! As a du Maurier fan I have to my shame not read Don’t Look Know perhaps it’s the inevitable comparison between the book and the film which stops me. And likewise for The Turn of the Screw. I saw the tv adaptaion around 2009 on a very memorable evening and thus that version is seered into my memory. Could the book compare I wonder? I seem to have created a theme entirely for myself from your clever connections – book vs film!

    • I’ll look forward to reading that post Sandra. Usually the book wins for me but there are some cases where they are equally good (Remains of The Day, The Raj Quartet, Jewel In The Crown for example).

  4. Having watched the TV adaptation, I just started reading Normal People. I also recently saw the movie version of Elizabeth is Missing, also on TV. I broke off reading Normal People to beta read a new book by a favouriote indie author and there is a Henry James reference in the first chapter – a character is reading “Portrait of a Lady”. Later chapters contrast the lives of a turn of the century (19th>20th) working class girl and James’s heroine. And I saw Don’t Look Now years ago with Donald Sutherland and (Who was the female lead? Damned memory!) Excellent chain, thank you.

    • The actress I think was Julie Christie? What did you think of Normal People Frank – i take it you enjoyed the tv version otherwise you wouldn’t be reading the book?

  5. Love that your chain veered towards horror in the end! Don’t Look Now is brilliant – so creepy – and while I had some issues with The Turn of the Screw there’s no doubting he knew how to create an atmosphere of dread… 😀

  6. At last, a chain where I’ve read one of the books!
    Alas, it was The Turn of the Screw, and (sorry, Mary!) I love Henry James but I didn’t love it…

  7. I recently read Elizabeth is Missing and was impressed at how well written it is. And who doesn’t love The Turn of the Screw? And you’ve piqued my interest with The Versions of Us. Such a great chain!

  8. I love when books have a conversation with each other and take us in unexpected directions!

  9. I tried so hard to like The Versions of Us but I disliked all the main characters so much that the thought of going through their lives for a second, let alone a third time was too much for me and I gave up. I know it was a great favourite but I just couldn’t warm to it.

    • I know I enjoyed it at the time but I can’t remember anything about the book beyond the basic premise. The fact it hasn’t stayed with me tells me something of how much of an impact it really made.

  10. That first link is spot on! Particularly impressive as you haven’t read Normal People speaking as one who has.

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