6 Degrees of Separation: From “A Gentleman in Moscow” to “The Chatham School Affair”

Here’s my entry in Kate’s 6 Degrees of Separation Meme from her blog, Books Are My Favourite and Best. Here’s how it works:

Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

The great thing about this meme is that each participant can make their own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain. . .

This month we begin with A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, a book that I have not yet read (although it’s on my TBR list). Here’s the description from Goodreads:

He can’t leave his hotel. You won’t want to.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility–a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

1. Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz, the main character in Lady in the Lake by former journalist Laura Lippman, is also searching for a purpose in life. It’s 1966 in Baltimore, and after an 18-year marriage, Maddie has decided she wants something else from life rather than being just the wife of Milton Schwartz and the mother of Seth. She leaves her husband and son behind, gets her own apartment, and sets out to become a newspaper reporter.

2. Like Maddie in Lady in the Lake, Ingrid Coleman in Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller comes to realize in middle age that she lost her sense of individual purpose when, as a pregnant student, she chose to give up her education and writing ambitions to marry the professor with whom she was in love. One day she goes for a swim in the ocean and never returns.

3. Architect Bernadette Fox also feels she has to run away from her family to rediscover herself in Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Fortunately, her teenage daughter is clever enough to figure out where Bernadette is and to go after her.

4. The Whisper Man by Alex North also tells the story of a parent and child searching for a way to reconnect with each other. After the sudden death of his wife, Rebecca, Tom Kennedy moves into a house in a different town with his seven-year-old son, Jake. Tension mounts when a young boy is killed and Tom realizes he must establish an emotional bond with Jake in order to protect him.

5. & Sons by David Gilbert tells the tale of A.N. Dyer, an old man trying to connect with his sons. Like Tom Kennedy in The Whisper Man, Dyer is a writer, but unlike Kennedy he has never before cared about having a meaningful relationship with his sons.

6. In The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook, Henry Griswald, now an elderly man, seeks to understand his long-dead father by discovering the truth about a long-ago event from his own childhood. 

And there we have it, a journey of emotional discovery through six degrees of separation.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

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