A bookish game we can all play

A book chain beginning at Burial RitesOur minds make connections in strange and wonderful ways. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of thinking about one thing, only to find, a couple of minutes later, that we’re thinking about something else entirely. But there was a reason why we got from one thought to the other; our brains connected a series of individual dots that led from point 1 to point 10.

Which is the thinking behind a new initiative by writers and friends Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman. I’ll let Annabel explain what it is here:

“In 1929, Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story called ‘Chains’ in which he coined the phrase six degrees of separation.

I’m excited to announce a new meme, based on the idea in Karinthy’s story. On the first Saturday of every month, Emma Chapman and I will choose a book, and link it to five other books in a chain. We will also be inviting our readers and other bloggers to join us by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.” Annabel Smith.

The first book they’ve chosen is Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. All you have to do is think about what other book Burial Rites reminds you of. There are no rules about what the link might be; it could be setting, character, title, where you were when you read the book, how the book made you feel etc. You have to do that 6 times, for each book you come up with along the chain. The fun of it is in seeing where you end up.

So, here’s my chain.

1. Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, as both books are historical fictions, based on actual events, about a woman convicted of murder, and in which the reader is left to decide whether they are ultimately guilty, innocent, or something in between.

2. My next link is to do with a name. From Alias Grace, I think of In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl, in which one the main character’s names is Grace.

3. The rendering of World War One in MacColl’s books is superb; another book in which you feel you are living in the war, this time the Second World War, is Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

4. If you’ve read Atonement, you’ll know what a punch the ending brings. Of A Boy by Sonya Hartnett, is a book whose ending I couldn’t stop thinking about for days afterwards.

5. The protagonists in Of A Boy are children adrift; in Chris Wormersley’s Bereft, the focus is one child adrift in the bush, and her unlikely friendship with a man on the run.

6. And at the end of my chain I come to Beloved, by Toni Morrison, simply because the title of Bereft is so similar to Beloved.

Who would have thought that Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites could have led us to a hauntingly sad ghost story about slavery in America.

Does this sound like fun? If so, please post your own chain in the comments below. It’ll be interesting to see how everyone’s minds work, as well as giving us all a list of some more books to add to our reading pile. I hope you join in the fun!


  1. LOVE your chain. I didn’t think of Alias Grace, but now that you mention it, it’s a perfect link. And I really love your link between Atonement and Of a Boy. Of a Boy is one of my favourite books (not that I ‘liked’ it) – I read it a couple of years ago and still think about the characters all the time – Hartnett is amazing.

    • Thank you! I couldn’t stop thinking of Alias Grace when I read Burial Rites; it reminded me so much of Atwood’s book that I’ve pulled Alias Grace out to read it again because it’s been ages since I read it and I don’t remember loving it as much as some of her other works, so I’m interested to see how I feel about it now.

      Of a Boy is one of my favourites too; I was pregnant when I read it and I couldn’t work out if that was why it affected me so deeply or whether it would have anyway. It was truly a book that haunted me for a long time afterwards. And she is a brilliant writer, under-rated, I think. Thanks for dropping by too!

  2. annabelsmith

    I really need to read Of a Boy – it’s been recommended to me so many times. Love how some of your books are linked by endings, some by titles, some by settings – amazing to see all the different ways people have interpreted the meme. Beloved is a book I really want to re-read – it affected me very powerfully the first time. Thanks for playing!

    • You would love it Annabel. But definitely only read it when you’re in the right mood; it’s a very affecting book and the after effect is hard to shake off. And thanks for inviting me to play along!

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