Book Reviews · Other

Six Degrees of Separation: What Was She Thinking?/Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

In this meme, 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 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.

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. You can read all the rules at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

I had never heard of this week’s starting book, What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller, so I got it from the library, albeit too late to finish it in time for this month’s chain. I’m a quarter of the way through as of today and it has been compelling. I will review it when I finish. Therefore, my choices may not be those I’d have made had I finished the book in time.

Book One

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I supposed I could go all the way through the chain with school books, but nah! Anyway, this one is set in a prep school (American for boarding school for rich kids like those with the names Kennedy, Roosevelt, and Bush) and features some very explicit and scandalous scenes (or does it?). I reviewed it on my old blog, so I’m linking to Amazon. The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene.

Book Two

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Mentioning the Roosevelts made me include this, yet another prep school book, but surely one of the greatest. The stifling atmosphere is well portrayed in this book–modeled on the Groton of Endicott Peabody, the school attended by T.R., F.D.R., and their sons and written by a (sort-of?) step-relative of Jackie Kennedy’s via “Hugh D” her step-father (who was also once step-related to Gore Vidal?? Crazy). The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss (my review was lost on my old blog).

Book Three

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Another place full of well educated people, but with a stifling atmosphere is a Cathedral. In this case the Cathedral includes the British type of Prep School–one for posh little boys Prince George’s age, but who sing like angels. This is one of the “Aga Saga” queen’s best books and was made into a tv series in the ’90s (iirc). The Choir by Joanna Trollope (my review was lost on my old blog).

Book Four

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Another book about a claustrophobic religious life is In This House of Brede, by another great ’60s author (Auchincloss was one), Rumer Godden. In this book a very successful woman leaves her success behind and enters a convent. In This House of Brede (my review was lost on my old blog).

Book Five

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[I’m really stretching here :)] A successful woman, hounded by a scandal over a tragedy, marries a prep school educated politician and brings him to sobriety via her Methodist faith. The author’s best book by far. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Book Six

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To (sort of) bring us full circle, a politician’s wife (Book Five) who was a teacher in a private school (albeit one for girls), married a man educated at a prep school, had to endure many a Bishop, wash successful in her own right (and may for a few years have wished she’d run to a convent) and who caused scandals with not only her “intimate” female friendships, but as the starting book, with a much younger man (men, actually). Full circle? You decide. This is the best of the two Eleanor novels. Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert.

Why not join the fun in November? We’ll be starting with

22 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: What Was She Thinking?/Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

  1. You might not have gone through your whole chain with school books, but you did reference schools in almost every one! Who would have thought prep schools were such a popular setting for books!?!

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  2. So many books in your chain that are tempting me to read. I may have read The Choir years ago well before I began blogging, as I read a lot of Joanna Trollope’s books then. Of the others the one that intrigues me the most is Loving Eleanor.

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  3. Great chain, Lisa. I have not read any of these books, but like the sound of a couple of them. I like that all them had some kind of connection to a school.

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    1. But I forgot the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie!!! Lol Anyway, I may have sent you 10 of the same comment or none–WordPress is acting weird again. Here’s what I tried to say: “I LOVE the way you approached this!!! I couldn’t get into Olive Kitteridge (I suspect I need to read her rather than listen) so I may just look for the series (I loved the Swedish movie of Man Called Ove–no clue why Tom Hanks needed to remake it). Great job!”

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  4. Love that you managed to make your chain a bit of a circle. Enjoyed your links though I knew very few of the books. I was interested in your comments about great 60s authors, Auchincloss and Godden. I have read some Godden but none of the former. However, she sounds really interesting. I think I’d been stop reading these chains as they are introducing me to too many really tempting books. I need to find more time to read. (Next year I am seriously downsizing … maybe then. Fingers crossed).

    You have completely lost your old reviews? That would devastate me.

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  5. A great chain, from which I’ve read …. nothing. So far. I’m very keen on the writing of Curtis Sittenfeld, so I’m not sure why I haven’t yet read The American Wife. I will! Oh, I may have read The Choir, but it is, as you say, an Aga Saga. As ever, your post makes great reading.

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  6. It’s been a busy time and I’ve only just had time to visit your blog now. I did go down the school books route, but I also really want to read the Godden one (I bought it not that long ago but haven’t read it yet).

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