#6Degrees: From Normal People to Severance

Welcome back to the bookish version of Six Degrees of Separation. Start with the book suggested by Kate over at booksaremyfavouriteandbest, and see where you end up by linking it to six other titles. It’s easy and it’s fun, and no two chains are the same.

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This month’s starting point is Normal People by Sally Rooney.

My initial reaction to Normal People wasn’t a good one. I felt like the stream-of-consciousness writing really didn’t accomplish anything and I was left wanting so much more from the story of Connell and Marianne. But as time has passed, I find that I reflect on their story quite often (which surprises me) and I’ve even been contemplating a reread. I think from my reflections I’m understanding that their relationship was complicated and very much like a roller coaster ride – constantly up and down and turbulent and chaotic – and that the depiction is actually quite accurate and consistent with real life. Sometimes I think we expect books to have happy endings, but in all honesty, having accurate depictions of situations that can’t be tied up with a pretty little bow are sometimes nice too.

First Degree

Another book that nails the stream-of-consciousness trope well is The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. Also like Normal People, my first impression of this book wasn’t good, but upon further reflection, I’m still intrigued with the story and think about it from time to time – especially now with a global pandemic upon us that has, so far, stumped epidemiologists, viroligists, and other medical personnel.

Second Degree

The dystopian genre inevitably leads me to The Farm by Joanne Ramos – a utopian-like place where all your needs are met for the nine months that you are pregnant. Preying on poor, often immigrant women – the Farm sweetens the deal by offering a life-changing amount of money to the woman who successfully delivers a baby for the program. But is the money worth being cut off from those that you love for nine months?

Third Degree

It’d be remiss of me to mention dytopian novels centered around birth if I didn’t also mention The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. As women’s reproductive rights continue to be challenged, Atwood’s “tale” hits a little too close to home for many women today.

Fourth Degree

Next up is Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. In this dystopian world, abortion and in vitro fertilization is illegal, and the Personhood Amendment grants life, liberty, and property to embryos. By following five different women through five separate issues, the reader is left to ponder what it means to be a woman. I really, really enjoyed this one and in many ways, it felt the most realistic as far as where our country currently stands on women’s issues.

Fifth Degree

Continuing along the themes of dystopia and women’s rights, Vox by Christina Dalcher imgaines a world where half the population – women – are silenced. Limited to only 100 words per day, women must be selective about the words they use. After reading this book, I was forced to examine the ways in which society would change if women were no longer allowed to speak for themselves. The patriarchal narrative would press on, unencumbered…and if that isn’t terrifying enough, imagine a world wiped out by a pandemic.

Sixth Degree

Oh, wait…hitting a little close to home right now? Severance by Ling Ma felt like dystopia up until a couple months ago when the world was given a first-hand look at what happens when a widespread virus silently spreads across the globe. Up until March 2020, this form of dystopia was largely speculative so there are many aspects of the novel that didn’t happen with Coronavirus; however, it hits close enough to home to make these sorts of novels a little more personal going forward.

While I’m not totally sure how we went from Normal People to Severance, we did! I took a hard turn right from the get go, but that’s what makes these so fun to read! 🤣

Next month (July 4, 2020), we’ll begin with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (inspired by a recent post by A Life in Books).


20 thoughts on “#6Degrees: From Normal People to Severance

  1. Well… that’s a rough chain, if I ever saw one! But as for pandemics in dystopian fiction, although I’ve never read one, I have seen some film versions of them. There was one British TV series called Survivors (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1258189/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1) that – in hindsight – was frighteningly prescient! And it isn’t as if the world hasn’t had pandemics that cross the globe before, even before 1918-19.


    1. I guess I should clarify…dystopia – specifically regarding pandemics – were largly speculative until Coronavirus…because it’s a “new” genre, not because it didn’t happen. Also, I’m well aware that global pandemics have happened before, but not in the current populations lifetime. Sorry I didn’t make that clearer in the original post. And “rough”? I’m not even sure how to take that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As for rough – I mean that your chain doesn’t seem to take us to any comedies, that’s all! Regarding the writing about pandemics, I wouldn’t call it a new genre at all. In 1722 Daniel Defoe wrote “A Journal of the Plague Year” which was a fictional world impacted by the Bubonic plague. There’s also Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter published in 1939 which was about the Spanish Flu pandemic, but that’s essentially historical fiction. However, there is The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, which was published in 1969 and that’s essentially dystopian. There’s also Steven King’s The Stand (1978). So while there might not be a huge number of famous dystopian novels with pandemics, they have been around for a while, and I’m sure many more were written that we just don’t know about.


  2. This is a really fun idea. I’d love to try my had at it, so I guess I need to read Normal People ASAP!


  3. Isn’t it strange when a book you like leaves such an impression. I just finished listening to Normal People and can see why it might do so. I am definitely still contemplating my reaction to it.


  4. I thought about Normal People a lot after finishing it as well and I do wonder if it’s because it didn’t end neatly and happily. I went to an author talk years ago (I think it was Graeme Simsion) and the author said that the problem with happy endings is that there is nowhere to go after that… true!


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