#AnneReadalong2017: Anne of Avonlea (Book 3 of #20BooksofSummer)

Note: Jane at Greenish Bookshelf and Jackie at Death By Tsundoku are co-hosting an Anne of Green Gables series readalong for the remainder of the year.  Check out their blogs for more info on how to join the fun!

“Having adventures comes natural to some people,” said Anne serenely.  “You just have a gift for them or you haven’t.”

My reading of the second book in L.M. Montgomery’s classic series was a bit more of a chore than my experience of the first one, I have to admit.  I did enjoy it, but I found it all too easy to set the book aside when I’d finished a chapter.  It consisted of vignettes about people in Anne’s life and Anne herself, just like the first.  But I felt that there was less forward momentum in the narrative, almost as if each chapter was a short story rather than part of a novel.

9780770420208-us-300Anne is 16 now and a teacher of some of the very children who were recently her schoolmates.  She still lives with Marilla, who is still experiencing poor eyesight and can’t do any close up sewing or crafting or reading.  However, they are soon joined by twins Davy and Dora, six years old, distant relations who are orphaned and need a temporary place to stay. Davy is a deliberately mischievous “handful” and Dora is… well… boring. Dora might as well not exist, in my opinion.  She’s only referenced in contrast to Davy’s behavior, and Anne and Marilla both admit to liking Davy more.  Poor Dora!  I wondered why Montgomery even introduced her in the first place.  Why not just have little Davy come to stay at Green Gables?  But I’ve not read the rest of the series – perhaps Dora has a meatier role to play in the future?

In any case, Anne is busy with teaching and with the newly formed Avonlea Village Improvement Society, in addition to her adventures with the twins and assorted neighbors and friends.  My favorite part of the book came towards the end, when we meet the “old maid” (“forty-five and quite gray”) Miss Lavendar Lewis.  Miss Lavendar is as romantic and imaginative as Anne is, and they become fast friends.

“But what is the use of being an independent old maid if you can’t be silly when you want to, and when it doesn’t hurt anybody?”

I very much enjoyed the whimsical Miss Lavendar, and was quite moved by her affection for Anne’s favorite pupil, sweet, sensitive Paul Irving.  The plotline involving Lavendar and Paul’s father, Stephen, felt romantic and satisfying.  Anne herself has just a taste of romance, her first conscious thought of what may lie ahead with Gilbert, in the book’s last pages.

Favorite line:  “… Mrs. Lynde says that when a man has to eat sour bread two weeks out of three his theology is bound to get a kink in it somewhere.”

Rating:  Three stars.  We got to meet some fun characters, but overall it felt lacking compared to the richness of the first.  Davy was a big drag for me, quite frankly. However, the book had a sweet spirit and Anne still exhibited her trademark appreciation for nature and creative daydreaming, which I enjoyed.  I do look forward to reading more about Anne’s adventures as she heads to Redmond College.  I’m hoping the change of scenery will add more momentum to the story!

20-books(This was book 3 of my #20BooksofSummer list.  Combining reading challenges!  Yes!) 

 

#AnneReadAlong2017: Thoughts on Anne of Green Gables

Note: Jane at Greenish Bookshelf and Jackie at Death By Tsundoku are co-hosting an Anne of Green Gables series readalong for the remainder of the year.  Check out their blogs for more info on how to join the fun!

IMG_1643Having somehow not read any of the Anne of Green Gables series as a child (too busy reading Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club, I guess) I read the first book as an adult in 2009.  I remember being quite charmed by it, but I didn’t feel the need to continue with the series for some reason.  (I get like that – it usually takes me years to complete series – too many books calling me!)  But since I’ve been book blogging, I started feeling left out of the know when it came to L. M. Montgomery’s classics.  It seemed everyone was speaking a language that I didn’t understand as I kept seeing posts about the series.  So when the #AnneReadAlong came up, I knew I wanted to join and give myself the push I needed to complete the series.  I read my library branch’s copy, which is a donation to our collection.  It’s a Canadian edition from 1942, and it has some nice illustrations.

On a second reading of Anne of Green Gables, I immediately questioned whether or not I was a horrible person.  At first, I felt irritated by Anne’s cheerfulness, her constant chirping about “how splendid!” everything was. Had I grown that cynical and cranky in eight years? I worried, is this a taste of my future as a crotchety old woman?!?

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Gilbert teasing Anne.

And then, thankfully, I began to let Montgomery’s sweet story work its charms on me.  I started to feel envious of Anne and her friends walking to and from school and one another’s houses, enjoying the beautiful natural world of Prince Edward Island.  I spend almost no time outdoors on a regular workday, sadly, and I almost never walk anywhere – to the park and back with my son when I’m off, but that’s about it.  I do love noticing birds and flowers and trees, so I feel like I connect with Anne in that way.  But my experience of modern life is probably true for many other people who live in suburbs, commute to work in cars, and work inside air-conditioned buildings.  What it must have been like to be that connected to the natural rhythms of the seasons, to be so attuned to every flowering of buds and beautiful sunset.  Yep, I’m jealous.

I was also struck by how different children seem to be now compared to the early part of the twentieth century.  When Anne was 12, she seemed so much more innocent and naive than modern twelve year-olds.  But when she was 16 she seemed so much more independent and organized than many sixteen year-olds today.  Children became “adults” much faster than we seem to now, in that they started working and getting married so much earlier, and yet while they were children they were able to fully be children and indulge their imaginations and be silly and playful.

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Anne on the Barry roof

I fell in love with Matthew Cuthbert, of course, and his devotion to Anne.  (“Matthew would have thought that anyone who praised Anne was ‘all right.'”)  His quiet determination to let Anne have a dress like the ones the other girls wear and his being flustered in the store is just priceless. I’m so glad that Anne had Matthew’s gentle adoration to counter-balance Marilla’s undemonstrative demeanor.  And yet I found myself liking Marilla more and more as the book continued.  I especially identified with her once Anne had gone to study at Queen’s, and Marilla came home to a quiet house with a “gable room at the end of the hall (that) was untenanted by any vivid young life and unstirred by any soft breathing.”  Any parent can empathize with Marilla’s grief, whether or not their child has left the nest yet.

So many of you have read this series that I’m not going to do anything like a plot summary, but I do want to highlight some of my favorite quotations and passages.  Some are funny; some are just highly quotable words of wisdom.

Marilla to Rachel Lynde when she expresses doubts about them adopting a child:  “And as for the risk, there’s risks in pretty near everything a body does in this world.”

Anne, anticipating a picnic: “I have never tasted ice-cream.  Diana tried to explain what it was like, but I guess ice-cream is one of those things that are beyond imagination.”  SO TRUE, ANNE.

Marilla, after Anne’s adventure on the roof:  “There’s one thing plain to be seen, Anne,” said Marilla, “and that is your fall off the Barry roof hasn’t injured your tongue at all.”  Ha!

Anne, to Marilla at age thirteen: “It’s perfectly appalling to think of being twenty, Marilla.  It sounds so fearfully old and grown up.”

Anne: “Look at that sea, girls – all silver and shadow and visions of things not seen.  We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds…”  Jane: “I don’t know- exactly,” said Jane, unconvinced.  “I think diamonds would comfort a person for a good deal.”  I like how you think, Jane!

I’m so glad I have an excuse to continue with the series!  This is just the breath of fresh air I need to inject my reading life with a little sweetness and wholesomeness.  Modern fiction can be so…you know…depressing!  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like depressing as much as the next 21st century bookworm, but this is a nice change of pace.  On to Book 2 – Anne of Avonlea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne of Green Gables Readalong!

Jackie at Death By Tsundoku posted today about the Anne of Green Gables Readalong.  She is co-hosting with Jane at Greenish Bookshelves.  I read the first book in the series some years ago, as an adult.  I don’t know how I managed to get through childhood without reading them!  But I never continued with the rest of the series.  I feel like I’ve missed something! Hardly a week goes by that I don’t see a post somewhere referencing those books. I’m tired of feeling left out of the loop.  So I’m joining up now, even though May is over halfway finished.

Here are the details (per Jackie) in case you’re interested in joining:

  1. Each month, starting in May, we will read and review one book in the series. Not sure if you can read all 8? No worries! Just join in for what you can, even if you are posting “late”.
  2. Post your review on your blog, website, YouTube channel, etc. and link in our monthly posts! 
  3. Read, comment, and participate on other Anne lovers’ posts, and on Twitter with #AnneReadAlong2017.

May – Anne of Green Gables

June – Anne of Avonlea

July – Anne of the Island

August – Anne of Windy Poplars

September – Anne’s House of Dreams

October – Anne of Ingleside

November – Rainbow Valley

December – Rilla of Ingleside

 

anne-of-green-gables-paperbacksAnyone interested in joining us?  Have you read this series – once or more than once?

The Murder At The Vicarage by Agatha Christie

“My dear young man, you underestimate the detective instinct of village life.  In St. Mary Mead everyone knows your most intimate affairs.  There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands.”

Fairly recently I was reminded that I’d never read a Miss Marple mystery, despite having read and enjoyed many of Christie’s mysteries featuring Hercule Poirot.  It’s one of those bookish oversights that I can’t logically explain.  My aunt was the first person to introduce me to Agatha Christie, when I was in high school.  She gave me a hardcover collection of five famous Poirot cases, and I was hooked.  This same aunt, however, prefers Miss Marple as a detective to Poirot, so why didn’t she give me Marple?  And why has it taken me 20+ years to get around to reading one with the clever spinster? Perhaps we’ll never know.

murder-at-the-vicarageIn any case, I’m glad I finally tried one.  This is the first featuring Marple, set in the fictional British village of St. Mary Mead.  I was surprised to find that Marple is almost a side character in the book, albeit a vital one.  The story is narrated by the Vicar himself, and the murder is one of those types where many in the village have a motive, and the victim is spectacularly unpopular. Colonel Protheroe is found shot to death sitting at the Vicar’s desk, and within hours we have two separate confessions from two probably suspects.

It felt very classically British and cozy, with all the gossipy spinsters contributing tidbits to the police investigation, as well as the Vicar himself dipping his toe into detective work.  I very much enjoyed the tone and humor of the book, finding it recalled my beloved Barbara Pym at times.  The Vicar’s wife, the much younger Griselda, is especially funny.  He asks her at the beginning of the book what she’s got scheduled that day, and she replies,

“My duty,” said Griselda.  “My duty as the Vicaress.  Tea and scandal at four-thirty.”

“Who is coming?”

Griselda ticked them off her fingers with a glow of virtue on her face.

“Mrs. Price Ridley, Miss Weatherby, Miss Hartnell, and that terrible Miss Marple.”

“I rather like Miss Marple,” I said.  “She has, at least, a sense of humor.”

“She’s the worst cat in the village,” said Griselda.

My only complaint is that this was a very slow read for me.  It took me a week, and my paperback edition is only 230 pages long!  I voiced my issue with a regular library patron who enjoys Christie and she said that the Marple mysteries do unfold at a slower pace than the Poirots.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly possible.  Or perhaps it’s just this particular title.  Any of you Christie fans care to weigh in on that one?

Despite the glacial pace, I did enjoy it.  There’s some clever misdirection by the master mystery writer, and I (once again) did not guess the murderer.  The Vicar and Vicaress were charming, and I found that Miss Marple grew on me as the story progressed.  She is indeed a “shrewd” character, as the Vicar describes her.  As all great amateur detectives are, she’s a keen observer of human nature, yet I found her to be humble as well – something I don’t think I can say of Hercule Poirot.  I am most definitely going to try another one in the series and see how I like it.  There are still many other Christie mysteries I’ve not yet read.  I find myself reaching for these when I’m stressed or in a weird reading mood. They’re dependably entertaining and serve as palate-cleansers.  No matter who the detective is, there will always be a place for Agatha Christie in my reading life.

 

Top (Seven) Books I Need to Reread That I First Read in High School

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by The Broke and Bookish, is a Back to School-related freebie, so we had a lot of leeway in the direction our lists could go this week.  I feel like there are some books that I read in high school (which, ahem, was 20+ years ago for me!) that I would really like to reread as an adult.  I know that as I change and grow as a person, so do my reading tastes change and grow.  I feel like these books deserve an adult eye.

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison.  I was a sophomore in high school when I was assigned this, and I feel like I was waaaaay too young to appreciate it.  Since I’ve been reading Morrison in the past year, I know that I MUST reread this from an adult perspective.51srBOCdgBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  My mom was a big fan of the movie and the book, and I saw the movie at a fairly young age and fell in love with it.  I read the book probably somewhere around 9th grade.  Since then, I’ve become more aware of its problematic content.  So I definitely need to reread this through the prism of a more adult understanding of race in American history.
  • The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.  She’s one of my favorite authors.  I read this as assigned reading in high school and I’m grateful that I got that opportunity.  I want to reread all of her earlier novels and her books of essays.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  I have NO excuse for not having read this since the 9th grade.  None.
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  This was assigned at some point, possibly as a summer reading choice, I can’t remember.  I remember really enjoying it, but I don’t remember much else about it.  Worth a reread for sure!51KEr5saI2L
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I didn’t read this in school, but read it as a child, and was drawn to it again after the Winona Ryder/Christian Bale/Claire Danes version came out in 1994.  But it’s been a very long time since then, so it made my list.
  • The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy.  This was an assigned book, perhaps for summer reading.  It’s a memoir about Conroy’s experience teaching on Daufuskie Island, SC (which he calls Yamacraw Island in the book.)  His one year teaching children of Gullah heritage in the late 1960’s was really interesting.

Here are three works I wish I’d been assigned in high school or college but never was:

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

I swear I’m going to read these – sometime!

Have you read any of these?  Has it been a while since you read them?  What are some titles that you think deserve a reread since your own school days?

 

The Long Lost Middlemarch Wrap-up

(The #Marchalong is over!  Many thanks to Juhi from Nooks and Crannies for hosting the Middlemarch readalong and giving me an excuse to reread this marvelous book!)

Oh yeah!  I was supposed to write a post about the final section of Middlemarch, Book Eight, “Sunset and Sunrise.”  I finished reading this marvelous chunkster of a book on July 12, according to Goodreads.  If you’ve been following my Middlemarch posts thus far (and God bless you!) you know that I love this book.  I love that it took me five months to finish it.  If I’d had a tighter deadline for reading and posting, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for the readalong.cover_image

We left off in Book Seven with Dorothea aghast at the unsavory allegations directed towards Lydgate.  We begin Book Eight with the Misters Farebrother, Chettham, and Brooke trying to persuade her not to get involved.  (I love Dorothea’s impassioned question, “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?  I cannot be indifferent to the troubles of a man who advised me in my trouble, and attended me in my illness.”)

Rather than summarize the plot, I simply want to highlight some of my favorite quotations from this section.  I know that some of you have expressed a desire to read Middlemarch at some point, and I don’t want to spoil it.  (If you can spoil a book published in 1872!)

When Mrs. Bulstrode tells her husband that she knows all the allegations against him:

He raised his eyes with a little start and looked at her half amazed for a moment:her pale face, her changed, mourning dress, the trembling about her mouth, all said, “I know;” and her hands and eyes rested gently on him.  He burst out crying and they cried together, she sitting at his side.  They could not yet speak to each other of the shame which she was bearing with him, or of the acts that had brought it down on them.  His confession was silent, and her promise of faithfulness was silent.  Open-minded as she was, she nevertheless shrank from the words which would have expressed their mutual consciousness as she would have shrunk from the flakes of fire. She could not say, “How much is only slander and false suspicion?” and he did not say, “I am innocent.”

After Dorothea sees Rosamund and Will in what she assumes is a romantic interlude, and Rosamund tells Will to go after Dorothea and explain:

“Explain!  Tell a man to explain how he dropped into hell!  Explain my preference!  I never had a preference for her, any more than I have a preference for breathing.  No other woman exists by the side of her.  I would rather touch her hand if it were dead than I would touch any other woman’s living.”

When Dorothea and Will finally confront one another and unburden their souls:

While he was speaking their came a vivid flash of lightning which lit each of them up for the other – and the light seemed to be the terror of a hopeless love.  Dorothea darted instantaneously from the window; Will followed her, seizing her hand with a spasmodic movement; and so they stood, with their hands clasped, like two children, looking out on the storm, while the thunder gave a tremendous crack and roll above them, and the rain began to pour down.  Then they turned their faces towards each other, with the memory of his last words in them, and they did not loose each other’s hands.

This book is about everything:  love and marriage, the pitiful education of females in the 19th century, finding the courage to discover your calling, class consciousness, changing political times, spending above your means, honesty, flirtation, altruism, and what constitutes a good life.  There are many strands to the web that Eliot spins, but they are all beautifully connected and come together in surprising ways.  It is funny, witty, comforting, astute – and sometimes feels so modern that I can’t believe it was written almost 150 years ago.  I admit that I’ve missed delving into its pages and visiting its characters over the past few weeks. This is a book that I will take the time to read again in the years to come.

Thoughts on Middlemarch Book Seven: Two Temptations

(The #Marchalong continues!  Many thanks to Juhi from Nooks and Crannies for hosting the Middlemarch readalong and giving me an excuse to reread this marvelous book!)

It’s the Fourth of July as I write this, and what’s more American than musing on a massive classic British novel?  Yes, I celebrated our nation’s independence earlier today by eating too much potato salad and lemon blueberry icebox cake and hanging out with family, but now it’s time to talk about Book Seven, the next-to-last section of Middlemarch.  It might as well have been titled Poor Lydgate!  I do feel sorry for Tertius, even if he has gotten himself into this fine mess by marrying someone he can’t trust, spending way above his means, and aligning himself with the town pariah, Mr. Bulstrode.middlemarch

What I connected with the most from this section was the marital strife between Lydgate and Rosamund.  He is consumed by his debt, and determines that nothing short of one thousand pounds will alleviate the pressure.  Only how to acquire it?  He is a proud man, desiring to sell his house and furniture to Ned Plymdale rather than borrow money from family.  Rosamund, however, has other ideas.  She goes behind Lydgate’s back and cancels the plans to sell the house, essentially taking it off the market.  She then takes the liberty of writing to Lydgate’s wealthy uncle Sir Godwin, asking him for money and neglecting to make it clear that Lydgate didn’t know anything about her letter.  OH BOY.  Trouble!  We readers watch as Lydgate struggles with the revelation of Rosamund’s first deception, as yet unaware of her second.  At the end of Chapter 64 he reluctantly determines to go visit his uncle Godwin, as only an in person visit and not a letter will do.  Oh, the dramatic irony!

When Godwin’s humiliating response arrives the next day in the mail, Tertius is understandably apoplectic.  “…it has been of no use for me to think of anything.  You have always been counteracting me secretly.  You delude me with a false assent, and then I am at the mercy of your devices.  If you mean to resist every wish I express, say so and defy me.  I shall at least know what I am doing then.” Rosamund’s response is basically, You’re the one who married me and led me to believe that I would be taken care of in the manner to which I have become accustomed!  She pretty much refuses to admit that what she did was wrong.  He is flummoxed by her stubborn tenacity in acting like the wronged party.  It’s like he’s dealing with a child, and indeed Rosamund strikes me as very childlike.  But they both went into this marriage with little knowledge of the other person, and much in the way of dreamy fantasies of what married life was supposed to be like.  Eliot writes their arguments with such emotional depth and nuance; I am in awe of her skill.

So Lydgate and Rosamund’s marriage and finances are hanging in the balance.  Meanwhile, the devious Mr. Raffles comes back to town, only this time he is gravely ill.  Somehow Bulstrode gets him to convalesce at his place, with Lydgate giving medical advice.  Bulstrode knowingly does not precisely inform his housekeeper to follow Lydgate’s strict instructions, and as a result, Raffles dies.  Just before, however, Bulstrode happens to write Lydgate a check for the thousand pounds that he so desperately needs.  Lydgate had his suspicions about the case, but he didn’t follow up on his intuition.  However, when the rest of the town, who had been hearing all about Bulstrode’s previous misdeeds, hears of Raffles’ death and Lydgate’s sudden windfall, they assume the worst of both men.

The lovely and good-natured Dorothea is absent from this book, until the very end, when she returns from travels in Yorkshire.  When informed of the momentous happenings with Lydgate and Bulstrode, she emphatically defends Lydgate.  “You don’t believe that Mr. Lydgate is guilty of anything base?  I will not believe it.  Let us find out the truth and clear him!”  It leaves me with a note of hope that there may be some small sense of professional and personal redemption for Lydgate after all, even if his marriage to Rosamund is damaged beyond repair.

One more section to go!  So much to be resolved!  I have been thinking about tackling another hefty classic novel after I finish Middlemarch – taking it slowly, dividing it up by sections and writing about it.  I am still pondering, but if you have a suggestion for a good, meaty classic novel I would love to hear it.