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.


Thoughts on Middlemarch, Book Six: The Widow and the Wife

(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!)

Friends, we are now two-thirds finished with Middlemarch.  Only two more sections to go!  I have loved the slow pace of this readalong, as it has allowed me the freedom to read other things while still rereading this amazing novel.  Reading it slowly has also allowed me to connect with these characters in a way that I feel like I will never forget them.  My husband, who has never read it,  marvels that I am “still reading that book,” but I view it as a treat and a privilege to be able to linger in these pages a while, and really enjoy the luxurious feeling of a close, slow read.

Book Six is not as exciting a section as Book Five, but there are several significant developments.  The train line is coming through Middlemarch, which some folks are vehemently opposed to, and people are revealing all sorts of secrets right and left.  Mrs. Garth tells Fred Vincy that Farebrother harbors feelings for Mary.  Lydgate admits to Rosamund the depths of their financial troubles.   Rosamund reveals to Will Ladislaw that Causabon has included the codicil in his will forbidding Dorothea from marrying him.  And Bulstrode tells Will that he kept his mother and grandmother apart and stole the money that should rightfully be his.  And perhaps most significant of all, Dorothea finally understands that Ladislaw is in love with her.EliotMiddlemarch

What struck me about Book 6 was the awakening of Dorothea.  After her husband’s death and three months spent with her sister Celia at Freshitt, she is ready to go back home and get to work.  She seems to have regained her energy and desire to do good that she had at the outset of the novel.  Of course, part of her desire to get back to Lowick involves her desire to see Ladislaw again – she is self-aware enough to admit this to herself.   Everybody seems to have so many FEELINGS about what Dorothea should do now.  Celia wants to her to stay and watch her baby Arthur being bathed every day, as if it’s the most fascinating prospect in the world.  Mrs. Cadwallader wants her to get married again, but Lady Chettam is aghast at the notion.  James Chettam wants her to remain a widow.  But Dorothea simply goes home and starts working with Caleb Garth to “improve the land and build a great many good cottages.”

Another notable plot point is that Fred Vincy seems to finally be getting on track, both with his career and with his beloved Mary Garth.  Caleb generously takes him under his wing and makes him an apprentice of sorts, even going so far as to hilariously berate his atrocious handwriting.  (“The Lord have mercy on us, Fred, I can’t put up with this!”)  He also takes Fred’s part up with Mrs. Garth, who is not convinced that Fred will make a good match for her daughter.  Caleb identifies with Fred, in that he, too, was seen as not a good prospect for Mrs. Garth when they were married.  Caleb is so sweet and honorable!  He is truly a good-hearted, trusting man.  Even though Fred and Mary talk, nothing is definitely  settled by the end of Book 6, but this reader feels that things will work out for them in the end.

Rosamund and Lydgate… oh my.  We learn that Rosamund has lost the baby after being thrown from her horse on a ride that Lydgate didn’t want her to take in the first place with his “vapid fop” of a cousin, Captain Lydgate.  Both Rosamund and Lydgate are disillusioned with one another, finally seeing each other for who they are, and not exactly liking what they see.  Lydgate finally tells Rosamund how badly they are in debt, and Rosamund immediately gets her jewelry box and hands it to Lydgate, telling him to take whatever he wants.  She acts cold and distant, and says she’s going to her parents’ house for the day.  Lydgate asks her to reconsider, and reminds her that it would be better for her to be there when the man comes to collect some items, so that the servants are as unaware of their situation as possible.  She relents, and they end up embracing, but it is not a wholeheartedly convincing reconciliation.

Mr. Bulstrode, meanwhile, is still haunted by the specter of his blackmailer, Raffles.  He tells Will Ladislaw his secret, that he knew the whereabouts of Will and his mother, and kept that knowledge secret from Will’s grandmother.  He also offers Will money, the money that is rightfully Will’s inheritance.  But it seems Bulstrode has also added to his fortune with questionable businesses, and Raffles has told Will as much.  I love how Will refuses the money, saying, “My unblemished honour is important to me.  It is important to me to have no stain on my birth and connections.  And now I find there is a stain which I can’t help.  My mother felt it, and tried to keep as clear of it as she could, and so will I.  You shall keep your ill-gotten money.”

Will finally leaves Middlemarch in the last chapter, after talking about leaving basically the entirety of Book 6.  In the meantime Dorothea has heard some juicy gossip that Will is flirting (or worse) with Rosamund, since he’s always hanging around and playing piano with her.  Dorothea refuses to believe it, but she’s stung all the same, crying on the way home from Freshitt.  When they meet soon thereafter they are terribly awkward with one another.  Will wants to reassure Dorothea that he’s not after her money, and Dorothea wants to make him believe that she has never thought ill of him.  It’s all very pained and vague, and Dorothea at one point questions whether Will really does have feelings for Rosamund.  But in the end, she believes that he only has feelings for her, and it makes her happy even though Will is leaving, seemingly never to return.

Everything is up in the air at the end of Book 6.  Eliot has two more sections, about 200 pages, with which to tie up all the loose ends.  I am still very much invested in the lives of these characters, and can’t wait to see what happens next.  I am sad for Rosamund and Lydgate – they went into the marriage with such high hopes but are realizing just how unsuited they are for one another.  Will they find happiness?  Will Bulstrode be exposed?  Will Fred succeed at business and finally propose to Mary?  What will Dorothea do now that Will has left town?  Stay tuned!




Thoughts on Middlemarch, Book Five: The Dead Hand

(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!)

Three more books to go, y’all!  Book Five, the ominously titled “The Dead Hand,” was chock full o’ goodness, intrigue, and shenanigans.  It seemed really “plotty” for me and moved the fastest of all the sections so far.  One thing that I really enjoyed about this section is how the story lines are all merging together, and we see characters mixing socially that didn’t mingle much previously.

For example, it seems that Ladislaw and Lydgate are becoming pals, so much so that Will hangs out with Rosamund even when Lydgate is at work.  I love the scene where Dorothea comes to speak to Lydgate and instead unexpectedly finds Will playing piano for Rosamund.  The awkwardness is so thick you can cut it, since Dorothea is increasingly aware of the antipathy between Will and her husband.  I love that Rosamund is there to witness the entire scene, and how undone both Will and Dorothea are.  Will as good as admits he’s in love with Dorothea, and Rosamund’s reaction is classic, self-absorbed Rosamund.  She’s all, “Wow!  Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I can’t flirt with and ensnare men with my feminine wiles!”

Later on Will is making a name of himself in Middlemarch as a vaguely odd, poetic, “foreign” sort of fellow, taking to putting on Punch and Judy shows for the poor kids in town and stretching out on people’s rugs when he comes to visit.  I LOVE this little detail, how strange and familiar it is of him to do this, but he obviously thinks nothing of it.  I love that he and Rosamund and Lydgate are this funny little platonic threesome, and that he “becomes necessary to Rosamund’s entertainment.”  After all, her husband is so dreadfully serious and driven with all that tiresome, unsavory medical stuff.9780143107729

Probably the biggest plot development of this section is the (long-awaited IMO) death of Edward Causabon.  The night before he dies he is not well, and wakes in the middle of the night to ask Dorothea to read to him.  Before they go back to sleep, he asks Dorothea to promise to fulfill his wishes after he dies, but he doesn’t tell her what she’s supposed to promise to do!  He’s incredulous that she won’t promise.  She puts him off and tells him she needs to think about it until tomorrow.  It’s all really awful and ridiculous.  She thought Causabon wanted her to continue with his work, when really he wants her to have nothing to do with Will Ladislaw when he dies.  After his death Dorothea is haunted by the fact that she didn’t promise to carry out his wishes, whatever they may have been.  In the next chapter, we learn from an indignant James Chettam that Causabon put a codicil in his will that says Dorothea can’t marry Will Ladislaw, or she will lose everything.

Favorite scene:  While Causabon’s death scene is very powerful, my favorite scene was between Mary Garth and Mr. Farebrother.  He graciously pleads Fred Vincy’s case and tries to get Mary to tell him plainly what she would do if Fred became a clergyman.  He very gently and obliquely asks her if she would entertain the affections of anyone else but Fred, and it dawns on her that he is referring to himself.  When she assures him that she will never love anyone else but Fred, and he turns to leave, Mary is filled with emotion.

“Her eyes filled with tears, for something indefinable, something like the resolute suppression of a pain in Mr. Farebrother’s manner, made her feel suddenly miserable, as she had once felts when she saw her father’s hands trembling in a moment of trouble… In three minutes the Vicar was on horseback again, having gone magnanimously through a duty much harder than the renunciation of whist, or even than the writing of penitential meditations.”

This was a very delicate scene, and I appreciated Eliot’s sensitive handling of this poignant moment.

Most adorable random character detail:  Miss Noble, Mr. Farebrother’s aunt, is described as “making little beaver-like noises” and goes so far as to put an extra cube of sugar in her tea now that he nephew is rolling in the dough!  Don’t get too crazy, Miss Noble!  What kind of a noise does a beaver make, anyway?

Well, now we’re on to Book Six, titled “The Widow and the Wife.”  I assume we’re talking about Dorothea and Rosamund here.  Will Lydgate’s money troubles increase?  Will Dorothea and Will be able to be in the same room together without either one bursting into flame?  And will the unsavory Raffles turn up again to make more trouble for Bulstrode?  I can hardly wait to find out.