#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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

 

Thoughts on Middlemarch, Book Four: Three Love Problems

(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!)

I love Middlemarch.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.  It’s not a perfect book, though.  There are parts where my eyes glaze over a bit, and I kind of skim over the page, especially when Eliot writes about local politics. Book Four contained quite a few of these passages.  I admit that they don’t hold much interest for me, although I can see why Eliot would want to write about them.  Middlemarch is set in the early 1830s, which is around the time of the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832, which expanded voting privileges and more fairly represented bigger industrial cities.  (Yeah, I looked this up!  You can read about it here if you like.)

Even so, Book Four is titled “Three Love Problems,” and our main focus in on relationships, which is what keeps me turning those pages.  So what are the problems exactly?  My thoughts are thus:

  1. Rosamund and Lydgate’s engagement and impending marriage – who does/does not support it, how are they going to afford to live the lavish lifestyle to which Rosamund is accustomed, how quickly can they get hitched.
  2. Will Ladislaw’s growing (and so far, unrequited) love for Dorothea – how to contain his feelings while also making sure that he watches over Dorothea.
  3. Causabon’s and Dorothea’s crumbling marriage.  Both are frustrated, neither can seem to communicate effectively with the other, and one is in very ill health.

(I might be wrong.  I could have included Fred Vincy and Mary Garth, but I felt that their potential love story was relegated a bit to the back burner in this section.)

Passage that made me laugh out loud:  In Chapter 36, socially conscious Rosamund wants Lydgate to write to his baronet uncle Godwin about their engagement.  Lydgate says, “I will write to him then.  But my cousins are bores.”

It seemed magnificent to Rosamund to be able to speak so slightingly of a baronet’s family, and she felt much contentment in the prospect of being able to estimate them contemptuously on her own account.

Passage that made me want to gag:  (Coincidentally, this came right after the previous passage.)

Lydgate, you perceive, had talked fervidly to Rosamund of his hopes as to the highest uses of his life, and had found it delightful to be listened to by a creature who would bring him the sweet furtherance of satisfying affection – beauty – repose – such help as our thoughts get from the summer sky and the flower-fringed meadows.

Lydgate relied much on the psychological difference between what for the sake of variety I will call goose and gander: especially on the innate submissiveness of the goose and beautifully corresponding to the strength of the gander.

Passage that made me utterly swoon:  (Will Ladislaw, thinking of Dorothea)

But he would never lose sight of her: he would watch over her – if he gave up everything else in life he would watch over her, and she would know that she had one slave in the world.

It doesn’t get any more romantic than that, folks.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m all in for Will Ladislaw.

Having said that, Eliot does something remarkable with the last chapter of Book Four.  She makes the reader feel genuine sympathy for Causabon.  Lydgate tells him that he is most likely dying, and as he reckons with this knowledge, Causabon shrugs off Dorothea’s heartfelt offering of love and affection.  He wants no part of her pity, and he wants to brood alone in his room.  Dorothea is surprised, hurt, and angry.  But she holds off on quarreling with him, and instead waits for him to come up to bed.  The last scene of Book Four almost had me in tears, as Causabon, touched by Dorothea’s devotion, softens towards her, and they walk arm in arm down the corridor.

I can’t wait to see what happens in Book Five, ominously titled “The Dead Hand.”  How will Lydgate and Rosamund settle into domestic life together?  Will Fred Vincy accept a job doing honest work for Caleb Garth?  Will Mr. Causabon die, and will Ladislaw and Dorothea become closer?  We’re half-way through Middlemarch, guys!

 

Do You Reread Regularly?

I listened to an episode of Books on the Nightstand the other day from back in September (episode 349, to be exact,) and hosts Ann and Michael were talking about rereading books.   They had both reread one of their favorite books for a then upcoming book talk at Booktopia ( the bookish weekend events they used to host.)  Ann had reread Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Michael had reread Any Human Heart by William Boyd.

It was a very interesting discussion.  Neither of them had been dedicated rereaders at all, mostly because they both work in publishing and have so much reading to do for work, and keep up with new things that their publishing company (Penguin Random House) doesn’t publish as well.  But Ann shared that the experience of rereading one of her all time favorite novels may have pushed her into being someone who makes time to reread.  She said that this time she was not so consumed by the plot, obviously because she knew the story line already.  This allowed her to pick up on things she thinks she missed the first time around, when she was frantically turning pages.  She mentioned that a couple of characters stood out to her more this time around, and she realized how central to the novel they really were.  She didn’t know how realistic is was of her to expect very much rereading in the future, given her line of work, but she said that now she has a new understanding of the benefits and pleasure of rereading books.

Michael enjoyed his reread, but did not come away from the experience with a new vision of himself as a reader.  He said that there were simply too many books coming out all the time that he wanted and needed to get to, and rereading just wasn’t something he saw himself doing.

Last week I posted about rereading Middlemarch, and how much I am enjoying the experience.  In reality I might reread one book a year, but I always want to reread things more than I actually do.  One blogging friend mentioned that she’d never reread a book before, but that it sounded like fun.  I suggested maybe trying a childhood favorite first, and see how that goes.

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Need to reread some Kingsolver.

So all of this got me wondering, how many of you guys make time to reread?  Is it one book a year?  Two?  Do you read a particular book in a particular season every year?  Or are you more like Michael, and simply have too many new books that you’d rather make time for?  I’d love to hear what you think.