7

#GreenGablesReadalong – Rainbow Valley

I was supposed to have read Rainbow Valley, the 7th book in the Anne of Green Gables series, in July to stay on the Reeder Reads’ hosted Green Gables Readalong schedule. I started it in July but then I got distracted by other shiny books and it was left unread and unloved for days before I finished it.

If you’re new around here and want to get caught up on the rest of the series’ posts, click here to get started!

These Tundra editions though!

These Tundra editions though!

Rainbow Valley follows on the heels of Anne of Ingleside and the Blythe children are still growing up. Except that this book is basically about the Meredith children, the motherless children belonging to the new Glen St. Mary pastor. Jerry, Carl, Faith and Una don’t mean to get into all sorts of trouble but they just can’t seem to help themselves. Their father is in his own world and their Aunt Martha, a seriously senior lady, can barely make palatable meals let alone bring up a brood of children. So the Meredith children keep an orphaned runaway in the house for two weeks before anyone notices, ride pigs in the streets of town, go bare legged to church and sing rowdy songs in the graveyard while the Methodists have their prayer meetings.

If you can get past the fact that this book isn’t about Anne and barely features her children, it can be an enjoyable read. In her post, Naomi @ Consumed by Ink was horrified that the language in the book hadn’t been altered (specifically use of some racial slurs). I have to say, seeing that word in print in an Anne book really did shock me. It hasn’t been updated in my new edition either, Naomi. The conversation about altering text to better reflect modern times is a whole other conversation really…

The one thing that really sticks out for me reading this book again, are the references to war and the Pied Piper. How Walter tells the story of the Pied Piper and how the other children are really creeped out by it, as though he’s telling a prophecy. And later when Jem whoops at the Pied Piper, telling him to come for him, that he’ll follow him anywhere. This is a re-read for me, I know what’s coming. I’d never noticed before how many war references there are in the later books, how sure some of the characters are that war won’t happen again.

Well Jem was to be a soldier and see a greater battle than had ever been fought in the world; but that was as yet far in the future; and the mother, whose first-born son he was, was wont to look at her boys and thank God that the “brace days of old” which Jem longed for, were gone forever, and that never would it be necessary for the sons of Canada to ride forth to battle “for ashes of their fathers and the temples of their gods.”

I mean, that just kills me.

For all that this book is about the Meredith children, it’s really about Faith Meredith and I quite liked her. She’s a lot like Anne was when she was younger. She gets into things before she thinks about them, she says what she means and means what she says and people just can’t help but like her. Because this one is more or less about the manse children, there is a lot of religion and God in this one but, like the offensive language, I guess that was just what people were like at the time. Life definitely seemed simpler even if there were all these rules about behaviour that will strike a modern reader as completely ridiculous.

It’s not my favourite book of the series but it’s a necessary jump to get to the finale. We’ve well and truly left our Anne behind and are left with the trials and tribulations of her youngsters. I’m looking forward to Rilla of Ingleside though, even though I know I will need all the tissues.

10

#GreenGablesReadalong – Anne of Ingleside

I’m still working my way through the Anne books for the Reeder Reads Readlong: one Anne book a month from January to August. So the post is a little late but I swear I did read Anne of Ingleside in June!

You can catch up with this series by starting here if you’re so inclined.

ingleside

Anne Blythe is now the mother of 5, soon to be 6, children! Her wonderful house, Ingleside, has been invaded by the likes of Aunt Mary Maria Blythe, who was only supposed to stay for two weeks. Aunt Mary Maria makes it difficult for everyone in the family to be in the house, always commenting on the kids’ manners, the things they say, eat or do. Gilbert is away working a lot and Anne doesn’t want to force her to leave. Meanwhile we get to know the Blythe children: Jem, the oldest, desperate for his own little dog to love; Nan and Di, the twins, one favouring her mother in colouring and her father in temperament, the other with brown hair and eyes and her head permanently in the clouds; sweet, lovely, sensitive Walter, convinced his family sent him away; Shirley, who doesn’t actually have much of a role in this book at all; and darling lisping baby Rilla, convinced that carrying a cake through town is the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to a girl.

When I read this book as a kid I was delighted with it. I loved how Anne was exactly the kind of mother she always said she’d be, taking all the cares and troubles of her little babies seriously. I loved that there was a series that so completely showed the life of it’s character – that we got to know both Anne as a mother and her little children. I loved how each child was so different but that they all seemed to go together. And to a certain degree, I still love those things about it.

But this time I found Gilbert such a disappointment. I know, I know. At the time, he was just like any other man working hard to provide for his family. And he does work so hard. But when he is around, which is rare, he doesn’t seem like the Gilbert we used to know and love. He seems hard somehow. Like he doesn’t understand his little children, even though so many of them are just like Anne when he loved her as a child. Even his interactions with Anne seem clipped and curt. Only at the very end does Gilbert find any kind of redemption and I’m still wondering if it was enough, or too little too late?

That said, I have a whole new level of love for Susan Baker. Especially when she and Rebecca Dew discover that they are kindred spirits. The letters they write to each other! I just loved those.

If I remember correctly, this was kind of the last book to feature Anne so prominently. The last two books are more or less given over entirely to the Blythe children. I’m sad to leave Anne, even though I know she will still exist in the last two books. It won’t be the same though.

Rainbow Valley here I come!

22

Book Hoarding: Tales from the Front Line

For months I tried really hard to curb my book buying. And for the most part, I was successful. I borrowed from friends, and went to the library more often but I didn’t buy too many new books.

And then we came back from our trip and I lost my damn mind.

In the span of two short days, I managed to get three book trips in. One was a library sale (a stack of books for $3.50!) but the others were not. Want to know what all I got? Don’t tell my husband.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. Money well spent. I loved it.

The House of Dolls by David Hewson. I posted about how much I wanted to get this book. And then I basically went out and got it. It was pretty alright. I really liked the fact that it takes place in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a good setting for crime fiction! The whole thing was suffused with a real sense of “Dutch-ness” that I appreciated.

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy. I love Maeve Binchy and I like to always have some on hand for a) a rainy day or b) when I need to reset my book mojo. So when I saw it at the library sale I got it only to realize when I got home that I had already bought a copy of it. So…anyone want a copy of Scarlet Feather?

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James. I loved her other books, especially The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. It was $5 at the bookstore, my friend and I both bought a copy.

The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi by Jacqueline Park. I don’t think I ever posted about the first book, The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi, but I really loved it. It had been a while since I’d read really great historical fiction and that first book kind of restored my faith in the genre. The second book is mercifully shorter but after the surprising ending of the first book, I’m all kinds of curious about the second book. Did I mention the author is an octogenarian?

Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope. I’m not sure why but I’ve been in the mood to read Trollope recently. I keep hearing about him and I’ve only ever read The Way We Live Now but it was great. This story about a woman who wants to become a countess and marries a wealthy Lord and six months later he claims that the marriage never occurred, he has a living wife, she was only ever his mistress and the child she carries illegitimate – it sounds Victorian awesome.

Elizabeth & Leicester by Sarah Gristwood because I take every opportunity to expand my Royals library and I haven’t read about the Tudors recently.

The Astronaut’s Wives Club by Lily Koppel. I’d been interested when this first came out but when I heard it was going to be a TV show, it shot back up in the priority line.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I can’t get enough of Liane Moriarty. It started when Big Little Lies was a book club book and then I finally read The Husband’s Secret – my friend had been after me to read it for months. What Alice Forgot will be my next fix. Hopefully Moriarty is working on something else…

Anne of Ingleside by LM Montgomery. I’m still working my way through the series and this is the next book and I didn’t have it.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. The Woman in White is part of my TBR Pile Challenge so obviously I needed The Moonstone for when I love The Woman in White.

Servant’s Hall by Margaret Powell. This is the follow-up to Below Stairs about what life was like for servants in the great Victorian houses.

The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. I can’t seem to quit her, even after she keeps disappointing me. Maybe this one is a return to her greatness?

Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris. Even though I’ve read biographies on Audrey Hepburn before I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much Hepburn.

You know how sometimes you know something is bad but you don’t know something’s bad until it’s staring you in the face? I’m in so much trouble…

3

#GreenGablesReadalong: Anne’s House of Dreams

The whole time I’ve been participating in the Green Gables Readalong, hosted by Lindsey @ Reeder Reads, I’ve been waiting to read Anne’s House of Dreams. I suspected that this time around it would mean so much more to me to read about Anne as a newlywed, the joys and sorrows she meets in her little white house. (New around here? You can catch up here, here, here and here.)

Now before we get to how much I loved reading this book again, let me caveat the whole thing now. I first read these books when I was at that age when anything great you read stays with you forever. So no matter what, these books will always be perfect to me. I’m not capable of seeing them critically. Those of you reading them for the first time may find these books quaint, unrealistic, earnest or lacking qualities you expect of classic novels. I see none of those things. I see perfection every time.

With that out of the way, let’s carry on.

Before I read this post by Sarah Elmsley, I had no idea that Anne of Windy Poplars was a stopgap, written by Montgomery to kind of fill up space between Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams. As soon as I started Anne’s House of Dreams, I felt the difference. It seemed as though we were picking up the story after Anne of the Island finishes, like her time in Summerside never happened.

house of dreams

Anne and Gilbert finally get married! And those of you that have been hankering for a better idea of how their relationship works must finally be satisfied. Anne and Gilbert leave their Green Gables wedding (the first in the house) for the train in Carmody and cross the threshold of their little house of dreams that night. Immediately we are treated to some of the characters we’re going to come to love: Miss Cornelia Bryant and Captain Jim. Between them we start to understand some of the history of the place: the story of the schoolmaster’s bride, Lost Margaret, Marshall Elliot’s beard, and poor Leslie Moore.

Aside from Diana, I think I love Leslie Moore the most out of all of Anne’s friends. She feels real. She struggles not to hate Anne who is so blissfully happy when her own life is such a shambles. She’s perfectly honest with Anne about the fact that sometimes she finds it very hard not to hate her. I’m sure that some people reading it for the first time would have found Leslie’s story’s ending completely unrealistic but that’s part of the charm of LM Montgomery’s world: things always work out, more or less.

One of the things that I always really remember from Anne’s House of Dreams is little Joyce and how devastating her loss is. That part was even more devastating this time, mostly because our Anne-girl goes completely to pieces and it changes her in a fundamental way. There is a fear that was never there before.

There were lots of moments in this one that had me tearing up, happy tears and sad tears: little Joyce in her white dress in the churchyard, the advent of James Matthew, Leslie Moore in love, Captain Jim’s life-book, Anne and Gilbert’s wedding (obviously), and when Captain Jim crosses the bar. They made so much out of the Tennyson poem, I had to go and look it up when I finished. It really was the most perfect poem for Captain Jim.

Our Anne-girl is really and truly grown up in this fifth book. It kind of felt like growing up alongside her all over again.

13

#GreenGablesReadalong – Anne of Avonlea

After finishing Anne of Green Gables, I almost couldn’t wait for it to be February so I could start on Anne of Avonlea for Reeder Reads’ Green Gables Readalong. I definitely had to remind myself that if I jumped the gun and read all the books, there’d be no more books to read. A lesson in delayed gratification for this Millennial.

But then it was February and the glorious re-read of Anne of Avonlea could commence!

anne of avonlea

Anne of Avonlea sees Anne back at home with Marilla, teaching at her old school where most of the children are very well known to her. We go with her as she struggles to put into action her very lofty teaching ideals – she dreams of having a profound effect on future leaders and artists. Anthony Pye tests her notion of holding off on corporal punishment while in newcomer Paul Irving, a daydreaming boy of nine or ten, she finds a kindred spirit. Marilla agrees to take on the raising of Davy and Dora Keith, the orphaned six year old twins of a distant relation. Davy spends the book sorely testing Avonlea’s patience with constant questions and refrains of “I want to know” (as well as a predilection for getting into a ridiculous amount of mischief).

This second book has Anne much more involved in the little world around Green Gables. She’s finding out what’s important to her, who her friends are and that the only inevitable thing is change. She is intent on helping to improve Avonlea and, along with all the other young people, embarks on a number of projects to boost civic pride.

There are so many characters to love in this installment. Davy Keith has always been one of my favourites – so honest about his desire to get into trouble, yet so repentant when he’s called out on it. I love his assertions that he honestly didn’t know it was wrong to tell “whoppers” after he locked Dora in the shed. Paul Irving too is such a dear little soul – Anne’s interactions with him show what kind of mother she is likely to be, taking everything he says seriously even when others think he’s a little strange. She never loses that ability to understand that little people like to be taken seriously. Lavender Lewis at Echo Lodge is just the most delicious eccentricity and I loved rediscovering the delights of Charlotta the Fourth.

There’s not a lot of Gilbert Blythe in this one, just the most tantalizing hints of what’s to come right at the very end. It goes without saying that I can’t wait til March to read the next one. I love that LM Montgomery didn’t wuss out and marry Anne off in this book (I’m sure none of her contemporaries would have blamed her – Diana does get engaged in this book). Even though her dreams have been put on pause, Anne is never anything but positive, ensuring that she still gives her all to her little pupils while keeping up her own studies in the hopes that when it becomes possible to go to college, she will be ready. She helps Marilla with Green Gables and the twins, does her best to inspire all of her students and is still the Anne we loved in the first book. She still gets her hopes up impossibly high and feels keenly any disappointments, she still tries to always do the right thing even when it’s hard and she still delights in Octobers and spring times and golden days.

In today’s fast paced world, filled with distractions, irritants and Kardashians, we need Anne Shirley.

She has the power to make me smile for a nearly hour long commute alongside smelly, sticky, sweaty people toting soaked umbrellas, bulky bags, pushing me in their hurry to get to the office (or home) as quickly as possible. The high I get from reading these books often lasts for hours – a happy, contented glow from having spent time with one of my favourite heroines. So once again, thank you Lindsey for hosting the Green Gables Readalong! Roll on March!

27

Re-Reading Anne of Green Gables

Last year I found the time to re-read the Harry Potter series and it was magical.

Ha.

But seriously, it was wonderful to go back and visit with Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys, to rediscover the magic of the Wizarding World, and find that the whole thing was every bit as fantastic as it was the first time.

The other series I’ve been meaning to re-read is Anne of Green Gables so when Lindsey at Reeder Reads was like ‘I’m going to host an Anne of Green Gables Readalong” I was like I’m IN!  

It was just the nudge that I needed to allow myself to get back to Avonlea.

I’m right on schedule for this readalong – a book a month til August (there are 8 books).

The last time I read Anne of Green Gables was probably when I was a teenager. There was some concern that maybe I would be too old to enjoy these the same way I did then. Anne Shirley is 11 when the first book starts after all, what could I possibly have in common with her now?

Anne

I definitely look at Anne differently now than I did when I was closer to her age. Now she make me smile with her irrepressible optimism, her incredible imagination and her inability to filter anything she says but it’s the way an indulgent adult would smile. I recognize bits of the child that I was in her but I’m not that person anymore. When she thinks her world is over because her hair is green or when she flies into a rage because Mrs Lynde calls her ugly – I sympathise with her but I also understand that it’s not the end of the world as she isn’t able to do just yet. I used to think that Marilla was kind of harsh but now I see her in a whole different light. She adores Anne in a way that probably terrifies her at first. She can’t help but laugh at Anne but knowing how important it is to Anne to be taken seriously and how important it is to her that she teach Anne certain things, she doesn’t laugh at her to her face.

I’m not sure that I ever noticed before how much Anne grows up in the first book. She goes from being a wild dreamer who bursts forth with a stream of consciousness and is always getting herself into scrapes, to being a thoughtful young woman who hardly hesitates before giving up her dream to help out at Green Gables.

And even though Anne is swept up in all kinds of romantic notions of courtship in her imagination, in her real life she could not be more practical and as such she’s a refreshingly real heroine. I never noticed before that she isn’t interested in boys at all. She works hard in school so that she can be first in the class, ahead of all the boys. She holds a grudge against Gilbert Blythe for years because he calls her Carrots but when it starts to thaw it’s not because she’s falling in love with him. Rather she recognizes that they could probably encourage each other as friends and help each other to carry on with their studies. She thinks of him as an equal in a way that’s not actually that common in literature.

If none of this makes any sense and you don’t even know what Anne of Green Gables is, then I think you need to sign up for the Readalong too. It’s not too late.

I will just be over at the bookstore, buying the entire series. Again.

PS you can follow the fun on twitter! #GreenGablesReadalong

9

An Anti-Valentine’s Day Read: The House of Mirth

There are a lot of good bookish romance links out there today. You can find a list of the most romantic novels of all time on Goodreads, find out what your literary crush says about you (for the record, my crush is obviously Mr. Darcy but in terms of this article, I’m a Gilbert Blythe kind of girl. Which reminds me, I need to re-read Anne of Green Gables), or what your love story is.

My post today will not be among the most romantic links on the interwebs. I’m here to talk about The House of Mirth, which might be more of an anti-Valentine’s Day read (not that I’m anti-Valentine’s Day).

I read The House of Mirth this week and was honestly caught off guard by the ending. I should have caught on – Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart was compared to Anna Karenina after all but I didn’t.

I loved this book and I suspect that there is an entire generation of young women that would love it as well.

the house of mirth

Lily Bart has been raised to be a perfect New York wife. She is used to a life of luxury and being surrounded by all the best people. Her parents are both dead and she doesn’t have anyone to look out for her best interests and find her the best possible match. She has an old widowed aunt who doesn’t care to socialize in the same way that Lily must so she is very much left to her own devices. At 29, Lily knows that she must marry soon; her income is dwindling and she can’t count on her friends to sustain her lifestyle for much longer. At 18 or 19 she was entertaining and fresh, but a decade on she knows that her charms must be waning.

Even though she knows that she has to get married, she continues to spurn suitable matches and gets caught up in an unsuitable relationship that sees her given money she thought had been invested wisely on her behalf. In all of this is Mr. Lawrence Selden, a lawyer of no great fortune who has always been a great friend and at various moments each of them has wanted it to be more, but never at the same time.

When Lily finds herself cut loose from the people she has always considered her good friends, she winds up at a loose end, unable to sustain herself on her own income and has to find ways of earning her own way. Which in the 1890s, for a woman of her social standing, was nearly impossible. Definitely not respectable.

It’s devastating. Even in these conditions, when she knows that the only way back to the societal place that she used to occupy is to marry the right man, still she balks at giving up her independence this way.

She is a very modern heroine in a time when women could barely speak to a man in public if they were unaccompanied. Reading this book made me so thankful for the rights and freedoms that I enjoy as a human being, not based on my gender. I related to her desire for independence and sympathised with her inability to be taken seriously as a person on her own merit. Unless she becomes a Mrs and soon, she just ceases to count in her circle of ‘friends’.

In the end, when she does the right thing despite all the temptation not to, and things finally seem to be working out for her and everything truly falls apart…it’s a spectacularly tragic ending. It was too bad that I wasn’t at home where I would have been mostly free to totally fall apart. At work, you tend to look a little crazy if you lose it in the lunch room crying over a book.

The House of Mirth has found itself on to my list of favourite books. I will be reading this again and in the meantime I will be recommending it to everyone I know. I’m also on the lookout for Wharton’s The Custom of the Country which will complete my reading of her “Novels of New York.”

Do you have a favourite tragic romantic novel?