13

Books I’m Bringing: Easter edition

I never used to get that excited about Easter. Yeah, there was chocolate involved but it also meant dressing up, lots of church and a dinner that involved a ham which has never been my favourite. But for the last several years, it’s meant an extra long weekend to visit my in-laws at the lake which has pushed Easter onto my list of favourite holidays.

As those of you that have been followers for a while know, this means it’s time to talk about the books that I’m bringing! Sometimes the weather is sunshiney and awesome, other times it’s cold and wet but really it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing because I can read inside or outside.

When I first started thinking about what to bring, I thought this might be a good time for some of the non-fiction I’ve been meaning to get to: Missoula, Bitch, The War That Ended Peace. But with the kind of week it’s been, I’m not sure my heart can take anymore rage.

So fiction it is.

I’m bringing:

The Hypnotist by Lars Keplar. This seriously twisted husband/wife duo wrote The Sandman , a book that I couldn’t read alone at my bus stop. The Sandman was actually the third in the series, The Hypnotist is the first. I think I will have to read this one early in the weekend because I suspect my father-in-law might be eyeing it down and it will stay behind for him.

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams. A long weekend always seems like a good time to read about beach vacations. Memorial Day weekend in 1938 and a socialite beachfront community? Sign me up. I had been looking for this book for a long time and it always seemed to be sold out. Found it on my birthday for $5 – a sign.

Dead Man’s Folly by Agatha Christie. Surely you all know my rule by now: a long weekend must include Agatha Christie. I recently watched the new production of And Then There Were None (recommend) and it whetted my appetite for another good Agatha Christie caper.

Servant’s Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance by Margaret Powell. OK so I guess I’m breaking my no non-fiction resolution a little bit. But since this is a Downton-inspired read, a follow up to Below Stairs, I don’t think there’s too much risk of giving myself a rage stroke from this one.

The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins. I feel like maybe my  life needs some magic right now so what’s better than a book of magic and mysticism, filled with Celts, fairies, mad kings, Druids and a goddess? Probably nothing. I hope that there is some sunshine to be had for this one – I suspect reading would be greatly enhanced sitting in a bright spot in the garden.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Clairborne Johnson. When I bought this, the woman at the register got really excited. She said it was charming and full of heart and said she thought I would love it. Alright then!

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill. I’ve spent the week listening to the panellists on Canada Reads talking about how great this book is, how beautifully written, what wonderful, inspiring characters it has and how readable it actually is. So now I want to find out how right they are.

Where should I start? What are you reading this long weekend?

Happy Easter!

11

Canada Reads – Bone and Bread

For the first time ever, I have read at least one of the Canada Reads finalists BEFORE the competition even starts. Actually, I’ve read two.

I basically exclusively read CanLit at this point.

Today the competition starts. At some point, I will get caught up on what happened but in the meantime, let me add my voice to the flood of Canada Reads posts you’ve been seeing.

I talked about The Hero’s Walk recently – click here to get caught up.

The second book I read was Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz. I liked it a lot more than The Hero’s Walk, but again, I don’t think that’s the fault of The Hero’s Walk  – there’s just something wrong with me.

bone and bread

Bone and Bread tells the story of sisters Beena and Sadhana. Sadhana has died recently, suddenly, and Beena and her teenage son, Quinn, are left to sort through the aftermath of her death. Beena tells us their story, of their unusual upbringing as the daughter of an Indian father and a white Irish mother, and then when each of their parents’ dies, at different times, of their life with their father’s brother, a man who is not equipped to handle two teenage girls in any way.

When Beena is 16 she gets pregnant. This is at the same time as Sadhana starts her years’ long battle with anorexia, a disease that sees her hospitalized more than once. As Beena learns to be a mother to Quinn, without her own mother to lean on, she and Sadhana enter into an uncomfortable relationship that satisfies no one.

This is a complex story of two young women trying to figure out their lives in the wake of a host of complications: the death of each of their parents, an unplanned pregnancy, a disapproving uncle, an all-encompassing illness. At times it felt like Beena and I were having coffee, like she was my friend telling me what was going on in her life. That’s how invested I was in this one.

Beena and Quinn are trying to come to terms with Sadhana’s passing, with the hole she left in both of their lives in different ways. Montreal is almost another character in this one as the setting of most of the story. The girls are born and grow up in Montreal, Sadhana stays when Beena moves to Ottawa with Quinn but now that it’s time for university, Quinn is heading back.

In terms of the Canada Reads theme of ‘Starting Over’ this one is easy. Beena and Sadhana are constantly starting over, forced to make new lives out of the ruins of the old ones. I felt like I’d been put through the wringer after reading this one. Emotionally, I was spent. I’m looking forward to cheering this one on through the debates.

Which book are you rooting for?

cheering

20

Canada Reads: The Hero’s Walk

The Canada Reads tournament is upon is! In less than 2 weeks, eminent Canadians (including badass Olympian Clara Hughes, who has won multiple medals in both the winter and summer Olympics, and Farah Mohamed, the founder and CEO of G(irls) 20, a social profit enterprise that promotes the economic and educational empowerment of girls and women) will meet to battle for their chosen books.

Five books with the theme of “starting over” have been chosen: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill, Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz, Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter, Birdie by Tracey Lindberg and The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami.

I started with The Hero’s Walk.

heroswalk

Sripathi Rao’s daughter Maya and her husband Alan Baker have been killed in a car accident, leaving behind their 7 year old daughter, Nandana. Sripathi and his daughter have been estranged for nearly a decade and he’s never met his granddaughter but he goes to bring her home to India, where she must learn to live a new life, away from everything she’s ever known. So too must Sripathi come to terms with this permanent estrangement from his daughter, in a world that is becoming less and less familiar. His house is falling down around him and the social constructs that have always governed his life are being broken down around him, given a helping hand by his social activist son, Arun.

I love an inter-generational tale and The Hero’s Walk had plenty of drama to keep me engaged. Sripathi’s mother clings to the old ways of life, when as the wife of a Brahmin lawyer, she was above the rest of society – she tortures her daughter-in-law and refuses to let her 42 year old daughter get married. Nirmala, Sripathi’s wife, devastated by the loss of her daughter before she was able to reconcile her with her father, breaks out of her role as helpful, mild helpmate. She is angry with Sripathi for allowing so much time to go by, to let their daughter die without letting her ever come home and for keeping her away from her granddaughter.

And yet, for all the drama and the struggle to get out from under the oppressive weight of grief and the past, this book was lacking something for me. Maybe this week was the wrong time to read this – I suspect that it might be the kind of book that benefits from spending longer stretches of uninterrupted time with it.

When I was reading it, I was thinking about the tournament and how it holds up the theme of starting over. Obviously Nandana has to start a new life in India with her mother’s family, who are basically strangers. But Nandana’s story is almost a footnote, mute as she decides to be – she is a character that is on the periphery, observing. Sripathi starts over in any number of ways – a life without his daughter or the chance to ever make it right, as a man on the edge of retirement, a man letting go of the old ways of life in this town he’s only ever left once, as a man who is looking at his family in a new way – but I wonder how it will hold up against heavyweights like The Illegal or Minister Without Portfolio. But who knows, maybe this quieter tale of redemption at any age will strike a chord with readers.

I can’t wait to tune into the debate, in any case!

I did receive a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada. This does not affect my review.

17

Review: The High Mountains of Portugal

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

I am the only person in the world who hasn’t read Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi. Or seen the movie.

And if I’m being honest, I don’t even really want to. I’ve heard that the whole thing is one big allegory and I’ve never been one for that kind of reading. My reading is mostly firmly rooted in reality: crime fiction, history, historical fiction, biographies, social sciences – that’s my wheelhouse.

Yet when I read the description of The High Mountains of Portugal, something about it struck me and I wanted to read it. It was this piece, in particular: “…a Portuguese pathologist, devoted to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie finds himself at the centre of a murder mystery…”

I mean, Agatha Christie? Sold.

mountains

This book is quest driven. In the first section, entitled Homeless, Tomás, mired in grief over the deaths of his partner, their son and his father, discovers the journals of a priest in the 1600s and sets out to find a relic described therein. He believes that finding this relic will change everything. Tomás is angry at God and wants to embarrass him, to take away God’s son as God took his. His quest takes him to the High Mountains of Portugal, to a small village, an ancient church.

Years later the pathologist tries to  help a woman from this same village in the High Mountains of Portugal find out what happened to her husband. Her grief also sends her on a quest but not for any one thing, just for answers. I enjoyed the beginning of both of these sections, especially the discussion around Agatha Christie: And so the explanation for why Agatha Christie is the most popular author in the history of the world. Her appeal is as wide and her dissemination as great as the Bible’s because she’s a modern apostle, a female one – about time after two thousand years’ of men blathering on.

The final section follows Peter, in the wake of the death of his wife, leaving Canada and his job as a Senator for his family’s native Portugal with a strange companion: a chimpanzee named Odo who he has in effect rescued from a chimpanzee ‘sanctuary’. This was my favourite section, the one that I was most able to enjoy. It too dealt with the themes of grief and faith but in a much less heavy handed way. There was no preaching about God and Jesus in this one. Just a man trying to figure out how to live life without his life partner and finding salvation in a change of place and a new companion.

This book is strange. I almost gave up on it several times. I think I’m glad I stuck it out but only because I so enjoyed the story of Peter and Odo. There is no doubt that Martel is at the top of his game – he is a writer of unquestionable talent and clearly a very brilliant thinker. But it’s almost too intellectual for me. I’m not a reader that enjoys ruminating on the mysteries of faith and religion. Just tell me what happened. The second section was so graphic, with the play by play of an autopsy, that I almost stopped right there. And then it took such a strange turn when the body is opened up – almost like a fairy tale. The first section dealt so much with the actual mechanics of the first automobiles that I could feel my eyes glazing over.

I’m not the right audience for The High Mountains of Portugal but I know a few people that would love this book. I’m going to loan them this book asap.If you like extended metaphors and allegorical story telling, if you love a book with a healthy helping of the strange and can totally suspend your disbelief, I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this one.

11

Review: The Crooked Heart of Mercy

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

CanLit is a genre category that I know I need to read more of as a self-respecting Canadian and yet it’s something that I still struggle to actually do.

Enter: The Crooked Heart of Mercy by Billie Livingston.

Here’s a section of the description of the book from Goodreads:

The Crooked Heart of Mercy […] features an indelible trio of characters who could only come from the imagination of Billie Livingston. There’s Ben, whose world we enter on the first page: he’s a limo driver who, after he loses his son, finds himself locked up in a psych ward with a hole in his head he can’t explain. His wife, Maggie, the other narrator of the story, is locked up in her own grief, unable to reach out to her husband. Then there is Maggie’s brother, Francis, an unlikely priest with a drinking problem and only occasional interest in celibacy, whose latest fall from the wagon was caught on video and has gone viral as Drunk Priest Propositions Cop.
How they come together to heal each other’s many wounds is the magic of this novel, as is its intensity, its wit, its deep sense of the absurd, and the surprising grace at its core.

crooked heart

Normally I try and come up with my own description, but this one really does sum it up.

And yet, it doesn’t.

This is a tiny book – my copy was 256 pages. It’s difficult to complete a story and cram so much heart and feeling and devastation and love into such a small space and yet that’s exactly what Livingston does.

Maggie and Ben are dealing with the tragic loss of their son in very different ways. Maggie can’t bear to talk about it, she wants to move on with her life but she’s paralyzed by her grief. She leaves Ben, intent on removing every trace of her old life. Meanwhile Ben thinks often about the life that they had together, reliving the moments when the old Maggie and Ben were a family, with their son Frankie. He thinks of Maggie and the loss they’ve both suffered while he tries to keep going on with work and the care of an elderly father who was abusive in his youth.

Maggie’s life is further complicated by the arrival of her brother, Francis, a priest in the middle of his own crisis.

Livingston’s writing is poetic, fierce in its love. The Crooked Heart of Mercy feels like a meditation on life and loss, love and anger, grief and joy, of finding a way to put the pieces back together after everything has shattered.

Also, surprisingly for Canadian Literature, this one does have a sort of happy ending. It’s hopeful anyway.

I read this little book on a Sunday, surprised at how quickly I became invested in it. It read to me like a movie – the same way that Linden McIntyre’s Punishment did. If you loved the movie Away From Her (or the short story on which it was based), I’m confident that you will love The Crooked Heart of Mercy.

10

Farewell to the Green Gables Readalong!

And so we come to the end of the Green Gables Readalong as hosted by Reeder Reads: Rilla of Ingleside.

I know for sure that I had only read this book once before and I have a  vivid memory of waking up on a weekend morning and finishing it in bed before I went upstairs for breakfast. I remember being glad that I did because I was sobbing in my bed and I never did like crying in front of other people.

If you want to catch up on this monthly re-read of LM Montgomery’s famous series you can start here.

In this final Anne book we follow Rilla as she struggles to throw off the mantle of petted, spoiled baby of the family and show them all that she is a young woman. In the beginning, Rilla is the kind of girl intent on fun – she longs to be ‘out’ and go to parties like her older sisters, to have beaux and nice dresses. She has no ambition whatsoever and looks at the years between 15 and 19 as the years that should be the nicest in a girl’s life.

On the night of the Four Winds dance, the night she spends a glorious hour on the beach alone with Kenneth Ford and has on delightful little silver slippers, the news of the beginning of the war comes down and the world that Rilla knows ceases to exist. Shortly thereafter Rilla’s oldest brother Jem and the neighbour Jerry Meredith enlist. Over the next four years, during the time that was supposed to be the sweetest of her life, Rilla must do her part for the war effort and learn to live with the uncertainty that war brings. Eventually Kenneth enlists as do Shirley and Carl Meredith and Rilla’s favourite brother, Walter.

Oh Walter! Poetic, lovely, sensitive, grey-eyed Walter. The one of the siblings most like his mother. I cried my eyes out this time around, knowing what was coming. I think being an adult now, his sacrifice, the way he writes to Rilla almost knowing what’s to come, the words he leaves her with to make sure that the world he fought for is a better place, they mean so much more to me.

I loved that this book was much more about one character, a return to the format of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams. We still know a great deal of what is happening in the community, but it’s told through the lens of Rilla as she’s learning who she is.

I’ve read a few books recently about this time and I’ve been frustrated by them. Their lack of something. This book has what I’ve been missing. Maybe it’s because Montgomery lived through the war and was so passionate about it leaving the world a better place. You can almost hear her frustration at it happening in the first place. For the first time, the wider world intrudes on PEI.

There’s a lot to love about this book: Rilla bringing up a war-baby that she finds near starving to death; Dog Monday waiting at the train station for years until his master’s return; the neat solution to the war-baby’s future in the trust left to him by a perfect stranger; Susan Baker. I’ve always been a fan of Susan Baker’s – I know she’s not everyone’s cup of tea – and in this book she proves her mettle over and over again, packing up cakes and cookies to send to the boys, learning all about the politics and battles so that she knows exactly what’s happening in the war, bravely sending off her little brown boy Shirley to fight, and even swearing! Oh I love when Susan swears!

I think I could have done with another book, find out how Rilla fares. But I also know that I could never bear reading a book where Anne possibly dies. Or even Gilbert. Or Susan come to that. It’s mentioned briefly in the beginning of this book that Marilla has died and I’ve always been glad that I didn’t have to experience that like when Matthew died.

Now I’m done with the series and I feel like a better person for the visit. It’s been a good reminder of simpler times, that hard work will always be its own reward and that trying to be good is always half the battle.

Thank you again Lindsey for hosting this readalong. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

rilla

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.

21

Books and Places: The Tag

Chelsea @ Chels and a Book tagged me to participate in the Books and Places tag. The idea is that you pick ten books and then tell the story behind where you read the book. This tag couldn’t have come at a better time actually, since I knew I needed to post something but had no idea what to post since I’m still reading Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. So thanks Chelsea!

When I was reading Chelsea’s post I was struck by just how well she knew the stories behind when and where she read her books. I wasn’t sure that I could do the same thing for the books sitting on my shelves. But then I went over to pick the books for this post and was surprised by how many books do have a story attached to them for me. Here are the stories of my books.

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. If you’ve been around here for any length of time you know this is my absolute favourite. I’ve read it I don’t know how many times at this point. But I do remember one time, when I was in the Netherlands for the summer visiting my father. He lives on a farm in a village and he and my stepmother worked all summer. I didn’t really have anything to do and I’d only brought 3 or 4 books. I’d already read whatever chicken soup for the teenaged soul I was reading at the time and I think I also brought Candace Bushnell’s 4 Blondes and something else. Pride and Prejudice was the only book I could read over. I read that book many times that summer. I would sit outside in the (weak Dutch) sun on the picnic table, finish the book, sit and think about it for a minute and turn it over and start again. All summer. When a book is a companion like that, you never get over it.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster. A friend messaged me on Facebook to say she had just read this book and she thought I would love it. That the author’s voice kind of reminded her of me. I was intrigued and basically ran right out and got it. I ended up running a bath and reading it in the tub. I was giggling in the tub within minutes and didn’t stop the whole time I was reading this book. It was the first time I’d ever read any non-fiction that was funny and I didn’t know that that was allowed to be a thing! Lancaster’s footnotes in this book are legendary, running the gamut from “fucking loser” and “Yes. She finally ended it last month. Whore.” to See? I’m not a total shrew.” This whole book is a profanity-laced delight and I loved it. Lancaster and I are very different people but I appreciate her so so much.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (and Curt Gentry). I credit this book with introducing me to my husband. I was reading this book when I met him and talked to him about the failed police investigation. He’s a police officer and he said later that it was refreshing to talk to a girl who didn’t ask him if he’d ever shot his gun. I went home and spent the whole next day in bed reading this book waiting for a text from a certain red-head. We almost had a table called Helter Skelter at our wedding but didn’t know who to seat at it…

Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger. This is my favourite book of hers, even over The Devil Wears Prada. Possibly because of the reading experience that went along with it. I had just started working at a bank, my first grown up job. And on my lunch breaks, I would walk over to the bakery down the street which was owned by my friend’s parents. I would get lunch and a brownie – they made the most amazing brownies that had walnuts in them (before these brownies, I never ate brownies that had nuts in them) and were iced with the greatest frosting. I would sit in the back of the cafe with my brownie and read about Bette making her way in PR in Manhattan. To date one of my favourite ways to read.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. About two months after I met my now-husband, I was leaving to study abroad in Amsterdam. He came to the airport to see me off and brought me books because he already knew how much I loved to read. The Poisonwood Bible was one of the books (Marley & Me was another – he was intent on making me cry). No one had warned me about this book! I brought it to Spain with me and read poolside in the blazing hot sun. And then cried my damn eyes out because the book was so sad and I missed this lovely, thoughtful guy so much already.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling. When the Harry Potter books first came out, I thought Harry Potter was the author. I vividly remember Christmas shopping when the first three were out and they were in all the bookstore windows everywhere. The summer that the 4th book came out, I had just got a job working in a fairy store. Yeah – they sold fairy merchandise but it was mostly a base at which to hold fairy birthday parties for kids. The owner wanted me to get familiar with everything they sold and told me to read the Harry Potter books if I hadn’t already. The store was always dead (not a huge market for fairy stuff) so one day I decided to actually read them. I picked The Chamber of Secrets because the first book was only in paperback and I didn’t want to warp the spine if they still wanted to sell it. I spent maybe a half hour leaning over the counter reading it before I realized that I couldn’t start with the second book. I needed to buy these books for myself and read them. And that’s how I came to fall in love with JK Rowling.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman is a more recent read than most of the others on this list. I read it late last year. I hadn’t intended to read it at all but it kept popping up in my life. I probably read most of it on the bus (it is where I do most of my reading) but I finished it late at night in bed with my little night light on so as not to disturb my sleeping husband. As I was nearing the end I was crying so hard but trying to cry silently so as not to wake my husband. I finished it and just lay there with tears streaming down my face, completely devastated by this little book.

The Birth House by Ami McKay. I had a day off from work and school and picked this book up, meaning to just casually read a little of it before getting on with whatever I had planned for my day off. I ended up just sitting in the corner of the couch for hours, devouring it. I only moved to get food or go to the bathroom and by the time my then-boyfriend came home, I had finished it and done nothing about maybe getting dinner started.

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin. I brought this book with me to Portland last fall. We had a little bit of down time in the hotel room and I cracked it. But I never seemed to get very far with it while we were in Portland. But then we had a 6+ hour drive back home and it was pouring rain. Pouring. I sat happily tucked in the passenger seat and let Toibin tell me the story of Nora Webster trying to find her way after the death of her husband. There’s nothing better than reading on a road trip, especially with such an absorbing book.

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. This book is something like 900 pages. Of non-fiction. So there’s no one story of reading it. I toted this beast around with me everywhere while I was reading it and frequently cried on public transportation while I did so. This book can be incredibly difficult to read. It can also be uplifting and hopeful and beautiful. I just remember sitting on the bus, crying all the time when I was reading this. Sometimes they were tears of joy, reading about families who had embraced their children’s differences and other times they were tears of sadness or frustration reading about families that just couldn’t handle them. One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.

Alright, there you have it. Ten bookish stories. I’m not going to call out anyone specifically, but if you want to do it and you are in need of a post idea, feel free to jump in!

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!

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#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.