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I’ve re-read this at least once before, but not for years. I was always more of an Emily girl. So I had totally forgotten that the first three chapters are titled, “Mrs. Rachel Lynde Is Surprised,” “Marilla Cuthbert Is Surprised,” and “Matthew Cuthbert Is Surprised.” (Later, there is a chapter called “Mrs. Rachel Lynde Is Properly Horrified.”) I had also forgotten how funny it is – not only in incident, like the “getting Diana drunk” chapter or the “jumping on Aunt Josephine” bit, but in the prose itself. Montgomery has a great, wry sense of humor which especially shines in her descriptions of personalities and of village life, and the contrast of Anne’s romantic imagination with the relentlessly down-to-earth people around her is never not funny.

I had not, however, forgotten the classic meet cute in which Anne’s beau-to-be, Gilbert Blythe, calls her hair “carrots” and she breaks a slate over his head. Still a classic scene! But I did forget the equally classic scene in which Anne is punished by being made to – horrors! – sit next to Gilbert in class. He slips her a candy heart. She heartlessly crushes it underfoot.

For those of you who don’t know the story, it was written in 1908, and is set on the lavishly described, rural Prince Edward Island. Aging siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt a ten-year-old boy so they can have someone to help Matthew with the chores. (I was horrified while reading this at how nobody seems to find the slightest thing wrong with that. But then again, the way we treat non-adopted orphans in contemporary America isn’t much better. Or, in many cases, better at all.) But a miscommunication means that they get sent red-headed Anne Shirley instead, a chatterbox who lives largely in an imagination shaped by romantic novels. With some reluctance, they decide to keep her. She proceeds to make Avonlea a far, far more interesting place. Hijinks galore!

Anne was my introduction to L. M. Montgomery, and I read all the books, though I didn’t care for the last couple. (Bored by the later generation, except for Walter, who I adored. Uh-oh.) I also liked Ilse much, much better than Diana, whom I thought a bit dull. Honestly, don’t you think Anne deserved a friend with a bit more spark to her? I also lost interest in Gilbert once their relationship went from sizzling love-hate to dull love. Emily had so many more shipping possibilities than Anne, and I think I sensed that in my little proto-fangirl’s heart. (For the record: Emily/Ilse.)

Still, there’s a bit in which Marilla finds Anne sobbing hysterically for no apparent reason. It turns out that Anne had been imagining Diana’s future wedding (remember, everyone is still ten at this point), and herself as the bridesmaid, “with a breaking heart hid beneath my smiling face. And then bidding Diana good-bye-e-e.” Here Anne again bursts into tears.

The scene made me laugh, and yet… I remember, when I was about eight, suddenly bursting into hysterical sobs in the middle of a playdate. Why? Because at the end of the playdate, Angela would have to go back home and leave me! (Until the next playdate.)

Anne of Green Gables is very, very funny, and the characters are vividly sketched. But maybe one reason it’s so enduring is that Montgomery remembered the intensity of friendship between girls of a certain age.

Anne of Green Gables
Happy birthday, Sherwood! Knowing you has made my life so much happier. May this coming year be filled with good food, good TV, good writing, good company, and good sales.

Sherwood bid on my writing for Con Or Bust, and requested a story for L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon which gives the final book, Emily's Quest, a different ending.

To Catch A Star.

When attempting to describe this series to [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, she suggested that given that it's borderline fantasy (Second Sight) and contains a significant character named Dean, I could do a cross-over with Supernatural, a show whose first season Sherwood is also familiar with. I thought this was a hilarious idea but didn't do it. I throw it out there in case anyone else is inspired.
Happy birthday, Sherwood! Knowing you has made my life so much happier. May this coming year be filled with good food, good TV, good writing, good company, and good sales.

Sherwood bid on my writing for Con Or Bust, and requested a story for L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon which gives the final book, Emily's Quest, a different ending.

To Catch A Star.

When attempting to describe this series to [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, she suggested that given that it's borderline fantasy (Second Sight) and contains a significant character named Dean, I could do a cross-over with Supernatural, a show whose first season Sherwood is also familiar with. I thought this was a hilarious idea but didn't do it. I throw it out there in case anyone else is inspired.
I've been reading some of L. M. Mongomery's non-Anne, non-Emily books. So far I've really enjoyed The Blue Castle and A Tangled Web. Kilmeny, alas, was awful.

In Kilmeny, a young man of staggering perfection takes over a teaching position for a few months, and discovers a beautiful mute girl, Kilmeny, and a Italian gypsy named Neil. Even worse than it sounds. The prose is stilted and overwritten, Italians are stereotyped as lusty bundles of untamed passion, and the story is sappy. But don't take my word for it: meet Kilmeny:

"Her face was oval, marked in every cameo-like line and feature with that expression of absolute, flawless purity, found in the angels and Madonnas of old paintings, a purity that held in it no faintest strain of earthliness. Her head was bare, and her thick, jet-black hair was parted above her forehead and hung in two heavy lustrous braids over her shoulders. Her eyes were of such a blue as Eric had never seen in eyes before, the tint of the sea in the still, calm light that follows after a fine sunset; they were as luminous as the stars that came out over Lindsay Harbour in the afterglow, and were fringed about with very long, soot-black lashes, and arched over by most delicately pencilled dark eyebrows. Her skin was as fine and purely tinted as the heart of a white rose. The collarless dress of pale blue print she wore revealed her smooth, slender throat; her sleeves were rolled up above her elbows and the hand which guided the bow of her violin was perhaps the most beautiful thing about her, perfect in shape and texture, firm and white, with rosy-nailed taper fingers. One long, drooping plume of lilac blossom lightly touched her hair and cast a wavering shadow over the flower-like face beneath it."

I wouldn't have even finished this if I hadn't been stuck in a doctor's office. Read it online, if you wish: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/montgomery/kilmeny/kilmeny.html

A Tangled Web is much better. In a small community dominated by two frequently intermarrying families, the Darks and the Penhallows, bitter old matriarch Becky Penhallow is dying. In a final attempt to stir up trouble, she drags in both clans to hear her announce who will get the clans' most treasured heirloom-- an ugly yet historic jug. In a long, very funny, and surprisingly psychologically penetrating scene, the entire history of this huge cast is recapped while Becky insults them one by one. Then she announces that they won't find out who gets the jug till next year.

From this small action comes a snowballing series of events. Relationships are formed and broken, people get their hearts' desire and face their worst memories, secrets are revealed, a miracle occurs, and, in my favorite plot, a lonely old maid who writes bad poetry and wants to get married so she can have a child and house of her own, gets more than she ever dreamed of, although not exactly how she imagined getting it.

The intricate weaving of many storylines, the deft mingling of humor and high drama, and the occasional but very sharp insights into real human issues make this a book to look for. Unfortunately, Montgomery managed to put an extremely jarring racial slur into the very last line-- in a book which has no other racism or racial epithets anywhere else. You could skip the last page without missing anything. Honest.

It can be read online here: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0201011h.html
I've been reading some of L. M. Mongomery's non-Anne, non-Emily books. So far I've really enjoyed The Blue Castle and A Tangled Web. Kilmeny, alas, was awful.

In Kilmeny, a young man of staggering perfection takes over a teaching position for a few months, and discovers a beautiful mute girl, Kilmeny, and a Italian gypsy named Neil. Even worse than it sounds. The prose is stilted and overwritten, Italians are stereotyped as lusty bundles of untamed passion, and the story is sappy. But don't take my word for it: meet Kilmeny:

"Her face was oval, marked in every cameo-like line and feature with that expression of absolute, flawless purity, found in the angels and Madonnas of old paintings, a purity that held in it no faintest strain of earthliness. Her head was bare, and her thick, jet-black hair was parted above her forehead and hung in two heavy lustrous braids over her shoulders. Her eyes were of such a blue as Eric had never seen in eyes before, the tint of the sea in the still, calm light that follows after a fine sunset; they were as luminous as the stars that came out over Lindsay Harbour in the afterglow, and were fringed about with very long, soot-black lashes, and arched over by most delicately pencilled dark eyebrows. Her skin was as fine and purely tinted as the heart of a white rose. The collarless dress of pale blue print she wore revealed her smooth, slender throat; her sleeves were rolled up above her elbows and the hand which guided the bow of her violin was perhaps the most beautiful thing about her, perfect in shape and texture, firm and white, with rosy-nailed taper fingers. One long, drooping plume of lilac blossom lightly touched her hair and cast a wavering shadow over the flower-like face beneath it."

I wouldn't have even finished this if I hadn't been stuck in a doctor's office. Read it online, if you wish: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/montgomery/kilmeny/kilmeny.html

A Tangled Web is much better. In a small community dominated by two frequently intermarrying families, the Darks and the Penhallows, bitter old matriarch Becky Penhallow is dying. In a final attempt to stir up trouble, she drags in both clans to hear her announce who will get the clans' most treasured heirloom-- an ugly yet historic jug. In a long, very funny, and surprisingly psychologically penetrating scene, the entire history of this huge cast is recapped while Becky insults them one by one. Then she announces that they won't find out who gets the jug till next year.

From this small action comes a snowballing series of events. Relationships are formed and broken, people get their hearts' desire and face their worst memories, secrets are revealed, a miracle occurs, and, in my favorite plot, a lonely old maid who writes bad poetry and wants to get married so she can have a child and house of her own, gets more than she ever dreamed of, although not exactly how she imagined getting it.

The intricate weaving of many storylines, the deft mingling of humor and high drama, and the occasional but very sharp insights into real human issues make this a book to look for. Unfortunately, Montgomery managed to put an extremely jarring racial slur into the very last line-- in a book which has no other racism or racial epithets anywhere else. You could skip the last page without missing anything. Honest.

It can be read online here: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0201011h.html
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Jan. 5th, 2005 05:49 pm)
Midsummer Moon, by Laura Kinsale. Sounds like an alternate history about a woman inventer, and also possibly a romantic comedy? I hope so, as I really enjoy Kinsale's sense of humor even though it doesn't come up that often. Incidentally, the heroine and hero are Merlin Lambourne and Lord Ransom Falconer. Excellent!

The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett. I have already obtained the second book, Queen's Play, and am taking them to Japan in the hope that a nine hour plane ride will allow me sufficient time to plow through the totally opaque opening which I failed to get through when I had it out from the library, and then get to the good stuff.

Reforming Lord Ragsdale, by Carla Kelly. Regency romance, which sounds completely dreadful from the back cover and generic from the front, but I recall [livejournal.com profile] coffee_and_ink recommending Kelly, so I bet it's actually good. Unless I managed to get her only sucky book, which given how the rest of the week has been going seems totally likely.

Snare, by Katharine Kerr. Anthropological sf.

Stopping For A Spell, by Diana Wynne Jones. Three novelettes.

Touch Not the Cat, by Mary Stewart. A thriller where the heroine has been getting psychic messages from an unknown man for years. I think [livejournal.com profile] sartorias might have recommended this? I have mixed feelings about Stewart's romantic thrillers-- the few I've read have started out with a bang and then petered off, but I've read a few. Her style is quite gripping.

Kilmeny of the Orchard and A Tangled Web, by L. M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of new Moon books-- both touchstones from my childhood. I recently read The Blue Castle, about a woman who is diagnosed with a fatal illness and decides to defy her hideous family and live a little, and enjoyed it very much. Two twists at the end are entirely predictable, but the hero's secret-- no, his other secret-- is both surprising and gratifying. The romance is also very satisfying.

Kilmeny is about a mute woman and a substitute teacher. According to the back cover, the protagonist of A Tangled Web is a brown jug.
.

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