Shades Of Words


3 Comments

Of living and loving and hoping and dreaming

I  got acquainted with Anne Shirley through the 1985 CBS television Series. I was instantly hooked and started hunting for my own copy of Anne of Green Gables. I first read the book at the age of 12 and it instantly became my all time favorite children’s book. I eventually read all the other books through the rest of my teenage years. However, for several years every summer I went back and re-read Anne of Green Gables. As a child, the book had this fascinating hold on me about this magical place called Avonlea with this really interesting and delightful creature called Anne Shirley. I completely related to her growing pains, her passionate friendships ( haven’t we all sworn undying friendships in our childhood and have we have ever found anything like that again! ) her flights of fancy and her struggle to find a balance between what was right and good to what she desired. As Anne grew up and went to college, so did I.  Again, I could relate to endless college studies and revelries , of love lost and found and of new bonds of friendships. Then somewhere I drifted away from the books and had not touched them for ages.

Recently, I saw some discussion on LMM and some reviews on Anne of Green Gables in the blogging world and decided to reread this book again. I decided to listen to the audio version that LibrivVox offers. As I “re-read” the first five book of the series I noticed things that as I child that I had missed. I knew for sure that LMM was brilliant in creating engaging and interesting characters but its only now that I notice the slight nuances that she gave to each character. She had a genius for character development. And I never noticed how hopeful the stories were – and I don’t mean romantically over optimistic in a very typical novel kind of way. It was more real somehow. Anne’s hope of going to college, her hopes of being a teacher, her hopes of being able to give back the love and happiness that Marilla & Matthew had given her, her hopes of being married – these were not over ambitious or unrealistic but just ordinary hopes of an extraordinary person. Whenever I read the “Anne ” books I am suddenly filled with a joy for living !

Another thing that I noticed was LMM’s genius in understanding the man-woman relationship. The books are peppered with wisdom on friendship, love and marriage. LMM definitely believes that a man and woman cannot be lovers unless they are good friends. And a relationship with laughter is more satisfying than a relationship with lofty ideals and bookish romances. It only takes our heroie “Anne” some 5 years to figure that for herself !

Gilbert and Anne are definitely my favorite relationship of the book , closely followed by that of Anne and Marilla. That is one of the most beautifully understated yet strong maternal relationship in any piece of literature ! And then Anne and Diana  – because their friendship reminded me of unselfish innocence of childhood where our mind has not yet learned to make prejudices.

I thoroughly loved the first four books of the series. I also enjoyed Anne’s House of Dreams as it was about her early years of marriage with Gilbert but I have to confess that after that I just could not enjoy the series as such. My sentiments can be described from an expression from the “Anne” series. When Anne refused her suitor of two years, Roy,  in Anne of the Island, moaned “”I want some one who BELONGS in my life”. That is the kind of feeling that I get when I started reading Anne of Ingleside. All the books before had characters that we have known from the first book and that we have grown to like and love. Anne is still the central character and this is truly her story up to that point. However, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside is no longer about her but her kids. She is often referred to as “Mother” or Mrs. Blythe and though the books are about her family – it is no longer about her. Its as if suddenly there are no new dimensions to her story. All the Avonlea characters fade away – Gilbert , Marilla , Diana and Mrs Rachel Lynde were all central to Anne’s story till book 5 but they all fade away. The last three are good books but they are not really about Anne and I rather treat them as separate novels not connected to the series.

However, Anne of Green Gables and the other “Anne” books will always be for me about living and loving and hoping and dreaming!

 

 


4 Comments

Mariana

Even though I follow a lot of reading blogs and enjoy marking posts with great book suggestions, I seldom remember to pick these up when I go to a library or a bookstore. For the last year or so , I have noticed that the Persephone Books come highly recommended. These are mostly wartime novels written by woman authors that for some reason or the other had gone out of print. I was a little hesitant to try these out and wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this genre so I went scouting for used books on Amazon and ordered the second book in the Persephone catalog.
So what are my thoughts? . Lets start with the cover art – I know its unsual for my review but the cover selection is a very important part of the Persephone publication process. It is a piece of art chosen to represent the theme of the story. Mariana’s cover is a painting of a  twenty something blonde with short hair having a picnic in a park with a young man by her side. The immediate conclusion  is that its the story of young modern girl in the war period and also maybe a love story. There are some sexual undertones in the poses of the couple and you wonder a little on what that means as you dive into the book.
Another thing that I would like to talk about is the quality of writing – which is far superior to most of the things that I have read recently. It may not necessarily make me want to read Monica Dickens but it will definitely make me want to read more Persephone Books because I know their editors are reliable.
Now the title – Mariana. For people like me who know nothing about poetry the title does not strike a bell. But apparently its the title of a poem by Tennyson. The opening stanza of the poem is
“ITH blackest moss the flower-pots
Were thickly crusted, one and all;
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange;
Unlifted was the clinking latch:
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’ “
This truly sets the tone for the novel. The story is about the young  Mary Shannon whose life has been irrevocably touched by war. Her father died in the first war and she has grown in the care of her fiercely independent mother. At the onset of the novel, we see Mary waiting one stormy night, to hear if her lover away at war is alive or dead. The book than dives into her childhood and basically follows a linear narrative till the end , when the suspense is relieved.
Monica Dickens character sketches are interesting and complete. Most of the characters are immensly likeable and believable. Mariana is essentially Mary’s story about her childhood and youth and her relationship with the men in her life. There is Uncle Geoff , Grandpa, cousin Denys – the relationships of her childhood. Then there is Piere from Paris and Sam the architect -the loves of her youth.
The story is also about Mary finding her true calling but that is not something that really stays with you. As you read the book , you realize that Mary is basically not exceptional at anything. She is really a very ordinary person and I think that therein lies the appeal of the story. However, I really like my heroines to be slightly strong exceptional characters so I could not build any real fondness for Mary. But there are other things to look for – interesting characters, lovely descriptions of beautiful England, dynamics of a large family, and most importantly relating to the pain of finding yourself.
In short , its a pretty decent book.