Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wedded bliss and motherhood for Anne

Anne's House of Dreams 
by L.M. Montgomery
Although I was initially a bit disappointed that Anne would no longer be at Green Gables very often, I am NEVER disappointed in another installment of the Green Gables series! Thanks so much to Reeder Reads for putting this read-along together and heading it! I am so way far behind on my reading schedule for May I was uncertain if I could (1) get this read, and (2) complete a blog post, all before June 1st! But I have managed it! I have the usual 30 or more sticky notes in this book to mark those spots to which I wish to refer as I compose my review. However, overall, this is another favorite for me among the five I have now read in this series. 

I adore Montgomery's writing in so many ways. She doesn't hesitate to include what, for me at least, is some challenging vocabulary. I love learning new words! Anne's life always includes some tragedy as well as all the good stuff, so it isn't as "Polly-Annish" as I might have feared. As Marilla notes in considering her feelings and the future once Anne and Gilbert are married, "every joy must bring with it its little shadow of sorrow." (2) And I still believe Montgomery is unsurpassed in introducing new characters in each book and making the reader feel as if you've known them all along throughout the entire series! Captain Jim, Susan, Leslie, Cornelia. These are just four of the newly unforgettable people in Anne's life. I admit I was a bit nostalgic about Anne and Gilbert moving away from Green Gables, because I was going to miss Marilla, Rachel Lynde, and the twins, Davy and Dora, so very much. But it was fortunate for Anne and Gilbert that he was able to locate a doctor willing to retire so Gilbert could take over his practice!

Anne's wedding is held at Green Gables, a very small and intimate affair, as one might expect of Anne--she only wanted those closest to her in attendance. And there was no honeymoon to foreign locations; Gilbert and Anne choose instead to spend their time in virtual isolation at their "House of Dreams" located on the water in a beautifully green and lush setting. 
     "I don't suppose we'll have four such perfect weeks again--but we've had them. 
  Everything--wind, weather, folks, house of dreams--has conspired to make our 
  honeymoon delightful. There hasn't even been a rainy day since we came here."
     "And we haven't quarrelled once," teased Gilbert.
     "Well, 'that's a pleasure all the greater for being deferred,'" quoted Anne. I'm so glad 
  we decided to spend our honeymoon here. Our memories of it will always belong here, 
  in our house of dreams, instead of being scattered about in strange places." (40)
How wise of her. I would agree. 

Anne discussed the pros and cons of the new 'modern inconvenience'--the telephone. I had totally forgotten about the "party lines" of the past (Yes, I do remember them!), when you could literally hear others breathing as they listened to your conversation, and/or the sound of phones being hung up or picked up as you talked! That was a little think others could listen. Though I was on my cell phone several years ago speaking with a friend out in California (I was in Indiana at the time) and all of a sudden she and I begin overhearing a conversation between a mother (located in Indiana) and her daughter (in California), then after a couple of minutes, I am speaking with the daughter and my friend is speaking with the mother, and our initial connection was broken! That was freaky! And proof that technology is not infallible! So, although we no longer have party lines...who knows?!? :)

In discussion of her upcoming wedding with Mrs. Harmon Andrews (her friend Jane's rather snooty mother), Anne responds to the mention of her red hair: 
     "Red hair is very fashionable now," said Anne, trying to smile, but speaking rather 
  coldly. Life had developed in her a sense of humour, which helped her over many 
  difficulties; but as yet nothing had availed to steel her against a reference to her hair." 
Hah! Some things never change! :)

Anne describes her idea of the perfect marriage ceremony being performed in the orchard at dawn and Mrs. Lynde reacts: 
     "But that would be terrible queer, Anne. Why it wouldn't really seem legal. And what 
  would Mrs. Harmon Andrews say?" 
     "Ah, there's the rub," sighed Anne. "There are so many things in life we cannot do 
  because of the fear of what Mrs. Harmon Andrews would say. ''Tis true, 'tis pity, and 
  pity 'tis, 'tis true.' What delightful things we might do were it not for Mrs. Harmon 
  Andrews!" (13) 
Oh, my, I feel that is particularly true in a rural area, so many worry about what others think. Geeminy! I remember all about that growing up in the rural small-town Midwest! 

Then Phil delivers what is surely Anne's favorite wedding gift ever, Gog and Magog, the ceramic dogs from Patty's Place, where she and Phil lived while at college. Miss Patty and Maria were planning to will them to her, but decided they would give them to her while she was young. Awwww... What a sacrifice for them and yet what a wonderful gift to Anne. That made me love these two older sisters even more! 

As Gilbert describes the house he has found for them to live in, Anne exclaims,
     "Oh, I'm so glad! I couldn't live where there were no trees--something vital in me 
  would starve. Well, after that, there's no use asking if there's a brook anywhere near. 
  That would be expecting too much."
     "But there is a brook--and it actually cuts across one corner of the garden."
     "Then," said Anne, with a long sigh of supreme satisfaction, "this house you have 
  found is my house of dreams and none other." (11)
Montgomery describes the surrounding landscape of the "House of Dreams":
     The woods call to us with a hundred voices, but the sea has one only--a mighty voice that drowns our souls in its majestic music. The woods are human, but the sea is of the company of the archangels. (54) 

And so Anne was the first bride of Green Gables on a gorgeously sunny September afternoon.
     Gilbert, waiting for her in the hall below, looked up at her [as she came down the 
  stairs] with adoring eyes. It was to him she was coming in the sweet surrender of a 
  bride. Was he worthy of her? Could he make her as happy as he hoped? If he failed her--
  if he could not measure up to her standard of manhood--then, as she held out her 
  hand, their eyes met and all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty. They belonged 
  to each other; and, no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. 
  Their happiness was in each other's keeping and both were unafraid." (21)
I admit to cringing a bit at the "sweet surrender" part! However, the ending seemed a bit more egalitarian, and after all, Gilbert had patiently waited...for years! It required him almost dying to bring Anne around. :)

And there were so many new and wonderfully delightful personalities among the friends Anne and Gilbert would make while living in their "House of Dreams." Captain Jim, though a "homely man"...had a "spirit shining through that rugged tenement [that] beautified it so wholly." (27) Though Miss Cornelia notes, 
     "Captain Jim is a good man, but he's kinda vexing in one way. You can't make him 
  mad. I've tried for over twenty years and he just keeps on being placid. It does sort of 
  rile me." (49)
In fact, Captain Jim and Miss Cornelia's relationship reminded me of my former mother- and father-in-laws' constant bickering! :)

Anne asks Miss Cornelia why she hates men:
     "Lord, dearie, I don't hate them. They aren't worth it. I just sort of despise them. I 
  think I'll like your husband if he keeps on as he has begun. But apart from him, about 
  the only men in the world I've much use for are the old doctor and Captain Jim." (48)
Though I would say there's little difference between hating and despising, I can understand her not wishing to expend the amount of energy it requires to hate... 

Anne becomes just a bit insecure when Gilbert heartily agrees Leslie is beautiful after his first meeting with her--she has a head full of abundantly shiny golden hair.
     "Gilbert, would you like my hair better if it were like Leslie's?" she asked wistfully.
     "I wouldn't have your hair any colour but just what it is for the world," said Gilbert, 
  with one or two convincing accompaniments. "You wouldn't be Anne if you had golden 
  hair--or hair of any colour but"--
     "Red," said Anne. with gloomy satisfaction.
     "Yes, red--to give warmth to that milk-white skin and those shining gray-green eyes 
  of yours. Golden hair wouldn't suit you at all, Queen Anne--my Queen Anne--queen of 
  my heart and life and home."
     "Then you may admire Leslie's all you like," said Anne magnanimously. (80)    

I'd like to think that if I had met Anne and Gilbert, I would have considered them to be of "the race that knows Joseph," too! :) You need to read this to learn about Anne's children, Joyce and James Matthew, and the whereabouts of Leslie's husband. Oh, and Miss Cornelia actually plans to be married at the end!! Shock! There is so much packed into these mere 227 pages! Have you read this series? I am love love loving it!

Monday, May 25, 2015

My Memorial Day thoughts...

This may well be one of the very first times I've created a strictly personal blog post, but here goes...

Though I rarely celebrate a holiday, mainly due to the fact that most of them are part of a religious belief system, I do always remember those I've lost in my life on this holiday. But here's the thing--I remember those people who were closest to me and meant so much to me EVERY SINGLE DAY! I don't need this one day each year to do that since each of these people imprinted themselves upon my soul in so many ways. 

Though he said they were black,
this is what I envision.
However, in reminiscing about veterans, I do have a person I can honor, even if it is posthumously. That would be my former father-in-law, "Goob." He served in World War II in the Pacific theater, most of his stories dealt with the time he was posted in New Guinea. Just the different climate and thereby varied insects and plant-life made for many recollections that he would occasionally speak about to the rest of us. One of those stories will stick with me throughout my lifetime. It dealt with spiders. Not just spiders as most of us think of them, these were real-life HUMONGOUS VERY HAIRY spiders. As Goob demonstrated,
when he held one in his hand, the body was
This is about the size, I imagine. BTW, this is a scientist
holding a model!
large enough to more than fill his palm, 
with the legs hanging down...and they 
were very hairy! YUCK!! 
However, as he explained, the soldiers never chased them away, but worked to live with them amicably since they would kill other deadly and annoying insects, enabling more peaceful sleep. These spiders would make their webbed homes in the top of the tents and "stand guard" over the soldiers, as it were!

He was a mild-mannered soft-spoken individual who was quite content to work in the background and never seek recognition for himself. The bulk of work he performed during World War II dealt with breaking codes and repairing communication equipment. He could dismantle virtually any machine, diagnose why it would not work, obtain replacement parts, rebuild it, and it would work again! His talents in this area appeared to be limitless! I never will forget the third time (within a 12-month period) he had to work on my stand mixer, and he finally admitted defeat, stating, "Sis, you're just gonna have to buy an all-metal mixer, a commercial grade one, 'cause you just use 'em too much. These newer ones mainly have plastic parts and they aren't made for the amount of use you give 'em!" Then he laughed, 'cause he knew he was one of the biggest fans of my baked goods--cookies, cakes, pies, you name it--he always stopped by and critiqued them least once, depending upon how well he liked them! (He had been known to stop by the house 2-3 times per day for coffee and a treat!) The greatest compliment he could ever give you about something you cooked was, "That's almost as good as my mother made." There were only two things I made that received that highest accolade, molasses cookies and pies. And he even told me once that he thought the molasses cookies might even be a bit better than what his mother used to make! :) I knew I had arrived when he told me that, rather than his typical evaluation of "It'll eat," followed by a chuckle. I had a lot of respect for this man. He did not gush or gloat, but seemed to appreciate each day and plodded through each one... He never rushed and he was never "in a hurry," but he was always there if you needed him. 

This one man fixed more furnaces, air-conditioning units, refrigerators, washers, and dryers in his local community than probably any one man before or since! And if someone couldn't pay him, he would barter or take payments, whatever... He was truly kind and generous...perhaps to a fault at times, but I would rather a person be overly generous than stingy. His wife belonged to a very small local church and he kept the absolutely ancient furnace running in that building. He would even check on it very early (3-4AM) on Sunday mornings and turn it up so it would be warm for Sunday services. He never felt the need to attend church himself, but he would enable others to attend in comfort. I never did know what his spiritual beliefs were, and as usually happens, I wish I'd spent more time truly communicating with and getting to know this man who was the closest thing I had to a father, particularly in the wake of my one and only uncle's death. 

Goob endured much during his wartime service and in the aftermath. His health suffered from the diseases to which he was exposed during his military service and those that lingered with him throughout the remainder of his lifetime. But he never complained or criticized his plight, he just went through life with a positive attitude and a smile. Though he did like to grumble and mumble at times, it seemed as if he mainly did this to amuse himself...and others! I believe he wanted others to believe he was a "grumpy old man," when he truly was not. He had the most infectious chuckle! 

He and my former mother-in-law were two of the most unique individuals I've ever known, and they had one of the most unique marital relationships I've witnessed. These two people loved to bicker with each other more than anything. I began to realize this was evidently their idea of "loving communication." They remained married throughout their entire adult lives, and although I respect that immensely, I often wondered just how happy each of them was in the marriage. Though they were evidently happy enough...and I don't believe either of them would have ever seriously considered divorce; that just wasn't in their realm of possibility. I never will forget her stating to me that she was so glad Goob wasn't alive to witness my own divorce from her son. I personally believe she may well have underestimated her husband's ability to understand my own marital relationship, but we will never know...perhaps she was right and it would have broken his heart. I hope not...and I hope he knew how much I really loved him. I feel he must know that my three sons all inherited mechanical skills working with their hands from him. Every time they create or remodel something in their own house or repair a vehicle, I know he knows that he lives on...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Not just one day, but many years...

One Day by David Nicholls
I realize this cover may not be one you have seen before for this book. It is the ARC I was sent as a Borders employee in early 2010, prior to the book's release. I was a "Fiction Expert" reviewer for Borders at the time. (I know, doesn't that sound official and show-offy? But truly, all you had to do was volunteer! I'm fairly certain there was no vetting process, just appreciation for us nerds who would help market books.) 

I loved this book the first time I read it, recommended it to our book club, and we just discussed it yesterday, so wanted to publish a review while it's all still fresh in my mind. (I am old, you know--no reason to chance what might remain in my mind later on.) Please allow me to note that after five years I had forgotten more than I thought I had, and, as you might expect, it was not quite as enthralling the second time around just because I knew what happened...but I could still read it as a study of human nature and enjoy it immensely. One comment, having read one of Nick Hornby's books and not being particularly enamored by it, his recommendation had little to do with my interest in reading this, though I do agree with his reactions. 

Of the five members attending, one could not get into the book at all, abandoning it after 140 pages, three others liked it to varying amounts, and I still loved it! This book felt particularly "British" to one member and was therefore a bit more difficult for her to get into. We did use the questions I had located as some starting points for discussion, but we all agreed that Dexter was quite unlikable until he finally appeared to grow up and overcome his addiction(s) though I was reminded at the very end of the book of the fact that Emma had ALWAYS held a special attraction for him from the beginning of their relationship. I really like this cover (to the right) for the book. I plan to watch the movie after completing this review of the book, so that will be interesting... One of our book club members prefers the movie to the book, but the rest of us had yet to watch it. 

The format is a bit unusual as the book progresses, particularly at the end, though for me, that was especially effective, a couple of our book club members found it a bit confusing. It is always recommended to bring any story "full circle" and Nicholls did that spectacularly, in my opinion! Once I read a blurb describing The Unbearable Lightness of Being (having not read it yet myself), I realized the irony symbolized by the mention of this book early on. 
     'Let's just cuddle, shall we?'
     'Of course. If you want,' he said gallantly, though in truth he had never really seen the 
  point of cuddling. Cuddling was for great aunts and teddy bears. Cuddling gave him cramp.
  Best now to admit defeat and get home as soon as possible, but she was settling her 
  head against his shoulder territorially, and they lay like this, rigid and self-conscious for 
  some time... (11)
Dexter was "beautiful" and definitely a king with regard to the kingdom of "one-night stands." Emma was definitely not the type of female with whom he usually "hooked up." And that describes them throughout much of this novel. In their views of the future, they were quite different--she, idealistic though realistically focused and he, oblivious to much of anything regarding the future, particularly since he would be traveling the world throughout the summer. As one of our book club members noted, it was this financial independence that enabled his addictive behaviors and lackadaisical attitude toward adult life, and I suppose that is true to an extent. Though I know of two adult males who had no such financial independence and still ruined their adult lives, dying at young ages, as a result of I believe it can happen to anyone regardless of their financial wherewithal. 

Nicholls offsets serious issues with humor and irony. 
     Emma got a job pulling pints in the local pub, and time passed, and she felt her brain 
  begin to soften like something forgotten at the back of the fridge. (22)
That I could relate to very well! I worked in a job that was local to my community during one summer and I swore to never do that again! I really wanted to expand my horizons a bit and get to know different people. Emma writes to Dexter while working at her second job with the Sledgehammer Theatre Co-operative (Hah! What a name!) touring with 'Cruel Cargo,' an Arts Council-funded spectacular about the slave-trade told through the medium of story, folk song and some pretty shocking mime (16), about one of her co-stars:
     [Candy's] Geordie accent is unbelievable, like she's had a stroke or something and she's 
  also got this thing about doing yoga in her lingerie. There, that's got your attention, hasn't 
  it? It's the first time I've seen someone do the Sun Worship in hold-up stockings and a 
  basque. That can't be right, can it? (18)
This passage made me laugh several times! Such humor is sprinkled throughout the book.
     Dexter didn't like to think of himself as vain, but there were definitely times when he
  wished there was someone on hand to take his photograph. (24) 
Hate to tell ya, Dex, but in my humble opinion, that IS the definition of vain! :)
     The attraction of a life devoted to sensation, pleasure and self would probably wear thin 
  one day, but there was still plenty of time for that. (25)
It definitely required a VERY long time before Dexter tired of pleasure-seeking for its own sake, regardless of others' feelings, etc. 

It seems as if Dexter finally finds his niche as a TV presenter, 
     In rare moments of self-doubt, Dexter had once worried that a lack of intellect might hold 
  him back in life, but here was a job where confidence, energy, perhaps even a certain 
  arrogance were what mattered, all quantities that lay within his grasp. Yes, you had to be 
  smart, but not Emma-smart. Just politic, shrewd, ambitious. (62)
However, he manages to even mess that up! It is not long after that that Emma tells him,
     'Dexter, I love you so much. So, so much, and I probably always will.' Her lips touched 
  his cheek, 'I just don't like you anymore. I'm sorry.' (210)
Another incident to which I could relate as I also cut ties with a person I truly loved, because his addictive behaviors were reprehensible to me and he was not the same person. It hurt so much to do that, but I felt it was necessary...I couldn't stand the heartbreak of watching him spiral downward. 

Definite irony in the fact that Dexter had an affair with a student during his brief teaching stint, and then Emma (quite out of character, according to one of our book club members) has an affair with her principal during her teaching stint. None of us could figure out why, except that it was convenient and unattached sex for her, since he was married. As she describes one of their sexual encounters, she states that one day she would like to have sex on furniture that doesn't stack. (218) That had me laughing out loud!

I was bothered by Dexter being drunk while caring for his infant daughter. I know this happens, but it really bothers me. And to make matters worse, Sylvie knew he was drunk, but was more interested in her own extramarital affair then in the well-being of her daughter! Geeminy! Anyone can give birth, but not everyone is capable of decent parenting! :( 

I was glad that Dex and Em did finally admit to each other their true feelings. I never did like Collum; he was just a creep! And poor Jasmine, she certainly had to adapt to many life changes in her first few years of life. (I would have loved to name a daughter Jasmine, however, I had three that didn't happen!) Have you read this one yet? One of our book club members felt it was depressing, however, I found it rather uplifting in the end. If you've read it, what did you think? 

I am anxious to read his newest release, Us, which is not a sequel to this book. And...on to the movie adaptation! This book did remind me much of the movie City of Angels with Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage--one of my favorites! Wonder if the movie will seem similar?

Saturday, May 2, 2015 still my heart!!

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I realize I don't actually need another book read-along or reading challenge or book club in which to participate, however... 
 I am joining others in the Gone With the Wind Read-Along initiated by Corinne at the pursuit of happiness

This cover (to the left) looks nothing like mine!
About two years ago I purchased a copy of this classic. 
My edition is definitely "classic"/"used"! 
Okay, in reality, it is old, published in 1964! (Almost as old as I am!) And it looks it, with the edges of the pages yellowed with age and I love it! I am obviously the first person to actually read it, which always makes me wonder about previous owner(s)!
My other copy was  paperback, but this is a hardback, 
and much more to my liking! 

At 10 pages in I am reminded of the first time I read this as a teenager. What fantasies I created from this text! I imagined myself as Scarlett, of course, the belle of the pre-Civil War Southern U.S. And then as one of the slaves. Then as Melanie. Then Ashley. And finally, as THE MAN, Rhett! Raised in a household of women, I always believed Rhett to be a real "man's man"! Though in reality, I had no idea exactly what that meant! :)               

And, oh, the pictures I found online to supplement my blog posts. I really MUST watch the movie again, but not until I have reread the book! 
Check it out at the pursuit of happiness!

The reading schedule for this read-along is as follows:
          Friday, May 1st: initial post about how excited we are to begin! (I truly am!)
          Saturday, May 16th: Check-in for Chapters 1-10 (145 pages)
          Saturday, May 30th: Check-in for Chapters 11-20 (99 pages)
          Saturday, June 13th: Check-in for Chapters 21-30 (118 pages)
          Saturday, June 27th: Check-in for Chapters 31-40 (147 pages)
          Saturday, July 11th: Check-in for Chapters 41-50 (122 pages)
          Saturday, July 28th: Check-in for Chapters 51-60 (79 pages)
          Saturday, August 1st: Check-in for Chapters 61-63  (23 pages) FINAL DISCUSSION

How about you? Have you read this book? (This will be the 6th or 7th time for me!) Or have you watched the movie? (This will be the 6th time I've watched the movie, and only the first time I wasn't in a movie theater to do so!) I can never decide which character is my favorite, 'cause I always feel Mitchell does such an excellent job of characterization that I know each one so intimately!

To the South I go!