Posts Tagged ‘Anne of Green Gables’

anne's house of dreams book cover sea pei north shore

A few weeks ago, the hubs and I drove up to Prince Edward Island, for a quiet, blissful stretch of days (our third) on the Island’s north shore.

We first visited PEI a few summers ago, but I have known and loved it for a long time: through the beloved books of L.M. Montgomery, who introduced me to such heroines as Jane Stuart, Emily Byrd Starr, Sara Stanley, and – of course – Anne Shirley.

My mom handed me the first three Anne books when I was a child, and I read and reread them until the corners of the paperbacks were worn soft. I later did the same with the remaining five books in the series, and I still have most of my beat-up Bantam copies (though I had to replace the first one after it went missing). I’ve picked up various beautiful editions of several Anne books over the years, and I’d love to buy the entire set in the recent lovely Sourcebooks and Tundra incarnations. But when I want to find a particular passage or dive into a whole book again, I always reach for my childhood copies, their heft comforting in my hands.

I took a stack of books to PEI. This is typical vacation behavior for me, but it’s especially tempting when we drive, because luggage and space limits aren’t a problem. On our first trip to PEI a few years ago, I tucked a couple of Anne books into my suitcase on a whim. I hadn’t reread them in a while, but I thought I might want to flip through them while I was there.

What I hadn’t quite expected: I hardly wanted to read anything else.

Montgomery is a master of the elegant description, and her love for the Island comes through in the voices of her heroines – all of whom are deeply rooted in the Island’s rust-red soil. The green fields with their soft red furrows, the glimpses of blue sea around so many corners, the fields and woods and rolling hills, the rocky and sandy beaches of the north shore, were at once entirely new and utterly familiar to me.

I spent hours on that first trip rereading passages from a couple of Anne books and Jane of Lantern Hill, and I did the same thing when we went back last summer. This time, I dove straight into Anne’s House of Dreams, and I didn’t even regret ignoring the other books sitting in my tote bag. (I suppose I should have known this would happen – but I couldn’t not bring them. Just in case.)

house of dreams page sea pei north shore

For three days, I was right where I wanted to be: on the Island’s north shore in body and spirit. Sinking my toes into the sand, wading in the surf, and also walking and talking with Anne and Gilbert, Leslie Moore and Miss Cornelia and Captain Jim. I pictured Anne and Gilbert’s little white house of dreams, with its glorious garden, more vividly than ever before. And I watched the sky and the waves and the sunsets with as much love as Anne herself, I feel sure.

There’s magic, sometimes, in reading a book in the place where it’s either set or was written. I have read A Moveable Feast in a Paris hotel room, Gaudy Night in Oxford parks and cafes, Daphne Kalotay’s novels while learning the particular Boston streets she describes.

There can also be magic in utter escape from your current reality: I’m too fond of Harry Potter and Jodi Taylor’s time-travel series not to know that. But when you visit a place you’ve loved for so long, and the real, physical truth of it is just as wonderful as you imagined, it can be lovely to luxuriate in being right where you are, on and off the page.

Have you ever visited a place just because you’ve read about it – or purposely matched your reading material to your location? I’d love to hear about it, if you have.


Read Full Post »

pei sandstone cliffs

The shore road was “woodsy and wild and lonesome.” On the right hand, scrub firs, their spirits quite unbroken by long years of tussle with the gulf winds, grew thickly. On the left were the steep red sandstone cliffs, so near the track in places that a mare of less steadiness than the sorrel might have tried the nerves of the people behind her. Down at the base of the cliffs were heaps of surf-worn rocks or little sandy coves inlaid with pebbles as with ocean jewels; beyond lay the sea, shimmering and blue, and over it soared the gulls, their pinions flashing silvery in the sunlight.

“Isn’t the sea wonderful?” said Anne, rousing from a long, wide-eyed silence.

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

pei north rustico harbour

On our recent return to PEI, the hubs and I stayed in a tiny village on the Island’s north shore. We were just a few minutes’ walk from the beach in one direction and the harbor (above) in the other. And though we did a bit of driving around the Island (lunch in Summerside one day, dinner in Charlottetown another night), we spent most of our time as close to the water as possible.

“You’ve made a beach bum out of me,” J said recently. I laughed and pointed out that I didn’t do anything: our trips to San Diego and PEI are wholly responsible for that change. The red beaches of PEI’s north shore, in particular, have completely captured our hearts.

pei north shore beach prince edward island canada

The Island’s north shore is quieter than the south; there are fewer towns, more long, unbroken stretches of beach. These comprise plenty of soft red sand (the Island soil contains so much iron that it oxidizes on contact with the air), and an occasional outcrop of sandstone cliffs (as in the photo at the top of this post).

I love visiting both the sand shore and the rock shore that L.M. Montgomery writes about in Anne’s House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside, but for spending an afternoon, the sand shore is my favorite. The sky is wide and open, the far red cliffs topped with lush green. As for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I have to quote Jane Stuart: “I never thought anything could be so blue.”

gulf of st lawrence beach pei

We took a guided kayaking trip around the north shore one night, which was exhausting but wholly enjoyable, and a couple of late-evening walks to watch the sunset. But mostly we sprawled out on the sand with our books, getting up occasionally to splash in the shallows or toss the Frisbee. We came home with sand in the folds of our shorts and tote bags, but I didn’t mind. Those hours on the north shore, walking through the foamy waves and sinking into the sand, restored my soul.

katie pei beach

More PEI photos and stories to come.

Read Full Post »

anne books blue chest

Like many young girls, I read the Anne of Green Gables books over and over when I was growing up. My mom put the first three into my hands, and I devoured them, then went on to read the other five books in the series. I later came to love L.M. Montgomery’s other novels: The Story Girl, Jane of Lantern Hill, the three books featuring Emily Byrd Starr. And I was thrilled, a few weeks ago, to return to the land from which they sprang: beautiful, bucolic Prince Edward Island.

My husband was a good sport about touring Green Gables when we first visited PEI in 2014. I loved every second of that visit, but I wanted to explore another Anne-related site this time (there are several on the Island). So we drove to the Anne of Green Gables Museum in Park Corner.

silver bush anne of green gables museum pei

This house was owned by some of L.M. Montgomery’s relatives. As you can see in the photo, she dubbed it “Silver Bush” and used it as the setting for several books (Pat of Silver Bush, The Story Girl, and their respective sequels). Like Green Gables, it has been lovingly maintained, and it is full of artifacts from Montgomery’s life. I could just imagine Maud and her cousins, or the clan of King children, popping popcorn by the parlor fire or gathered in the kitchen after dinner.

Maud was married in Silver Bush’s parlor in 1911, and it looks much as it might have then:

silver bush parlor anne of green gables museum pei

(I love the geranium on the side table, which reminded me of Anne naming the flowers and trees at Green Gables, including a geranium she called “Bonny.”)

There are also bookcases stuffed with beautiful first editions of Montgomery’s books:

silver bush bookcase anne of green gables museum pei

The whole house is filled with similar treasures: letters, linens, china from New Moon Farm (!), photographs and newspaper articles related to the Montgomery/Macneill families and the time period. It felt as though Maud herself – or Anne – might come around the corner at any moment.

My favorite part of the museum, though, is at the top of this post: a stellar collection of Anne books, in editions old and new, sitting on the actual blue chest from The Story Girl.

The chest’s contents are on display upstairs, but seeing the chest itself – the one I’ve read about so often – gave me goosebumps.  I half expected to see Sara Stanley perched on top of it, peeling potatoes as she regaled her cousins with the story of Rachel Ward’s handsome, dissolute groom who never showed up to their wedding. Maud changed the names and a few details when she wrote about it, but as with so much of her writing, the inspiration was drawn straight from real life.

Silver Bush and the blue chest reminded me – again – that this woman whose work I love so deeply was real. Her characters are longtime friends of mine: their words, after so many readings, live deep in my bones. They were real to her, too, as she notes in this journal entry about Anne:

anne quote silver bush pei

We finished off our time at Silver Bush with a stroll through a woodland path near the farmhouse. Perfection.

birch path woods silver bush pei

More PEI photos and stories to come.

Read Full Post »

rilla of ingleside book tulips

I’ve been thinking about Rilla Blythe lately.

Rilla is Anne Shirley Blythe’s youngest daughter, the last of the six children who grew up at Ingleside in the golden years before World War I. In August 1914, she’s nearly fifteen: pretty, pampered, a little spoiled, but still sweet. She’s never had to do many disagreeable things, apart from the occasional household chore. But when war erupts in Europe, it upends her entire world.

Rilla of Ingleside is the story of how the women of Ingleside – Rilla, Anne, their faithful cook-housekeeper Susan, and Miss Oliver, the local schoolteacher – grit their way through the dark days of war. It’s one of the lesser-known Anne books, but it’s one of my favorites. I’ve read it a dozen times, and I love it so much.

As I make my way through both winter and the job hunt, a few lines from Rilla’s story keep coming back to me.

“I finished my sixth pair of socks today,” Rilla writes in her diary one evening. “With the first three I got Susan to set the heel for me. Then I thought that was a bit of shirking, so I learned to do it myself. I hate it – but I have done so many things I hate since 4th of August [when war was declared] that one more or less doesn’t make any difference.”

When war comes, both Susan and Rilla resolve, separately but with similar motivations, to be “as brave and heroic and unselfish” as they can be. Rilla’s declaration comes with italics and drama (she is fifteen, after all); Susan’s comes with a plain, old-fashioned sense of duty. They, and the entire village of Glen St. Mary, spend the next four years adjusting to new realities and, in the face of tragedy, simply doing what must be done.

They are no saints: they get frustrated, tired and worn down, and Rilla shares her troubles with the reader as she blows off steam in her diary. Even Miss Oliver says one day, in a rare moment of desperation, “There’s nothing heroic about me today. I’ve slumped.” But they always pick up courage and go on, helped in no small measure by letters from their boys at the front, and by one another.

I am in the middle of a few long, hard struggles, notably winter (we are now in the grit-your-teeth phase) and the continuing job hunt. I have to do a lot of things I’d rather not do, these days. But often, thinking about Rilla and her umpteen pairs of socks (and the many other tasks of wartime) helps me pluck up a bit of gumption to keep going. As she says to herself on a particularly difficult evening, “I must stay here and see things through.”

I’ve written often about how my fictional heroines keep me company or inspire me when things are rough. Do you have any fictional characters (or good words in general) that you draw on when you need wisdom or strength?

Read Full Post »

Over on Instagram this month, I’ve been enjoying Jessica’s #31bookpics challenge. She came up with an eclectic list of bookish photo prompts, and I’ve relished looking through my shelves for books to fit each one.

Early in the month, the prompt was “underrated,” and I pulled together this stack.

underrated books yellow roses

These are all books by authors who are much better known for their other work: Anne of Green Gables (Montgomery), A Wrinkle in Time (L’Engle), Charlotte’s Web (White), All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr). I have no quibbles with this – I’m a lifelong Anne fan and I loved All the Light (and who doesn’t adore Charlotte?). The fame, in every case, is well deserved.

But there’s something delicious about knowing and loving an author’s more obscure work, whether you come to it after reading the better-known books or discover the author through the “back door.”

For me, Montgomery, Doerr, White and Maud Hart Lovelace belong in the first category: I read and reread Anne of Green Gables and the first few Betsy-Tacy books as a little girl. (My sister is named after Betsy Ray.) It took a while for me to move on to Montgomery’s other work and Betsy’s high school (and later) adventures, but when I did, I adored them.

I’d only peripherally heard of Doerr before All the Light swept the bestseller lists. But after reading that, I snagged a beautiful hardcover copy of Four Seasons in Rome in a used bookshop in San Diego, and loved it just as much. And my E.B. White obsession, though it began with Charlotte and Wilbur, has expanded to include pretty much everything the man ever wrote.

In other cases, though, I read the lesser-known works first, and they’re still my favorites.

I bought Walking on Water, L’Engle’s wonderful book on faith and art, from a college friend who was selling off some of her books. I loved it so much I sought out A Circle of Quiet and L’Engle’s other memoirs before I ever read A Wrinkle in Time. Julia Cameron is best known for The Artist’s Way, but my college boyfriend (now my husband) plucked The Sound of Paper off a bookstore shelf and gave it to me for graduation, so I read it first. It is still true north for me.

I realize it’s an ultra-hipster-trendy move these days to insist that you loved a book before it was cool, or knew about an author before he or she became popular. But as I said above, I adore these authors’ more popular works. I am happily in the majority of readers who follow the interstellar adventures of Meg Murry or wish they could spend an afternoon in Avonlea with Anne.

But I’m always so pleased to discover an author’s overlooked work, or to introduce some lesser-known favorites to fellow bookworms who may never have heard of Rilla of Ingleside (Montgomery) or Emily of Deep Valley (Lovelace). For me, it simply expands the pleasure of reading. And really, anyone who hasn’t read E.B. White’s pitch-perfect essays is missing out.

What are your favorite overlooked books?

Read Full Post »

fall books flowers mysteries

It’s definitely fall around here, and I’m noticing the shift in various ways. The mornings are crisper, the evenings shorter, the light a different shade of golden.

I’m sipping fall teas, munching apples and burning autumnal candles. But I’m also, characteristically, thinking about fall books.

Not all of my reading is tied to a season, but certain books and genres do resonate more deeply at certain times of year. I reach for Winter Solstice every December, The Long Winter in the frozen depths of February, Jane of Lantern Hill in the tentative first days of spring.

Similarly, the stack above holds a few particular books – and a couple of genres – to which I turn every fall.

Anne of Windy Poplars chronicles Anne Shirley’s three years as a high school principal in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, and though they span all four seasons, the entire book feels like autumn to me. (Anne of the Island, with its collegiate setting and jolly houseful of girls, also fits this season.) I adore Anne in all times and all places, but I love picturing her curled up in her tower room at Windy Poplars during the season of mellow afternoons and crisp twilights.

Robert Frost’s poetry is perfect for autumn. I love his classics like “The Road Not Taken,” but some of my other favorites evoke the mystery and melancholy of a New England fall. Try “After Apple-Picking,” “The Freedom of the Moon,” and “Acquainted with the Night.”

I adore E.B. White’s keenly observed evocations of life on a New England farm, many of which are collected in One Man’s Meat. They, too, encompass all seasons, but I always want to curl up by a warm fire and crunch on apples while I’m reading his accounts of livestock, small-town incidents and lovable, hardheaded dachshunds.

I love a mystery all year round, but Sidney Chambers, that quietly melancholic, inquisitive priest, seems especially suited for autumn. (Maybe it’s because I discovered him last fall.) The first volume of his adventures, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, contains an evocative passage about how autumn reveals the underlying shape of things.

Dorothy Sayers’ mystery series featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane contains many gems. But Gaudy Night – set in Oxford among dreaming spires and diligent students, combining academia and mystery with a love story – is my very favorite, and perfect for this time of year.

Finally, Emily of Deep Valley is on my list to reread this fall. It’s about a girl who must make her own way in the world after graduating high school, while her friends head off to college. It’s full of quiet warmth and determination (like Emily herself), and both the cover and the spirit of the book are perfectly autumnal.

What do you like to read in the fall? Any books (or genres) that speak to you especially in the autumn?

Read Full Post »

anne books pei
I’ve been an Anne fan for many years.

Like thousands of other girls, I met that spirited, imaginative redhead when I was a child, when my mom gave me the first three Anne books. I read them over and over, delighting in the stories of Anne’s arrival at Green Gables, her mishaps and adventures as she adjusts to life in Avonlea, and her later experiences at Queen’s and then Redmond College. Later, I moved on to Anne’s time at Windy Poplars, her newlywed life in the House of Dreams, and adventures with her children at Ingleside.

I also love L.M. Montgomery’s other heroines: Emily Byrd Starr, Sara Stanley (better known as the Story Girl), Jane Stuart (of Lantern Hill). But Anne is and always will be my favorite.

All this to say: I have wanted to visit Prince Edward Island for years.

pei red fields summer

We made the drive in one long day, through Maine and New Brunswick. We reached the Island well after dark, flipping through our printed-from-Google directions, winding our way down well-paved but barely lit back roads. When we finally reached our wee guesthouse on the North Shore, we collapsed into bed, thankful we’d made it.

The next morning, we woke up and headed for Anne’s place.

pei view l.m. montgomery homestead

Our guidebook suggested starting our journey at the L.M. Montgomery Homestead, where a tiny bookstore-cum-exhibit-area stands behind a white picket fence. (The photo above is the view from the bookstore.)

l.m. montgomery homestead cavendish pei

The site is run by descendants of Montgomery’s family, the Macneills, and one of them, David, gave us a brief history lesson before sending us out into the garden.

green gables path pei

A narrow path (red clay, just like the roads Anne loved) winds through the trees, past the stone cellar of the Macneill farmhouse, the old well, a 100-year-old apple tree, and several plaques bearing extracts from Lucy Maud’s journals, about her old home.

The path forks, with one branch leading to the wee Green Gables post office, below. (Lucy Maud’s grandmother was the postmistress, and she used to help sort the mail – which came in handy when she started submitting manuscripts!)

green gables post office cavendish pei

The other trail continues down the hill and across a few fields (and a highway) into what is known as the Haunted Wood.

haunted wood path pei

I enjoyed every step of that walk down twisting paths lined with trees, including the slim white birches Anne loved so well.

birch trees haunted wood green gables pei

There’s an old log bridge over what I am certain is the real Dryad’s Bubble (the spring), and at the end of the path, you look up the hill – and Green Gables is right there.

green gables cavendish pei

We climbed up almost in silence, and I felt positively reverent as I entered the house. There’s no guided tour, though there are guides present to answer questions, and you’re free to wander through both floors.

green gables parlor cavendish pei

I spotted so many details that felt familiar: the black horsehair sofa in the parlor, Matthew’s little room off the kitchen (with his suspenders hanging over a chair), the big, cheery kitchen (with geraniums on the windowsills!).

green gables sewing room cavendish pei

Upstairs is Marilla’s room, a larger sewing room (above), a back room off the hall for a hired hand, and – best of all – Anne’s bedroom, “sacred to the dreams of girlhood.”

anne's bedroom green gables pei

This room, especially, was rendered in loving detail. Anne’s carpetbag, her boots under a chair, the yellow chair by the window, the low white bed – even the hard red velvet pincushion – are all here. And hanging on the closet door is the famous brown gloria dress with puffed sleeves.

katie haunted wood cavendish pei

It was so easy to imagine Anne sitting at that window, elbows propped on the sill and eyes full of dreams, or gathering flowers in the garden, or running down the hill to meet Diana on the log bridge. She seemed so near the whole time we were on the Island, as we drove past furrowed red fields, dark green spruce woods, or rounded a corner to glimpse the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

We loved everything about the Island. But one of the best parts was this green-and-white farmhouse among the trees. It felt at once brand-new and familiar – because, even though I’d never seen it, I’ve been going there for years.

More PEI photos and stories to come.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »