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Posts Tagged ‘L.M. Montgomery’

fall books window mcnally jackson nyc

(Window display at McNally Jackson in NYC)

The Genius of Language: Fifteen Writers Reflect on Their Mother Tongues, ed. Wendy Lesser
A fascinating, varied collection of essays by writers – most of whom write in English – on the (often fraught) relationship between English and their native tongues. Found at McNally Jackson on our NYC trip.

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery
I have read this book so many times, but I always reach for it in the fall. I love Anne’s adventures in Summerside – befriending the proud Pringles, doing a bit of matchmaking, spending many quiet evenings in her wonderful tower room.

Lila, Marilynne Robinson
I adore Gilead and Home, Robinson’s previous two novels. This book views some of the same characters from a different angle, telling the life story of Lila, Reverend John Ames’ wife. Heartbreaking and beautiful, and an unflinching look at Dust Bowl poverty.

Death in Four Courses, Lucy Burdette
Key West food critic Hayley Snow’s second adventure (I recently read book #5) finds her at a food writing seminar where the star speaker turns up dead. Full of backstabbing foodies, yummy meals and quirky characters.

Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil, James Runcie
Newlywed priest Sidney Chambers continues solving crimes in 1960s Cambridge and musing on the universe’s big questions. The cases are slow-paced and never too hard to solve, but still enjoyable.

The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
A gorgeous, sweeping novel telling the life story of Thea Kronborg, a Colorado girl who becomes a famous opera singer. So much here about art and passion, love and striving. And I love Cather’s lyrical prose.

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
I read this book years ago and fell in love with the gorgeous language and unusual storyline. I reread it for book club and found it as beautiful and heartbreaking as ever.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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books travel book house summertown oxford england

(Found at The Book House in Summertown, Oxford)

The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion
This sequel to The Rosie Project (which I loved) finds Don Tillman, ultra-logical genetics researcher, and his wife Rosie living in New York. When Rosie unexpectedly gets pregnant, chaos ensues as Don struggles to figure out how to support her. Hilarious, poignant and moving. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 30).

Emily Climbs, L.M. Montgomery
Emily Byrd Starr goes to high school in Shrewsbury, boarding with sniffy Aunt Ruth and working hard at her craft as a writer. I love watching Emily grow into herself, and I love the camaraderie with her three best friends. (And I wish I had a teacher-critic-friend like Mr. Carpenter.)

Emily’s Quest, L.M. Montgomery
Emily settles down to the serious work of writing – and nearly loses true love not once, but twice. Bittersweet and often solemn, but still lovely and haunting. (And she gets her double happy ending after all.)

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie
A young priest at Grantchester (a village outside Cambridge) finds himself solving various mysteries alongside his police inspector friend. Leisurely, erudite and well plotted. First in a series. Found at Blackwells in Oxford.

Silas Marner, George Eliot
When the titular character, a solitary weaver, is robbed of his hoard of gold, he believes life isn’t worth living – until an abandoned child shows up on his doorstep. A sweet little story (and my first Eliot), but I didn’t love it.

One Evening in Paris, Nicolas Barreau
The owner of a Paris art house cinema falls in love with a mysterious woman – but she disappears after a Hollywood director begins filming his new movie at the cinema. Quirky and sweet, but predictable. Would be better as a movie.

Greenglass House, Kate Milford
Milo Pine is expecting a quiet Christmas at the titular house. But when you live in a smugglers’ hotel, unexpected guests have a habit of turning up. A smart, fun, mysterious middle-grade novel, with a great adventurer’s yarn related to the house. Found at McNally Jackson in NYC.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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bookshop window books charing cross road london
(Books on Charing Cross Road in London)

The Late Scholar, Jill Paton Walsh
I usually don’t like fanfiction. But Walsh’s mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Dorothy Sayers’ erudite pair of detectives, are well done and so fun. I loved this one because they return to Oxford, my beloved city and scene of my favorite Sayers book, Gaudy Night.

At Risk, Stella Rimington
This book introduces Liz Carlyle, MI5 agent, as she and her team attempt to stop a pair of terrorists bent on destruction and revenge. Grim, but compelling. Pretty good plane reading.

A Fatal Waltz, Tasha Alexander
Lady Emily Ashton’s third case finds her trying to exonerate a friend suspected of murder, while struggling not to be jealous of her fiance’s elegant ex-lover, an Austrian countess. An engaging setting (Vienna), though the plot did go on a bit.

The Heart Has Its Reasons, Maria Dueñas
I adored Dueñas’ debut, The Time in Between, but was disappointed by this, her second novel. The characters and plot had potential, but they – and the writing – didn’t grip me. (I wonder if the translation is partly to blame.)

Murder Most Unladylike, Robin Stevens
Two students at Deepdean School for Girls form a Detective Society – but are shocked when they find a real murder to investigate. Fun, witty and well-plotted. Found at Blackwell’s. (To be published in the U.S. as Murder is Bad Manners.)

Isla and the Happily Ever After, Stephanie Perkins
I wanted to love this teenage love story set in Paris, but I found it melodramatic and lacking in substance. (I did enjoy Perkins’ debut, Anna and the French Kiss, several of whose characters reappear here.)

The Laws of Murder, Charles Finch
The eighth Charles Lenox mystery finds Lenox investigating the murder of a friend and colleague, while worrying he’s lost his detective edge. A leisurely, well-plotted mystery and a new stage in Lenox’s career. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 11).

A Bear Called Paddington, Michael Bond
I picked up this old favorite at the Paddington Bear Shop in London, and thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with Paddington. Such fun and funny adventures.

Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery
I’ve made it a fall goal to reread this lovely, haunting series. This first book introduces the cast of characters and starts Emily on the path to becoming a writer. Full of gorgeous descriptions of PEI, old family legends and bits of whimsy and wonder.

Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and its People, 1602-1890, Nathaniel Philbrick
I loved Philbrick’s Bunker Hill and enjoyed this account of Nantucket’s early history, told via mini-biographies of colorful local characters. Occasionally gets bogged down in detail, but mostly quite interesting. Found in Gloucester.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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books by color portsmouth nh

Summer always means digging into dozens of good books. A rainy, lazy 4th of July weekend and a stack of tempting titles mean I’ve been reading even more than usual. Below, the books I’ve tackled so far this month:

Butternut Summer, Mary McNear
A story of summer, first love and second chances in a Minnesota lake town. Heartwarming and pleasant, if predictable. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 12).

Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish, Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax heads to Morocco, posing as the aunt of an unpleasant CIA operative. Things (as always) become complicated and she finds herself fleeing through the desert with unlikely companions. Possibly the best Mrs. P adventure yet. I could NOT put this one down.

Gutenberg’s Apprentice, Alix Christie
Christie’s novel delves into the story of Johann Gutenberg and his secret printing workshop, told through the eyes of his apprentice, Peter Schoeffer. Utterly fascinating. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 23).

The Ides of April, Lindsey Davis
I liked Enemies at Home enough to pick up the first mystery featuring Flavia Albia, a private informer in ancient Rome. Albia’s sharp tongue and the intriguing setting made this a satisfying read, though I figured out the killer before she did.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
My third read of this classic and I found it as powerful as ever. I love the vividly drawn characters, especially Scout and Atticus, and the ending makes me weep. One of the great American novels, wise and engrossing and moving.

The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career, L.M. Montgomery
I bought this slim memoir at the L.M. Montgomery homestead in Cavendish, and loved her account of her childhood and early writing ambitions. Her love for the Island comes through in every line.

The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, Agatha Christie
Miss Marple investigates a death by poisoning at the local grand estate, using her famous blend of gossip and intuition to find the killer. Ingenious and fun – Christie makes perfect summer reading.

Ravenscliffe, Jane Sanderson
This sequel to Netherwood continues the intertwined adventures of working-class folks in a Yorkshire mining town and the local earl’s family. It’s Downton-esque in the complex upstairs-downstairs connections. Not as good as the first one, but compelling.

Kitchen Chinese, Ann Mah
I loved Mah’s memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating, so picked up her novel, which follows Chinese-American Isabelle Lee as she tries to build a life in Beijing. Great food descriptions, but the story is predictable and Isabelle is frustratingly naive and dense. Pass (but pick up Mah’s memoir).

Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief, Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax is summoned to Sicily by an SOS from an old CIA pal. Art forgery, old enemies and Interpol all come into play before a resolution is reached. A little hard to follow, but still fun.

The Prank List, Anna Staniszewski
This sequel to The Dirt Diary finds Rachel Lee determined to help her mom’s cleaning business succeed – even if drastic measures are required. I like Rachel as a narrator, but the “pranks” often cross over into sabotage. So-so.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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pei red fields blue sky

Much of the beauty of the Island is due to the vivid colour contrasts—the rich red of the winding roads, the brilliant emerald of the uplands and meadows, the glowing sapphire of the encircling sea. It is the sea which makes Prince Edward Island in more senses than geographical. You cannot get away from the sea down there. Save for a few places in the interior, it is ever visible somewhere, if only through a tiny gap between distant hills, or a turquoise gleam through the dark boughs of spruce fringing an estuary.

—L.M. Montgomery, The Alpine Path

pei beach

The colors and contrasts Montgomery writes about were everywhere on the Island – from the famous red clay soil to the vivid green of fields and trees, and the lovely blue of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Though our first two days were cloudy, the sun eventually emerged to stunning effect, and we spent much of the second half of our vacation on the beach.

katie cavendish beach pei

The Cavendish shore is a very beautiful one; part of it is rock shore, where the rugged red cliffs rise steeply from the boulder-strewn coves. Part is a long, gleaming sandshore, divided from the fields and ponds behind by a row of rounded sand-dunes, covered by coarse sand-hill grass.

The Alpine Path

pei rock shore cavendish beach

We explored both parts of the Cavendish shore, and found them equally lovely.

jer rocks cavendish beach pei

The rock shore reminded me of Anne’s first meeting with Leslie Moore in Anne’s House of Dreams. And the sandshore – red sand under a stunning blue sky – was just as breathtaking.

red sand beach pei

jer skipping rocks pei beach

sand dunes pei beach

We didn’t go all the way in the water (too cold), but I’m inclined to agree with Montgomery’s assessment: the sandshore is “a peerless spot for bathing.” (And wading, and gathering shells, and reading, and soaking up the sunshine.)

k & j pei beach

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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.

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irises garden cambridge ma

Anne, correcting examination papers in the tower room one mid-June evening, paused to wipe her nose. She had wiped it so often that evening that it was rosy-red and rather painful. The truth was that Anne was the victim of a very severe and very unromantic cold in the head. It would not allow her to enjoy the soft green sky behind the hemlocks of The Evergreens, the silver-white moon hanging over the Storm King, the haunting perfume of the lilacs below her window or the frosty, blue-penciled irises in the vase on her table. It darkened all her past and overshadowed all her future.

“A cold in the head in June is an immoral thing,” she told Dusty Miller, who was meditating on the window-sill. “But in two weeks from today I’ll be in dear Green Gables instead of stewing here over examination papers full of howlers and wiping a worn-out nose. Think of it, Dusty Miller.”

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery

I have felt exactly like Anne this week – with paperwork in lieu of examination papers – as I’ve been in the grip of a decidedly unromantic, un-summery head cold. (Kershoo!) We’ve had gray skies and blustery winds here in Boston, though we were spared the hail that hit West Texas (and filled up my Facebook feed). Despite my cheery Summer Manifesto, I’ve felt as droopy as my balcony garden, which is definitely not getting enough sunshine. (Neither am I.)

However, like Anne, I’ll soon be at Green Gables – or close to it, when we head to Prince Edward Island on vacation later this month. And before then, there’s a bit of sunshine in the forecast, and a few fun social events on the calendar. So things are looking up.

Wishing you a lovely (sneeze-free) weekend, friends. And if you’ve been to PEI, do share your must-see recommendations!

(P.S.: After reading about Anne’s blue-penciled irises, I had to find some of my own. These are from last summer, in the garden next to my office building.)

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