Not Just Anne of Green Gables: Some L.M. Montgomery Favourites

L.M. Montgomery or Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1952) was a Canadian author, best known for Anne of Green Gables, her 1908 book about a little red-headed orphan girl who arrives by mistake at the home of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, siblings running a farm who had wanted to adopt a boy. But before long, she wins their hearts and stays, and both their and her lives change. But besides Anne of Green Gables and the seven others in that series that appeared after it (some of these are on my list), L.M. Montgomery wrote many more books. As Wikipedia (here) tells us, she wrote a total of 20 full-length novels, 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays–quite a prolific lady. I knew and read the first few Anne books in school but it was only some years ago that a book friend pointed me to her other books, which I ended up reading all of (the novels I mean, not all her others works, yet), and have quite a few favourites among them which I’m sharing in this list.

Most of her books are set in Prince Edward Island, and the Island’s beauty, nature–flowers, fruit trees–and general atmosphere has a magical role in many of the stories. She also explores the themes of young girls making their way in the world, Anne as a teacher (at least initially) and writer, and Emily Byrd Starr as a writer. Here are some of her books, other than Anne of Green Gables, that I really enjoyed (I liked them all by the way–all her books are very readable and enjoyable, only A Tangled Web, which is otherwise a lovely story, was spoiled for me by one little incident she put in there).

Jane of Lantern Hill: This is the story of a young girl Jane Stuart loving with her rather strict (and not very likeable) grandmother who doesn’t not like her, and mother in a dreary home in Toronto. But one summer she learns that she is to visit her father (her parents are separated) who lives on Prince Edward Island. She is naturally reluctant but once she gets there, PEI works its magic, and life as she knows it changes much more than she could have ever imagined.

The Emily Books: Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest form a trilogy of stories about Emily Byrd Starr, an orphan like Anne, but who is sent to live with relatives. We follow her life from that point as she grows up and tries to make a name for herself as a writer, especially living in a home where her writing is not only not encouraged but disapproved of by her aunt. These stories have a lot of Montgomery’s own experiences worked in, which I realised after reading The Alpine Path, where she writes of her career.

The Story Girl and the Golden Road: These are two connected novels tell of Sara Stanley (the ‘story girl’) who is sent to live on Prince Edward Island at a time when some cousins also come to live there while her father is away for work. Here she entertains them by telling them different stories she has heard and collected. Alongside, we also follow their lives on PEI, with its simple pleasures and also learn of what becomes of them when they grow up.

The Blue Castle: This is the story of Valency Stirling, a twenty-nine-year old unmarried woman living with her rather hard mother, her social life confined to her not particularly pleasant relatives, her only consolation being her favourite books and dreams of a Blue Castle where life will be perfect. For rest she must always listen to her fanily’s taunts and remarks and lead a rather dreary existence. But when she hears some shocking news from her doctor, her life changes, and she begins to try and finally ‘live’ finding not only escape and happiness, but also adventure and love. The end of this one was perhaps a tad over the top, and a bit melodramatic, but I love the book for the way she changes and handles her relatives.

Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island: Not strictly Anne of Green Gables, but yes, Anne books, but I couldn’t do without mentioning these in my list. Of the eight Anne books, the first three are my favourites (the last two hardly have Anne in them). In these two which immediately follow the first book, Anne is growing up and begins her career as a teacher, and later heads off to Redmond College. These may not be as funny as the first one, but they are still a great deal of fun with Anne own antics, as well as those of Davy and Dora, twins whom Marilla ends up adopting, and Anne receiving some expected and unexpected marriage proposals.

Montgomery’s other books are worth reading too, and I will do a post on some of the short stories later when I read more of them. But of her novels, these are certainly among my favourites. You can find most of her works in public domain at Project Gutenberg (here) and fadedpage (here)

Have you read any of the ones on my list? Or any not on my list? How did you like them and which are your favourites? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Cover images are as always from Goodreads.

At Bertram’s Hotel: Some Tidbits

Lately, I have been re-reading Agatha Christie mysteries, which are comfortable cosies always fun to come back to when when is not in the mood for anything else. The latest in the list is not a Poirot like the last couple, but Miss Marple, At Bertram’s Hotel, which was a ‘buddy read’ with Rekha from the Book Decoder (here). This book (published in 1965), one of later Marple books, is set in Bertram’s, a hotel in London, which has managed to keep up its Edwardian facade, charm, and service, even many years after the war. Miss Marple is staying there as a treat, as always sent by her nephew Raymond West and his wife Joan (now themselves in their fifties). Almost as soon as she arrives, she begins to see red flags, and things not quite right, while the police (alongside) are investigating a string of daring robberies. When I last read this book (2017, as part of a Miss Marple Challenge on Goodreads), I wrote a full-length review (on Goodreads here), so this time, rather than writing another review (which will sounds pretty much the same), I’m just pointing out a few things that stood out to me on this read, or which I hadn’t picked up in my review last time. (Oh, and these aren’t really connected or in any particular order.)

  • Popular culture: While I’ve noticed references to books in Christie’s works often (like Postern of Fate where she reminisces about a lot of her childhood books, or Cranford mentioned in Bertram’s as well as E.M. Hull’s The Sheik referred to in The Secret of Chimneys), but not much so other elements of popular culture, but this one mentioned a film (which Canon Pennyfather ends up watching), The Walls of Jericho (1948), and also the Beatles (who Colonel Luscombe disapproves of).
  • Food: Usually when I think of food in books, I think of Enid Blyton, but Christie has her fair share too (take a look here), and Bertram’s is one where there is a lot of it, in the first part especially. Part of the hotel’s impeccable service is its food, which includes seed cake and muffins (real ones, not ‘American’ versions), doughnuts oozing real strawberry jam, and breakfast with beautifully poached eggs, creamy milk, and ‘a good sized round of butter’.
  • ‘Air-station’: The word ‘air-station’ when I looked it up now seems to be used in the context of military/naval bases but in this book, it is used interchangeably with ‘air-port’. I haven’t looked it up yet, but it would be interesting to see how the usage changed, or whether both terms were always used simultaneously as in this book.
  • Chesterton’s absent-mindedness: One of the characters in the book is Canon Pennyfather, absent-minded to the point of not knowing where he is or ought to be at any given time; In his context, Christie also brings up Chesterton’s absent-mindedness, which I found on looking up to be true; apparently he did often forget where he was supposed to be and telegraphed his wife to find out where he ought to be (wikipedia here).
  • Age: Something I’ve been noticing in both Poirot and Marple, but largely the latter is how Miss Marple uses her age to her advantage since people don’t think her a threat in any way; in Bertram’s, Chief Inspector Davy too faces some age-related prejudice when his junior Inspector Campbell thinks that he was possibly ‘all right in his day’ (and wonders how he got to the position he is in); in the Chief Inspector’s case, his looks–‘large, heavy, bovine face’ and being as if he was just ‘up from the country’ serve to the astute man’s advantage.
  • Plastic: Or rather the lack thereof–at the hotel, Miss Marple observes approvingly, ‘Not a bit of plastic in the place!’ but this (she knows) is part of the hotel’s attempt to preserve its Edwardian charm; today, of course it is everywhere, and a place with no plastic at all seems like a dream space, far in the future perhaps (and yet, a return to the past).

Re-reading, mysteries and especially Christie (but other books too), gives one an opportunity to pick up so many little things that one didn’t notice on previous reads or noticed but forgot all about. These were a few that I noticed on this visit to Bertram’s!

While this isn’t among my favourite Miss Marple books (favourites here), it was still a fun revisit!

Books, Cats, Puns!

We love books, and so many of us also love cats! And perhaps also combinations of the two–cats in books, or books with cats in the title–like these.

And then there can be puns–book titles to be specific and that’s what this post is about–a light one (once again since I haven’t finished the books I was planning to review this week). Some years ago a friend and I started making up some cat pun book titles–I know there are plenty around and lots of people do them, but I remember we went on back and forth for weeks (most likely on Shelfari), and had pages and pages of them–great fun to come up with, and hard once we ran out of obvious ones. I somehow thought of them again, and while I don’t remember all that we did (nor can I seem to find any of our lists), here are a few that came to mind–mew mew! (These are no particular order, by the way.)

  • Purride and Purrejudice
  • Romeow and Julicat
  • Harry Pawter and the Purrisoner of Ascatban
  • The Great Catsby
  • The Meower of Catterbridge
  • What Catty Did
  • The Little Purrincess
  • The Purrfect Mewder
  • The Three Mewsketeers
  • Purrcy Jackson and the Sea of Mewnsters
  • Purricles
  • Purrsuasion
  • Mewder in Mewsipawtamia
  • Mewtilda
  • The Feline Comewdy
  • Purry Mewson mysteries
  • The Purrisoner of Zenda
  • The Taming of the Mew
  • The Mewnstone
  • Dracmewla

Hope you enjoyed these! And hope everyone is doing as well as can be in lockdown.

All cover images are from Goodreads as always, and the cat from pexels.

Bookquotes: Quotes from Books (68)

Books HD

When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it – or rather, it is like living it. It makes reading so much more exciting, but I don’t suppose many people try to do it.

Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)

Image source: Abhi Sharma from India [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D

#Review: The Book Hunters of Katpadi by Pradeep Sebastian #Books #Booklove

The Book Hunters of Katpadi is a story that takes one into the world of antiquarian books and collecting. Set around a fictional bookstore Biblio in Chennai, supposed to be the country’s first full-fledged antiquarian book store. Run by two bibliophiles, Neela and Kayal, the store specialises in modern Indian first editions, and is in the process of preparing its first catalogue. There are two story threads that we essentially follow in the book, both connected with Biblio. One a librarian from a college has been helping himself to valuable antiquarian editions from the college and replacing them with better looking editions of far lesser value—and doing so not secretly as such, but taking advantage of the fact that no one else knows the true worth of the older books and think the ‘fancier’ editions better. Some of these treasures have found their way to Biblio, and it falls to Neela and Kayal to help restore the college library’s collection. Then we have the second thread which focuses on the adventurer–explorer–translator (among other things) Richard Francis Burton, and a set of book collectors obsessed with material associated with him or that came from his pen. Some exciting pieces of Burtonia have surfaced in the small hill station of Ooty, and Burton collector, Nallathambi Whitehead, one of Biblio’s regular patrons, who can’t travel for health reasons asks Kayal (who is travelling to Ooty to look at some other old books at a school) to look into it. The Burton material she comes across there has the potential to shake up the world of bibliophiles, and especially of Burton collectors completely.

Richard Francis Burton (1864) byRischgitz
via wikimedia commons
Illustration from Burton’s Translation of Vikram and the Vampyre (1870)

This was a really lovely read for me. The book is labelled a Bibliomystery, and while there isn’t much of a mystery, there is a surprise twist at the end which makes the ‘mystery’ part of it good fun. And it is the Burton thread that essentially has this component, the other being focused on how our two bookwomen deal with the little ‘problem’ at the college library.

For the most part, it is really all about the world of books—more so the printed book, printing culture, bibliophiles, collectors, and first or otherwise important editions. The book takes us specifically into the world of book collectors in India, where the pursuit is not as prominent or sizeable as in the West with their being few collectors, and fewer antiquarian booksellers. We also get some background into collecting in the West, major auctions that changed the collecting world, great collectors and such. And we also get a look into specific books, writers, and collectors (largely from India’s colonial past) that were associated in some way or other with the country—either they lived and travelled here for a while or wrote their works here. As a bibliophile (just a hoarder of books though, not a collector), I truly enjoyed reading these segments in which the author’s love for books and enthusiasm are infectious. [Lots of my favourite children’s books/series are also mentioned, Anne of Green Gables, William, and The Three Investigators among them.] Anyone who loves books or collecting would enjoy them equally, I think. The author also goes into aspects of printing, hand presses, paper which make physical books special, in addition to the material that’s in them, which again was something I enjoyed reading.

Another plus of the book for me was that it has illustrations (by Sonali Zohra)!!! Always love those. Plus, the publishers have taken trouble with how the book looks—not only the cover but the little motifs like a little golden key on the cover (under the jacket) and the locked trunk that it opens (unlocking the bibliomystery) on the inner cover page.  

I have seen reviews of the book critiquing it for being more non-fiction than fiction, which is true in a sense as these parts were more prominent than the story/stories, and while the two are related certainly, perhaps it does not read as a work of fiction as a whole—but despite this being the case, I did enjoy reading this very much, and will look out for more by the author. This is incidentally his first novel—earlier works are non-fiction bookish essays.

#Murderous Mondays: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson #BookReview #Mystery

It’s been a while since I did a #MurderousMondays post, but that’s as it’s been a while since I read a murder mystery, surprisingly for me. #MurderousMondays is a feature started by Mackey at Macsbooks, to share her latest murder read. A historical mystery, a contemporary, paranormal, or cosy–there are so many kinds of murder mysteries, and if you’re reading any, you can share them with this feature too!

This is a more contemporary murder mystery compared to ones I usually read, but with a dual time line, one current and one in the 1930s, it was something that I was very interested in picking up. Truly Devious is the first in a trilogy of the same name. In the 1930s, a tycoon named Albert Ellingham sets up the Ellingham Academy in Vermont for gifted students who are free to study subjects/fields that interest them. One day, Ellingham’s wife and three-year-old daughter are kidnapped and never recovered. Alongside, a particularly gifted student has also gone missing. Days before this event, a mysterious riddle/poem arrived, threatening murder, signed by someone called Truly Devious. Eighty years later, in the present day, a young girl called Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Bell arrives at Ellingham, her particular interest—true crime. And part of her aim in coming there is to solve the Ellingham case, which she feels was never really solved. As she gets settled in to life at Ellingham, meeting other students each with their peculiar interests, she also starts to look into the Ellingham case, in which pursuit the faculty and staff are ready to help and encourage. But as she is doing this, there seem to be indications that Truly Devious might strike again—only Stevie isn’t sure whether what she saw real or something she imagined. But the threats become real very soon when death does strike again. But could really it be Truly Devious back from the past?

Wow, I enjoyed this so much for a book which I knew would not have the solution to the mystery—either mystery in fact—that will only happen in book 3. But despite this, the book was so well paced and gripping, it kept me reading throughout. Each of the characters, students or teachers is well drawn out, they each have their quirks and individual personalities all of which stand out in some way or other, and because of which one doesn’t ever end up confusing them even though there are quite a few. This isn’t a book where there are ‘hold-your-breath’ moments throughout as there can be in some stories, yet it holds one’s interest all the time. The story goes back and forth between the events of the 1930s when the Ellingham kidnapping took place, and the investigation that was conducted there (interview transcripts and such) and the present as Stevie is looking into that case, and also of the murderer who strikes in the present.

The book also explores this concept (which I have come across before in the context of learning and problem solving) of that period/mental state between sleep and wakefulness/ between consciousness and unconsciousness when the best/unusual ideas strike one. For Stevie too, certain connections turn up in this state and yet one is never entirely sure whether they are ‘real’ or what her mind has processed when at that point. This part was really interesting for me.   

As far as the mystery itself is concerned, being the first book, it does of course give one the background of what happened but also, Stevie manages to pick up some clues towards the solution of both mysteries, interesting little and not-so-little points which you can see are significant and why so but not perhaps where they will lead or how these will shape up the whole picture. But still one has enough to want to continue on, to see what she will pick up on next, even though the mysteries won’t be solved in that one either. One ‘revelation’ at the end of this one had me thinking of a totally different book, The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery, because it is very like one secret in that book. And speaking of books, this one talks about mystery stories, especially Agatha Christie, also Holmes, as well as poetry so those who enjoy literary references would love that aspect too.

This was an exciting read for me and I really can’t wait to get to the next one. It becomes available in my part of the world around the end of this month, and then it is a wait till next January for the final instalment. But I think it will be worth it!

Stationary Travellers #poetry #Longfellow #books

Source: Pexels

We travel–to explore the world, experience new places, sounds, smells, cultures, to see the wonders this world has to offer. We travel for adventure, for excitement, for fun, even relaxation. Travel means all this and more. It means to get up and get going, but for us as readers, we can ‘travel’ even without that. Through the books on our shelves, we can have almost all the same experiences, see new sights through the authors’ eyes (and in our minds), learn about new cultures (perhaps even more closely and in more detail than in person), visit magical and fantastical places (Narnia or the lands up in the Faraway Tree) that we never can in real life, and have exciting adventures with the characters we are travelling with!

Travelling!
Image source: Pexels

So each time we open a book, we too travel, enter new worlds, real or imaginary. And this we can do from our comfortable reading nooks. This is just the kind of travel that H.W. Longfellow writes about in ‘Travels by the Fireside’.

Image source: Pexels

In it, he writes of rainy days, of ‘ceaseless rain…falling fast‘ which ‘drives [him] in upon himself’–away from the grey, dreary, and wet atmosphere outside to the cosy comfort of ‘fireside gleams‘, and more importantly, to the ‘pleasant books that crowd [his] shelf; And still more pleasant dreams.’

Image source: Pexels

That is certainly where a cold rainy day or dreary winter evening drives us readers, with a favourite book, sipping some hot coffee/tea, losing ourselves in the worlds that they open up for us! Longfellow reads too of tales sung by bards, ‘of lands beyond the sea‘, and these songs, as he is writing in his later years, bring back to him memories of his youth, when perhaps he went on adventures of his own, the tales he reads of making him relive his own memories. [The songs of the bards and journeys on ‘sea and land’ that he refers to incidentally made me think very much of Odysseus’ adventures, though Longfellow wasn’t really speaking of any specific stories.]

Roman Mossaic depicting Odysseus
Source: Giorcesderivative work: Habib M’henni [Public domain]

His travels through ‘others eyes’ are far more comfortable than real-life adventures for he no longer fears ‘the dust and the heat‘, or ‘feel[s] fatigue‘, nor does he need to ‘toil through various climes‘. He ‘journey[s] with another’s feet‘, and ‘turn[s] the world around in [his] hand‘, through these songs of the bards as he travels over ‘many a lengthening league‘ and ‘learn[s] whatever lies; Beneath each changing zone‘. In fact, he sees ‘when looking with their eyes; better than with [his] own.’

Do you like travelling? Actual travels or do you prefer to like Longfellow (and me 😛 ) travel comfortably in your armchairs? Have you read this poem before? How did you like it?

Find the full poem here.