Monday, August 27, 2012

Anne of Green Gables

The title: Anne of Green Gables
The author: L.M. Montgomery
Publication:  LC Page & Company, 1908 (100th anniversary edition: Penguin, 2008)
Got it from:Cavendish, PEI, August 2012

It certainly hadn't been my intention to re-read Anne of Green Gables this year, as it wasn't on my "to-read" list and besides, I read it so many times in childhood.  But I just came back from a holiday on the Island, and we went to the musical and Green Gables, and then I caved in and bought the 100th anniversary edition as I've been meaning to, and there I was reading it again, along with my husband who is also reading it.

I love it, of course.  I don't think I ever will stop loving it.  I first saw the Anne musical when I was seven and read the book then, and I've read it (and its sequels) at several different times during my life.  Each time I read it, I do so from an altered perspective.  The last time I think I read it cover-to-cover was for a children's literature class ten years ago.  

This time when I read it, I laughed a whole lot more.  As a child reading it, I identified so much with Anne and would cringe in sympanthy every time she got into a "scrape."  Now I see the humour much more in the situations and can laugh without feeling the old wince of pity.  The parts I loved the most this time around were Anne's interactions with the people of Avonlea, particularly with her schoolfriends in their various rivalries and friendships.  You can almost hear the townsfolk singing "she's nothing like the rest of us" right out of Beauty and the Beast.  And of course, one can't help feeling wistful for all the nature in the book, especially when one is enduring a hot, dry summer in a particularly ugly part of the country. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Ancient Guide to Modern Life

The title: The Ancient Guide to Modern Life
The author: Natalie Haynes
Publication:  Profile Books, 2012
Got it from: DC, Xmas 2011

I loved this book from comedian Natalie Haynes about the correlations between ancient times and today.  I've been interested in the classical world ever since my university classics courses, but haven't read much about it since.  I usually read things about the 19th century, so this was a nice change of pace.  The book is divided into chapters dealing with aspects of ancient Greek and Roman society (law, politics, entertainment, etc.) and shows the similarities and differences between then and now, with some observations on how we can learn from our predecessors.  For instance, there is a bit about how much more involved the people of ancient Greece were in politics and maintaining their democracy, and how we as a society can learn from their example.  I liked the comparison of ancient entertainment to ours - how we still love stories of dysfunctional families, for example, only instead of Medea we watch The Sopranos.  I highly recommend this funny, thought-provoking title.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beguiling the Beauty

The title: Beguiling the Beauty
The author: Sherry Thomas
Publication:  Berkley, 2012
Got it from: La library

Sherry Thomas is a relatively new author on the scene, but she's been steamrolling her way to the romance hall of fame, being compared to rising superstar Courtney Milan.  When I read the description for this book, I was intrigued to try it out.  Christian, the Duke of Lexington, has been haunted for ten years by the memory of a beautiful woman he once saw.  He has since become a scientist, interested in paleontology and evolutionary theory (it is 1898, so Darwin's theories weren't anywhere near universally accepted).  One fortuitous night, the widow Venetia Easterbrook attends one of his lectures and gets to hear Christian railing against the dangers of a beauty he believes has driven her two husbands to an early grave.  Venetia quickly realizes he is talking about her, and is infuriated - Christian has gotten his "information" from her vicious (now dead) husband.  What she doesn't realize is that she's been haunting Christian's dream for years and he's bitter about being so susceptible to her charms.  Venetia hatches a scheme to get back at Christian by disguising herself as a German countess, seducing him and breaking his heart.

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book at first.  For the first three chapters, a lot of characters were dropped in my lap and I was like, "Wha?  -wha? -wha?"  But then Christian and Venetia got on the transatlantic ship back to England, and things picked up.  The author of course was introducing the other characters to set up the romances for the whole trilogy.  And darn her, she intrigued me to want to read the other two.  Venetia's brother and his estranged wife who is in love with him (does he return her love?) and her sister, who is in love with a married man but pined after by her childhood friend.  Normally those sorts of romances don't interest me but somehow she made me want to read them.  But back to this story - I think Sherry Thomas has some serious writing skills, and I liked the way she kept the suspense going right up until  the bitter end, with no long-winded happily-ever-after (I guess we get to see that in the sequels).  I liked that I didn't find Venetia annoying even though she's one of those beauties who have men falling all over themselves, and I like that both characters are obsessed with fossils.  A most enjoyable read.