March Landscape

It was early spring—probably the ugliest time of the year.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

This quote is wrong. Here’s why:

Wild grasses.

From the same book: No sign of life was visible, save a big black crow winging his solitary way across a leaden field.

The crow wasn’t exactly co-operating with me when I took this.

Remnant from days of autumn.

A lone daffodil.

It’s not often that I argue with LM Montgomery–not on descriptions at least (there’s plenty in her books that I have problems with, mostly concerning abusive and narcissistic caregivers but that’s a topic for another day). But, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Alone But Not Lonely

See this bench in the grove?

I think it would go well with this quote from LM Montgomery book Emily’s Quest.

I was alone but not lonely. I was a queen in halls of fancy. I held a series of conversations with imaginary comrades and thought out so many epigrams that I was agreeably surprised at myself.

Remind you of something? Yes, LMM used this almost exact quote in in Anne of Windy Poplars. Windy Poplars was released in 1936 and Emily’s Quest in 1927, so Emily’s quote came earlier. (Note: Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside were written much later than the rest of Anne books.)

Compare the two books, though. Emily books are much darker than Anne books (there is also altogether more darkness in Montgomery’s work than people realise, but that’s another topic). Windy Poplars covers the three years in Anne’s life when she teaches school at Summerside, while Gilbert is working towards his medical degree. Large chunk of the book is comprised of her letters to Gilbert and that line is from one of them. They are apart for now, but they write to each other and look forward to the time they finally get married and start their life together. So, all is good. Emily’s Quest, on the other hand, is quite a different story. While her friends leave home to pursue their dreams, Emily stays and tries to become a writer. She and her love interest, Teddy, can’t seem to get together because they have communication issues. Emily gets ill, suffers from, what we call now, depression, agrees to marry a man she doesn’t love, and it takes years for her to finally find the happiness she deserves. It’s–bleak. Definitely not one for the children’s books section. Or even Young Adult section. Like one reviewer on Goodreads put it “Montgomery’s work is constantly under-estimated, and the way the books are marketed doesn’t help (the flowery script, the swoony illustrations).” I’ve been saying that for years.

Anne and Emily are both orphans with different journeys, but I think both of them would have loved that little bench under the trees.

So I did find Anne of Green Gables in print… and it’s pink

I’ve never seen Anne of Green Gables series in printed format, she said.

She was looking in the wrong section.

The other day I was in Waterstones, an incredibly wonderful UK bookstore, which also sells stationery and other cool silly stuff. While I was paying at the till, for one reason or another (I don’t know where I get the urge to talk to people these days, I never used to be like that), I asked the checkout guy if they ever had Anne of Green Gables in stock. He searched the database and confirmed they did have it–in the children’s 9-12 years section.

You know how much Anne means to me. So yesterday when I was in Waterstones again, I went to check the said section and indeed, there it was. I picked the hardback, because when it comes to physical books, I prefer them to paperbacks.

This is the treasure.

Actually… a few days before I bought it, I was in Paperchase (a mega cool stationery shop) just browsing around and I saw this same edition. They don’t normally sell books, so I thought it was some hipster thing and didn’t pick it up and open it. So when I saw it at Waterstones, I was like, OMG it’s real!

Can I just say… okay, I know nothing about categorising books, but it doesn’t seem right to me to have the Anne series in the children’s section. Little Women gets to be with the classics, yet has a similar theme. Anne is also far more fun, far less patronising, has better characters and the right people end up coupled at the end; as opposed to wrong people marrying the wrong people in Little Women. Maybe I shouldn’t be bothered about it, because after all, there is nothing wrong with children’s books, but why can’t it be in both sections at once? I spent ages desperately looking for Anne when I came to UK, in libraries and bookshops. When I couldn’t find any LM Montgomery books here, I concluded that she wasn’t as popular here as in Slovakia (where her books certainly aren’t in the children’s section). I know you think I could have just asked the staff in library or a bookshop, but well, I didn’t. I have social anxiety for one and I hate asking for help and then, I used to feel stupid about liking certain things. Like, nobody cared about Anne anymore after they’d finished all the books and I was the only one who did. Also, I could not have been sure what the book was called in English. Green Gables is translated into “green house” in my language. I don’t think we even have a word for “gable”, Anne’s room in east gable is translated as “east attic room”. Different countries, different architecture styles.

For the inside the book shot, I chose this unforgettable chapter, in which Anne and her friends Diana, Jane and Ruby decide to play out Elaine (I believe it’s the poem The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Tennyson) in real life and Anne nearly drowns in a pond. After this, she makes a sensible decision to not be romantic again. “It was probably easy enough in towered Camelot hundreds of years ago, but romance is not appreciated now,” she says to Marilla. This however saddens Matthew and he tells her:

Don’t give up all your romance, Anne. A little of it is a good thing–not too much, of course–but keep a little of it, Anne, keep a little of it.

Dear, dear Matthew Cuthbert. We need more like him.

Anne of Green Gables Photoshoot

If you’ve ever visited my blog, you might have noticed that I’m a fan of Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery. So it only made sense to dedicate a little photoshoot to the red-headed orphan that lived on Prince Edward Island.

I don’t own any of the books in physical format. As I said in my Kindle eBooks post, I have never seen them in print and downloaded them all from Gutenberg. (All of LM Montgomery’s work is in public domain, apart from The Blythes Are Quoted, which was released quite recenly–and which I very much recommend, it will surprise you!)

Well, apart from this very old falling-apart paperback copy that I found in a charity shop.

So for the photoshoot I used the doll of Anne that I got from Etsy and the book Anne of Green Gables Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson.

This book is such a delight! It is sort of a companion to the Anne books with lovely illustrations. It describes things from Anne’s time, such as tea parties, handwork, fashion and gardening, plus the timeline. I found out about the book thanks to Pinterest–someone pinned the cover image from a blog post of a reviewer. (Don’t ever tell me Pinterest isn’t useful.)

It wasn’t until I started thinking about it many years later that I realised what a great heroine Anne is. She constantly works to improve herself, she’s a good student and is always there for her friends. Despite being mistreated as an orphaned child, she remains kind (this she has in common with other popular fictional heroes, Jane Eyre and Harry Potter). She finds joy in everything around her and of course, has that famous unbeatable imagination. And not only does she find love with Marilla and Matthew, they learn from her too.

The adaptation with Megan Follows is a classic, but there is a new series on Netflix that started in 2017. I know not everyone likes that one, because it’s so dark, but in my opinion they got it exactly right. If you think about it, there is a lot of darkness in Montgomery’s work. See this excerpt from Anne of Green Gables Chapter 5Anne’s History, in which Anne narrates to Marilla how she was taken in by Mrs Thomas after the deaths of her parents and later lived with Mrs Hammond:

“Were those women—Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Hammond—good to you?” asked Marilla, looking at Anne out of the corner of her eye.

“O-o-o-h,” faltered Anne. Her sensitive little face suddenly flushed scarlet and embarrassment sat on her brow. “Oh, they meant to be—I know they meant to be just as good and kind as possible. And when people mean to be good to you, you don’t mind very much when they’re not quite—always. They had a good deal to worry them, you know. It’s a very trying to have a drunken husband, you see; and it must be very trying to have twins three times in succession, don’t you think? But I feel sure they meant to be good to me.”

Marilla asked no more questions. Anne gave herself up to a silent rapture over the shore road and Marilla guided the sorrel abstractedly while she pondered deeply. Pity was suddenly stirring in her heart for the child. What a starved, unloved life she had had—a life of drudgery and poverty and neglect; for Marilla was shrewd enough to read between the lines of Anne’s history and divine the truth. No wonder she had been so delighted at the prospect of a real home. It was a pity she had to be sent back. What if she, Marilla, should indulge Matthew’s unaccountable whim and let her stay? He was set on it; and the child seemed a nice, teachable little thing.

In other words, it seems that some kind of child abuse happened. And that is just one example. At the end of Anne of Green Gables, Matthews dies and all their money is lost in a bank crash. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Not to mention people dying from tuberculosis and similar. And not many opportunities for women either.

I read about Lucy Maud’s life and apparently her husband suffered from mental illness and she wasn’t always that well herself. She had a child that was stillborn. I think the showrunners got the look and feel right. And because it’s the current year, they threw in extra LGBT representation and a bit of colour. (Though from what I read, it appears that Prince Edward Island really is that Scottish and that Presbyterian.) Also, the acting is absolute top and the series is worth watching for the scenery alone.

Now, I feel bad for talking about Anne so much when I enjoyed almost everything else LM wrote. Emily of New Moon series is just as good as Anne but my favourite book is The Blue Castle. I wonder if we ever get an adaptation of that one, but I’m not optimistic. It’s a bit like with Arthur Conan Doyle, there has been so many Sherlock Holmeses that people don’t even realise he wrote other books. Sigh

There is something I have to mention when talking about Montgomery’s work, which I think is important. She was, to put it bluntly, kinda racist. There is a short story in Further Chronicles of Avonlea collection titled Tannis of the Flats and it’s awful. Not because of the story–the story is great–but the prejudice, oh dear. It concerns Native Americans and it’s just… bad. That’s all. Yes, I know she lived in a different time and all that, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be acknowledged. So there.

Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.

I Like My Kindle eBooks

I’ve been thinking about doing this post for months. Initially I contemplated giving it some Buzzfeed-style catchy title (17 Ways My Kindle Makes My Life Worth Living) but in the end I opted for simple, what-it-says-on-the-tin title. So here it is.

kindle photoshoot3

I’ve mentioned books on this blog here and there, mostly either LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables or Agatha Christie, or, if it’s a Gloomscapes post, a dystopian novel. This post not strictly about books, though, it’s about their format. The reason? Well, eBooks need some love. I’m fed up with the stupid comments about how eBooks will never be as good as “real books” and how you can’t really get immersed in an eBook, nothing beats the smell of real books, realbooks, reAAAAALBOOKS waah waah waah! So, here I want to list my reasons why I LIKE eBooks.

However, this is not a physical books versus eBooks article. It’s not a war. It’s an eBook appreciation piece—nothing more, nothing less.

Before I start, Disclaimer 1: I’m going to talk about Kindle eBooks, because that is the format I’m familiar with. Most of the main points should apply to other brands, but some of them may not.

Disclaimer 2: I do not work for Amazon and this post is not endorsed by Amazon.

kindle coffee cake

  • eReaders are compact – in a device the size of a paperback, you can store 1000s of books and carry them around with you wherever you go.
  • Speed – eBooks take seconds to download. Now this may sound lazy, I can hear those “instant gratification” comments already. But it’s more than that. People who may not have time to go to bookstores due to work and family commitments, people who live in remote locations with no bookstore in a reasonable distance, people who have disabilities that make going to a bookstore a difficult task.
  • RealBooks look better on the shelf!” they say. I’m sure that’s very nice, but… what if you don’t have a bookshelf? We live in hard times. Not everyone can afford to buy big houses with large rooms where you can dedicate multiple walls to bookshelves. A lot of people rent, a lot of people can only buy small abodes with little to no space for bookshelves. And if you’re still far from being settled down and know you’ll have to move several times, moving physical books just adds to your load.
  • In-built dictionary. May not seem that important, but if you’re not a native English speaker, it sure is useful. Highlight a word and a definition appears. Yes, yes, you can look up the word in a physical dictionary but you don’t always have one by hand. Or you’re reading on your lunch break at work, on a train or bus.

kindle dictionary

  • Free classics/public domain books. Books that are in public domain are available for free in multiple formats. Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson are just few examples. This is fantastic for lovers and students of classic literature, of course, and it also happens to be my favourite point, because this is how I was able to finally access all the LM Montgomery books after I moved to UK. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any of LMM’s books in shops and libraries (I read somewhere that her books, or at least the Anne series, have never been out of print. I’ve never seen them in print!*) I still remember the feeling of absolute joy when I discovered her work on Gutenberg. Through a link on Wikipedia, no less. I downloaded all of them one by one and read them on my laptop, as this was before e-readers became mainstream. I was so, soooo happy to finally read all of LM Montgomery’s books in English! I can’t describe it to you how happy I was. (I soon found out how terribly bad the translations into my language were, but that’s an entirely different topic).
  • Highlights and notes – highlight passages and make notes as you want, without damaging the book. Because Goodreads is owned by Amazon, your Kindle notes and highlights will be saved there, and you can choose to keep them private, or make them public. Here are mine. Also, if you purchase a Kindle book on Amazon, you can highlight and share directly to Twitter.
  • No need for bookmarks. The book stays where you left it. Of course, if you love bookmarks because they are art, that’s great. This is more for those people that always lose them and then have to resort to shoelaces, bus tickets, supermarket receipts and the like.
  • Accessibility. Size of font can be changed, perfect for people with visual impairment. On a different level, e-readers are also very light. I remember someone commenting on a Goodreads post that they appreciated Kindle when they broke both their wrists and books became too heavy to hold.

kindle largefont
Largest possible font

  • Prevent loss of books by backing them in a cloud. Books get lost. You move from home, to a different city, or a different country, can’t take your books with you. You settle in the new city/country, go back home to get your books, but those are nowhere to be found, because your family lost them and didn’t tell you, and instead let you search desperately everywhere from floor to ceiling for them, not helping you search for them, repeating that they have no idea where those books could be, that they were right there last year. Until you realise that the books are gone forever and they won’t be so easy to obtain again because they are out of print. No such problems with eBooks. Even if some wicked person gets hold of your e-reader and deletes every book you have stored on it. I don’t know about other brands but with Amazon Kindle you keep all your purchases in your cloud; if this is not the case with whichever product you’re using, please make sure you back your eBooks up. This goes for all the digital content.
  • eBooks can’t be lent. “Can I borrow that book you talked about?” “No, it’s an eBook.” May sound mean, but come on, how many books have you lent to people, only for them to never be returned to you? Or returned in a terrible shape? EBooks beautifully eradicate that issue. Get your own copy, you thief.
  • Environment. No paper, no cutting of trees.
  • What about libraries? You love libraries, right? Let me tell you that they are not dying, because many of them offer eBook lending too.
  • Not sure if you want the world to know what you’re reading? No worries, nobody can see the cover, nobody will know.
  • Not books, but since we’re talking Kindle, you can get newspaper and magazine subscriptions in this format. And because they’re digital, they won’t clutter your space—and save the trees.
  • Last but not least, if you’re worried about staring at yet another screen, let me reassure you that eReaders don’t strain your eyes. It’s just like reading paper.

kindle photoshoot2

Of course I realise eBooks also have downsides–I’m not an uncritical fanatic. Like, you can’t have a digital book signed by the author, should you ever meet them. And browsing a bookstore is a legitimate way to spend your Saturday. And not all the titles are available in this format, which is unfortunate. I do hope more and more books will be released as eBooks as time goes by. Remember my Isaac Asimov post? Well, his Foundation series, which then was not available in digital form, has since become available in digital form!

kindle asimov foundation

So, what do you think, readers of WordPress and beyond? How do you consume literature? What about Audiobooks–are they your favourite format? Tell me in the comments!

Links:

Gutenberg

Open Culture

100 Legal Sites to Download Literature

Books in this post are: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale (photoshoot with tulips), Agatha Christie’s Autobiography (dictionary shot), LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (large font), Sally Baumont’s Rebecca’s Tale (coffee shop pic) and finally, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.

*To clarify, I found an old copy Anne of Green Gables in a charity shop. It’s a paperback from 1972 and barely holds together, with help of a lot of sellotape. So the point still stands because it’s an old edition, which you can’t find in shops anymore. I bought it after I already had the digital versions from Gutenberg. I’ve never seen any of the other Anne books, or any other LM Montgomery books, in a physical form.

A June Evening

The title of today’s post comes from–guess who–my favourite heroine, Anne Shirley aka Anne of Green Gables. A June Evening is a name of a chapter of the third book, Anne of the Island. Here I give you some of my photographs taken this month:

tallgrass

prickly

roses churchyard

daisies

sun in plants

Anne: “I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”

Marilla: “You’d get tired of it.”

Anne: “I daresay, but just now I feel that it would take me a long time to get tired of it, if it were all as charming as today. Everything loves June.”

~LM Montgomery

I think it’s great that Anne has appreciation for living in a world where there are Junes as well as Octobers!

And how about you, dear reader? Do you also love the month of June and wish it went on for longer? Or do you prefer the cooler months? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Birches in March

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I snapped them during my walk last weekend. Aren’t they gorgeous? March isn’t really the best month to photograph anything in nature but birches look good any time of the year.

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That white birch you caught me kissing is a sister of mine. The only difference is, she’s a tree and I’m a girl, but that’s no real difference.

Anne Shirley, Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery