Posts Tagged ‘Anne of Green Gables’

Thoughts Upon Reaching the Raspberry Cordial Scene in Episode Five of Netflix’s Anne With an E

May 28, 2017 @ 5:09 pm | Filed under: Books, Television

WARNING: THIS POST IS NOTHING BUT SPOILERS. 

Okay, I tried. Give it a chance, I told myself. There’s merit in the idea of putting Anne’s brutal backstory onstage and taking an honest look at the grim reality of the late 19th-century orphan’s plight. And some minor plot adjustments are to be expected with any book-to-screen adaptation.
 
So I hung in there when Marilla sends her back to the orphanage over the lost brooch (!!) and when Matthew gallops off to retrieve Anne, incurring a head injury along the way. I hung in when Anne rejects him in the train station, until he refers to her as his daughter. (!!!) I hung in there when Matthew and Marilla decide to show Anne they really do want to keep her by changing her name to Cuthbert. (!!!!)
 
Major plot alteration after major plot alteration, I hung in there. Ruby Gillis’s house catches fire and Anne rushes in to shut doors and windows, retarding the blaze but nearly dying of smoke inhalation–what?? Marilla gets invited and subsequently disinvited to join an organization of Avonlea mothers interested in progressive education for girls…okayyyy. Montgomery addressed that topic quite deftly with Miss Stacy (who hasn’t appeared in Anne With an E yet), but I can roll with it, even if it’s significantly ahistorical for these Avonlea mums. Anne is outright snotty to Jerry the hired boy (who has an interestingly large role in this adapation). Anne and Diana see Mr. Phillips touching Prissy Andrews’s hand and Anne informs the girls this means they are making a baby. Um what?
 
I even rolled with Anne smashing the slate in Gilbert’s face—a seemingly minor change but one that indicates a major shift in the direction the series has gone with her character. Amybeth McNulty has gotten high marks for her portrayal of Anne, and I agree she’s spot on in some respects—the delight she takes in delivering her grandiloquent speeches; the raw emotion on her face when she’s feeling rejected, which is about 80% of the time—but she tends to take Anne’s passionate outbursts into vicious, tantrumy territory. And the show keeps a tight focus on the drama, failing to present the small, funny moments that show us why the Cuthberts fall in love with Anne so quickly–even Marilla.
 
And here I am halfway through episode five and I’ve had just about all I can take. Anne has spent most of this episode snarling and sniping at Marilla like she’s channeling Nellie Oleson. She’s been prone to a sassy tone throughout the series, but the ramping up to eleven in this episode is due to Anne getting her period. Which: le sigh. Marilla, appeasing her, says Anne may invite Diana to tea. Anne displays about five seconds of almost-Anneish joy before diving into a shrewish harangue, insisting that she MUST have puffed sleeves for this occasion. She’s pretty nasty about it. “Matthew, tell her!” she demands, throwing in an exasperated “ARRRRGH” for good measure.
 
And now we’re at the raspberry cordial episode, and Anne. is. drinking. it. too. They’re both getting wasted. I heaved my own Anne-Cuthbert-Nellie-Oleson ARRRGH at the screen and closed the tab. 
 
Through the first three episodes I kept asking myself how I’d evaluate this show if it weren’t an adaptation of my lifelong favorite book–if, say, this was an entirely new work of fiction. I think I’d be interested–the scenery is gorgeous, and Matthew and Marilla are terrific–but by now I’d be ready for someone to give Anne the old Plum Creek leech treatment. Or maybe we could call in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for the Puffed Sleeve Tantrum Cure.

“Sometimes I think p’raps I’m a bird”: Naturalists in Literature

March 7, 2010 @ 4:43 pm | Filed under: Books, Nature Study

“Charles could entertain himself for hours just by thinking, or by observing birds, or watching sticks and leaves float down a stream. He made notes as he watched the birds, writing down what they did, how they behaved. And like many young boys, he was a collector. He collected shells, seals, coins, and minerals. He studied them and organized them in kind—in the tradition of natural historians.”

—from Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

This passage about the young Charles Darwin made me think at once of Callie Vee, the spunky young naturalist who won our hearts in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. And that got me thinking in turn about other literary naturalists we love. The impetuous, angry-eyed Dan comes to mind, Jo’s “firebrand” from Little Men. And of course there is Dickon from The Secret Garden: an unschooled naturalist to be sure, a student of nature by way of being a friend to every growing thing. Who else? I know I’m forgetting some favorites.

Sam from My Side of the Mountain? He’s more a survivalist than a naturalist, though certainly a student of nature. Anne Shirley’s beloved teacher, Miss Stacy, gets her pupils out collecting samples for nature study—Miss Stacy has long struck me as a sort of Charlotte Mason-style educator. The timing would be about right, but I have no idea whether Miss Mason’s principles traveled across the Atlantic to eastern Canada.

I thought it might be fun to collect some quotes about these literary naturalists; I’ll start off with a few below and if you have suggestions, please chime in!

Here’s Miss Calpurnia Tate, discovering the joys of recording nature observations in her Notebook-with-a-capital-N:

Before I went to bed that night, I took a can full of oats from the stable and dribbled them along the drive. I wrote in the Notebook, How many cardinals will we have next year, with not enough to eat? Remember to count.

I next wrote in my Notebook that we had two different kinds of grasshoppers that summer. We had the usual quick little emerald ones decorated all over with black speckles. And then there were huge bright yellow ones, twice as big, and torpid, so waxy and fat that they bowed down the grasses when they landed. I had never seen these before. I polled everyone in the house (except Grandfather) to find out where these odd yellow specimens had come from, but nobody could tell me.

(Callie’s quest to find out becomes the catalyst of a real relationship with her grandfather, himself an ardent naturalist, who has heretofore been only an intimidating and distant presence in her life. When no one else in her family has insight—nor interest, for that matter—in the grasshopper mystery, young Calpurnia gathers her courage and approaches the “dragon” in his den—er, laboratory. He dismisses her with a directive to figure it out herself, and when she does, all by herself, Grandfather emerges from his busy thoughts enough to take a fresh look at this girl-child he’d scarcely noticed until now—”as if I were a new species he’d never seen before.” From that point on, life will never be the same for Callie Vee.)

Now here’s Anne, infected by Miss Stacy’s enthusiasm for nature study:

“Mrs. Lynde says it made her blood run cold to see the boys climbing to the very tops of those big trees on Bell’s hill after crows’ nests last Friday,” said Marilla. “I wonder at Miss Stacy for encouraging it.”

“But we wanted a crow’s nest for nature study,” explained Anne. “That was on our field afternoon. Field afternoons are splendid, Marilla. And Miss Stacy explains everything so beautifully. We have to write compositions on our field afternoons and I write the best ones.”

—from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

And here’s Dan, opening up to Mrs. Jo about his interest in the wild world:

“Where did you learn so much about these things?”

“I always liked ’em, but didn’t know much till Mr. Hyde told me.”

“Who was Mr. Hyde?”

“Oh, he was a man who lived round in the woods studying these things I don’t know what you call him and wrote about frogs, and fishes, and so on. He stayed at Page’s, and used to want me to go and help him, and it was great fun, ’cause he told me ever so much, and was uncommon jolly and wise. Hope I’ll see him again sometime.”

“I hope you will,” said Mrs. Jo, for Dan’s face had brightened up, and he was so interested in the matter that he forgot his usual taciturnity.

“Why, he could make birds come to him, and rabbits and squirrels didn’t mind him any more than if he was a tree. Did you ever tickle a lizard with a straw?” asked Dan, eagerly.

“No, but I should like to try it.”

“Well, I’ve done it, and it’s so funny to see ’em turn over and stretch out, they like it so much. Mr. Hyde used to do it; and he’d make snakes listen to him while he whistled, and he knew just when certain flowers would blow, and bees wouldn’t sting him, and he’d tell the wonderfullest things about fish and flies, and the Indians and the rocks.”

—from Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

Here’s Mary Lennox meeting Dickon for the first time:

The robin listened a few seconds, intently, and then answered quite as if he were replying to a question.

“Aye, he’s a friend o’ yours,” chuckled Dickon.

“Do you think he is?” cried Mary eagerly. She did so want to know. “Do you think he really likes me?”

“He wouldn’t come near thee if he didn’t,” answered Dickon. “Birds is rare choosers an’ a robin can flout a body worse than a man. See, he’s making up to thee now. ‘Cannot tha’ see a chap?’ he’s sayin’.”

And it really seemed as if it must be true. He so sidled and twittered and tilted as he hopped on his bush.

“Do you understand everything birds say?” said Mary.

Dickon’s grin spread until he seemed all wide, red, curving mouth, and he rubbed his rough head.

“I think I do, and they think I do,” he said. “I’ve lived on th’ moor with ’em so long. I’ve watched ’em break shell an’ come out an’ fledge an’ learn to fly an’ begin to sing, till I think I’m one of ’em. Sometimes I think p’raps I’m a bird, or a fox, or a rabbit, or a squirrel, or even a beetle, an’ I don’t know it.”

—from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Whom else shall we include?

Related posts:
“Some breezy open wherein it seemeth always afternoon”
“A little egg lay on a leaf”
“At first I could only hear people sounds…”

Jane of Lantern Hill

August 25, 2009 @ 2:13 pm | Filed under: Books

“Jane, it’s the wreck of a fine man that you see before you,” he said hollowly.

“Dad . . . what is the matter?”

“Matter, says she, with not a quiver in her voice. You don’t know…I hope you never will know… what it is like to look casually out of a kitchen window, where you are discussing the shamefully low price of eggs with Mrs Davy Gardiner, and see your daughter…your only daughter …stepping high, wide and handsome through the landscape with a lion.”

Remember when you first realized the author of Anne of Green Gables had written a ton of other books besides the ones about Anne?

Maybe you found the Emily series next. Perhaps at times you harbored the heretical thought that Emily of New Moon was even better than Anne of Green Gables. You always changed your mind and gave the crown back to Anne because, well, there was something a wee bit prickly about Emily; she was terribly interesting, and you certainly admired her fire and her talent, but she wasn’t exactly bosom friend material. She seemed…hmm…a little cliqueish, perhaps, in her way; she wasn’t always out looking for kindred spirits like Anne. Indeed, she had enough difficulty managing the friends she already had. Emily didn’t need you: she had Ilse and Teddy and her art. Not to mention all that nonsense with Dean Priest, who, let’s be honest, kind of creeped you out from the start. And you knew it would be no use trying to warn Emily; that would just have put her back up.

Still, you were so glad you met her.

Perhaps it ended there, with Emily and Anne. Or maybe, just maybe, you were lucky enough to discover the others, the Pat books, the Story Girl duo, the one-offs, the story collections…and if you were very lucky indeed, maybe one day you met Jane of Lantern Hill.

jane_of_lantern_hillOh, Jane, that practical, capable, matter-of-fact miss. At first it is easy to underestimate her: she seems to lack the spunk and impulsiveness that make Anne and Emily so entertaining. Anne has barely arrived at Green Gables when she’s blowing up at Mrs. Lynde; and Emily, my goodness, the way she bursts out from under the table quivering with rage at all the aunts and uncles criticizing her father after his funeral: could you help but applaud? But Jane seems so quiet, so put-upon, so cowed by her horrible grandmother. Sure, you can see she’s seething inside, but isn’t that the point? Anne and Emily don’t seethe: they erupt. You keep waiting for Jane to erupt, practically begging her to.

But Jane’s not the erupting type, and what makes her story so satisfying is that she isn’t a prodigy—not of feistiness, nor imagination, nor talent. She’s an average Jane: which means that if Jane can fix up the mess that is her life, anyone can.

When we meet Jane, she and her mother are living with the aforementioned horrible grandmother. At first Jane’s mom seems like a Mrs. Lennox type a la Secret Garden, and you’re half-expecting typhoid to kill her off. But no, there she is fluttering in for a goodnight kiss on her way to a party, and the tear in her eye belies her lighthearted manner. Mummy’s in pain, Jane knows, and she needn’t look farther than Grandmother’s scowl to see why.

Jane’s mother’s family is Old Money, though the neighborhood is decaying around the family mansion. Jane’s cousins got all the talent, brains, and looks, it seems (Jane’s relatives are somewhat hard to distinguish from the obnoxious family of another meek-but-seething Montgomery heroine, Valancy Stirling of The Blue Castle)—but anyone with sense can see that cousin Phyllis and the rest of them are snooty, unimaginative bores, and Jane’s the only one with any salt to her. She’s warmhearted enough to care about the plight of the orphan next door, and she’s alert enough to be interested in the bustle of the servants, particularly the kitchen staff. Mostly Jane longs for something to do, something or someone to take care of. This desire to be active, not passive, is at the heart of Jane’s story. As a small child she entertains herself by imagining “moon sprees,” flights of fancy involving a host of imaginary chums who help her polish the dull and tarnished moon into a gleaming silver orb. This rather quirky fantasy (the quirkiest thing about Jane, really) is an expression of her longing for warm camaraderie, a happy family circle, a cozy hearth, and some soul-satisfying work to do. In her mind all these things are wrapped up together: Jane longs for the warmth and liveliness of a loving family, and she wants to be one of the people involved in the domestic bustle that creates a cozy and welcoming home. Her grandmother’s mansion is as cold and sterile as the dark side of the moon—the place to which her imaginary creatures must go when they are sulky or lazy, and from which they return “chilled to the bone,” eager to warm themselves up with extra-vigorous polishing.

Until age ten, these imaginary moon sprees are Jane’s only outlet for the urge to do, to work, to transform what is cold and lifeless to something warm and bright. Her tyrannical, hypercritical grandmother makes all decisions having to do with Jane and her mother. The mother is like a butterfly trapped in a cage, miserable, helpless. Jane’s father is absent: she has been led to believe he is dead. Then one day a rather nasty schoolmate discloses a disgraceful secret: Jane’s father isn’t dead; he’s alive and well and living on Prince Edward Island. Her mother, claims nasty Agnes, left him when Jane was three years old.

“Aunt Dora said she would likely have divorced him, only divorces are awful hard to get in Canada, and anyhow all the Kennedys think divorce is a dreadful thing.”

Jane is appalled by this knowledge, but it galvanizes rather than paralyzes her. The passive child becomes a girl of action. Her first action is to demand truth—she marches into a tea party and asks the question point blank: “Is my father alive?” Her mother answers simply “yes,” and this truth sets Jane—gradually and eventually, and not without some pain—free. (more…)

All About Anne (Sorry, Jane)

August 20, 2009 @ 6:36 pm | Filed under: Books

I discovered L. M. Montgomery around the age of eleven while visiting my cousins in South Georgia. I still remember kneeling on the floor before a shelf full of books belonging to my much-admired cousin Carla, four years my senior. Aunt Ann said these were books Carla had outgrown and I could have any of them I liked for keeps, and only now does it occur to me that I might have skipped back to Colorado with one of Carla’s treasures in my suitcase—because who ever outgrows Anne of Green Gables? Oh, Carla, I’m so sorry: I owe you a copy!

(But not that copy: I still have it, but it lost its cover about a decade ago. It was the only cover that ever got Anne exactly right. I have searched for the image on Google, to no avail.)

That book, Carla’s book, was the beginning of something big for me. It’s like this: at eleven years old, a girl is like a loom loosely threaded with a pliable warp, waiting for the weft of life to come along and transform those rows of hanging, separate threads into one whole unified and unique piece of fabric. Anne Shirley was a shuttle full of the most wonderful thread, luminous yet strong, resiliant, durable; and she darted back and forth across the warp like something dancing. I read the first three chapters of the book kneeling there before the little cabinet in the quiet, elegant room just off my aunt and uncle’s kitchen, and when I got up, tucking the book under my arm, a few inches of the fabric of my life had been woven, just like that.

Anne spoke of kindred spirits and I understood her at once, and saw quite clearly that she and I were kindred spirits, for all she was a fictional character. And of course that is how every girl who loves those books feels about Anne. We relate to this complicated girl full of quirks that aren’t really quirks at all, because we have them ourselves: her struggle to express big ideas in words that were never quite big enough to hold them despite their numerous syllables; her propensity for making stupid mistakes; her yearning to love and be loved; her attachment to place and her obsession with naming things, especially places, but trees and lakes and houseplants as well; her fierce loyalty, particularly to her own visions—a sometimes dreadful loyalty, clung to past reason, as when she coldly snubs Gilbert Blythe after he rescues her from drowning.

Well, there she was, my bosom friend, Anne Shirley, and when I returned home, I rode my bike all over our corner of Aurora, Colorado, hunting for more Anne stories in the various branches of our public library system. (Oh, those heady days when kids could ride their bikes all over town without even the safety net of a cell phone—or a bike helmet, for that matter. Mom, Dad, how did you manage it without going crazy?) It took me years to track down the entire Anne Shirley series. I was a graduate student before I found Rilla of Ingleside, which may be my favorite Anne book save only Green Gables itself. No, wait, House of Dreams is my favorite. I remember reading The Road to Yesterday long before I located Anne of Ingleside or Rainbow Valley—I think it’s Road to Yesterday, and not one of the Chronicles of Avonlea collections, that contains the short story about the twins whose widowed mother a grown-up-and-happily-married-yet-still-irrepressibly-matchmaking Anne helps reunite with the beau she parted from in anger long before falling in love with the twins’ father. I loved that story not only because it was satisfyingly romantic, but because it gave me a glimpse of Mrs. Blythe, wife and mother but still my Anne. Actually she was much more my Anne than the anxious, fretful creature who appears for a few chapters in Ingleside, convinced beyond reason that Gilbert has a thing for a girl he knew in college. Seriously, Anne? Or rather, Lucy Maud. Surely you weren’t so hard up for plot twists that you had to take an otherwise delightful book in that out-of-character direction. Insecurity was never Anne’s problem.

But I digress. I didn’t come here to talk about Anne at all, believe it or not. It was Jane I was thinking of, Jane of Lantern Hill—the character who gave my oldest daughter her name as an alias when I started this blog four and a half years ago. And now I’ve gone on about Anne so long that Jane will have to wait until tomorrow. To be continued?

Née Draft #240

August 19, 2009 @ 8:03 pm | Filed under: Books

So I was all set to write a post about Jane of Lantern Hill, something I’ve been meaning to do for, oh, years; but I’m 700 words in and still haven’t gotten past Anne of Green Gables. Hmm. This could take a while. There comes a point when you realize you’ve swum out farther than you meant and either you have to turn around and head back to shore, or keep on going across the whole ocean. I have an ocean of things to say about L.M. Montgomery’s books, and I never get around to saying them. During grad school I went on a quest to acquire every single Montgomery novel or story collection in print. Did it, too, which is why I had to live on ramen noodles for two years. She is part of a small cadre of authors whose bodies of work I reread every two or three years: Alcott, Lovelace, L’Engle, Montgomery. Those are my big four. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone important. Not Austen; I don’t reread her all at once: with her it’s a book or two spread out through the year. I do return to Burnett almost every year, but only The Secret Garden. Tolkien is a twice-a-decade-or-thereabouts treat; ditto Lewis. Dickens, maybe one book a year, but it takes a month.

Anyway. The Montgomery epic post is in drafts now, along with 238 other unfinished pieces. Yes, really. I have 239 posts in drafts. Jiminy crickets. That’s a post a day for eight months, if I were to finish them. I wonder what they all are. I’m scrolling down the list and I see most of them are called No Title, because I usually think of titles last. There’s one called: Fewer Dishes, —the comma is part of the title, but there’s nothing after it. Where was I going with that? Fewer Dishes, More what? Pints of Ice Cream?

This post, too, is a No Title post so far. Also, apparently, a No Subject post. And a No Point post. I can probably safely promise No Conclusion as well. I have No Idea where I’m going with this.

I also have No Idea which book I’m going to read next. Yes, that again. Scott finds me staring at a stack of books as tall as our three-year-old, and I wail: “They all look so good. I don’t know what to do.”

“Here’s an idea,” he deadpans. “Open one up and start reading.”

Easy for him to say. I do this dance: I should read the library books first; they’ll be due soon. No, wait. I should read review copies first, because they were sent to me and it seems considerate to tackle them in a timely manner. No, wait! I should start with the books that have been waiting the longest. Like The Diamond Age: how embarrassing; I bought it right after Comic-Con 2008 and fully intended to read it immediately, and then Comic-Con 2009 rolled around and there it was still in the pile. I actually liberated it from the pile this week, put it in my bag on our way to the YMCA, intending to read it during Rose’s gymnastics class—but get this: I rode the exercise bike instead. Instead of reading! What’s happening to me?

Diamond Age is still in my bag, dusty with cracker crumbs.

I’m actually kind of in the mood to reread Jane of Lantern Hill.

Then maybe I could finally finish that post, aka Draft #239.

Hey, anybody else read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate yet? Man, I really need a book club.