Thursday, March 15, 2018

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Title: Anne of the Island
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Read by: Alan Munro
Publisher: Trout Lake Media
Length: Approximately 8 hours and 57 minutes
Source: Purchased from Audible

Anne is finally off to college at Redmond.  Together with Gilbert and Charlie Sloane, they represent Avonlea as they work towards their Bachelor of Arts degree.  This book covers the four years of college for Anne and her trials and triumphs.  She also visits home in Avonlea and we get to hear about our other favorite characters from past books.

I thought it interesting that at their second year in college, Anne and friends rent a very nice house together and one of the girl’s aunts comes to be a housekeeper for them.  I thought – wouldn’t it have been great to have a housekeeper while I was in college?  I guess back in those days before vacuum sweepers, washers, dryers, and other modern conveniences, one would need help to get the chores done.

It’s fun listening to this novel in a different time period.  I was horrified by the scene where Anne and friends try to euthanize a stray cat that befriends Anne as they don’t think it will get along with Aunt Jimsie when she comes with her cats to housekeep and be a chaperone.  I was so disturbed listening to this section, I could hardly take it.  But it was common practice at the time.  Let’s just say, it all turns out okay.

I liked that in this novel, Anne learns more about her parents and their story.  Getting to see their home and letters was poignant and bitter sweet.  I wish L.M. Montgomery had written their story as well.  It’s tragic how so many died young back in the old days.  Ruby Gillis has such a fate in this novel with tuberculous. 

This novel was the turning point in the Anne and Gilbert Blythe romance.  I felt so sorry for Gilbert when he proposed and Anne turned him down saying she couldn’t think of him like that.  As her friend Phil said basically – Anne Shirley, you are making a big mistake.  What I love about Gilbert and the romance between him and Anne is that he truly respects her as an intellectual equal and they also share a sense of humor.  It’s a great romance for what you would really like to see in a marriage, and this book is a great look into what people think they want (dark, brooding, romantic heroes) and who the true heroes are.  I loved it.  In this book, it’s Anne’s journey from thinking she wants the storybook hero to recognizing the true hero and what is important in a life partner.

What I love the most about L.M. Montgomery’s books are her great characters.  They are charming and cantankerous, loveable or despicable, they are all unique and often fit the mold of someone that you know.  I love as Anne meets new people and we get to learn their unique stories – tragic or humorous. 

I listened to Anne of the Island on audiobook. I was not a fan of Alan Munro’s narration.  It was very dry.  I usually listen to audiobooks while I am driving and I had to turn this one off and listen to it instead while doing chores around the house as I was afraid I’d fall asleep while driving.  He was very monotone. I thought he was a strange pick for a narrator about a lively young woman.  Anne has such a sparkling personality.  It would have been a better pick to have a female narrator that was a voice actor that could put feeling behind the narration.  I was especially annoyed that Munro did not pronounce Avonlea correctly, and at one point gave Gilbert a western accent. It made me throw my headphones off in anger more than once!

Favorite Quotes: 

"I don't want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.”

“I've loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.”

“I wouldn't want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I'd like it if he could be wicked and wouldn't.”

“I love them, they are so nice and selfish. Dogs are TOO good and unselfish. They make me feel uncomfortable. But cats are gloriously human.”

“When you've learned to laugh at the things that should be laughed at, and not to laugh at those that shouldn't, you've got wisdom and understanding.”

Overall, I wish I could split the stars up on this book. Five stars for the story, it was wonderful reading about Anne reaching adulthood and finding her true love for Gilbert. One star for the narration on the audiobook which was spiritless and dull.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mysterious Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview

What if Pride and Prejudice did not happen the way you remember it? What if Mr. Bingley had not let Netherfield Hall at the exact time he did?  What if three years had passed, with Jane already married when Mr. Bingley and his guests arrived?  What if Mr. Darcy had a mysterious past that has led him into a life as a recluse?  If Meryton does not know him as the wealthy man of his past, how would he be treated?

Mysterious Mr. Darcy is a Pride and Prejudice variation.  It changes items about the original story and goes through what could have happened instead.  I’ve read many of Monica Fairview’s Austen sequels and variations in the past and I really enjoy them.  Fairview knows and loves all of Austen’s characters.  Her stories convey this love and they are written so believably that it is like picking up another work by Jane Austen.  Mysterious Mr. Darcy was no exception.

I had a hard time putting Mysterious Mr. Darcy down once I started reading it.  I LOVED the storyline and wondered, what had Mr. Darcy done to be a recluse trying to hide who he was.  It was an interesting look at if Jane wasn’t around, how would the story have played out?  Would Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth be suited for one another?  I loved that Fairview captured the romance and humor of the characters and brought them forth in the story, but also discussed Elizabeth’s worry about her situation.  In particular after Mr. Bennet has a near death experience, she really has to think about what Mrs. Bennet has been saying all along.  What will happen if Mr. Collins and Charlotte come to take over Longbourn?   

I also enjoyed the fact that Mr. Darcy was a recluse at an estate in Cornwall.  I kept envisioning him at Manderley from Rebecca!  Wrong book and century I know, but hey, Laurence Oliver was both Mr. Darcy and Max de Winter so it sort of works!  The cover is also very beautiful for this book.
I also loved Mr. Bennet in this novel.  Mr. Bennet goes hunting with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley.  He thinks Mr. Darcy is a nobody, but he treats him nicely.  Mr. Darcy respects that and I could see them having a better relationship than in the original novel.

Favorite Quotes:

“This is what Darcy had always liked about Bingley – his willingness to throw himself wholeheartedly into any scheme he had decided on.”

“The trouble was, she wanted more out of marriage than simply convenience.  Something inside her yearned for love.”

“Only now did she realize how close they were to destitution.  Everything depended on her father’s health.  If it gave way, they would be left with nothing.”

“For the first time, Darcy felt there was an advantage to being unknown.  It gave him a clearer idea of who his friends really were.”

Overall, Mysterious Mr. Darcy is my favorite Austen variation yet.  I loved the mystery and romance, but especially the wonderful characters.  The twists to the story were very intriguing.

Book Source:  E-book review copy from author Monica Fairview.  Thank-you!

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I’ve been wanting to read The Handmaid’s Tale for years, but as it is now an excellent show on Hulu and my best friend loaned me her copy, I figured these were the perfect signs that I should pick this for my book club for March.  

I love dystopian future novels and this fits the mold.  What I really liked about it is that it didn’t seem that wildly out there.  Pollution has made fertility rates go down?  Check, that is already happening.  Environmental disasters have made certain parts of the US unlivable?  That has happened to.  The government is overthrown by a conservative religious group that forces woman into subservient roles based on their uses to society?  It hasn’t happened yet, but it eerily feels like it could.  The book seemed like it could happen any day, unfortunately even more now so in our current political climate.

This book provided a lot of discussion at book club and even better, most members actually read it this month! What I thought made the novel was the historical note at the end that discusses that the entire book were tapes that were found a couple hundred years in the future and give slight details to think about what could have happened after Offred is lead away at the end of the book.  I’m usually not a fan of ambiguous ending, but the historical note really made the novel for me.

We also talked about how easy it would be to take away women’s access to their finances and jobs these days, even more so than when the novel was written in the 1980’s.  We also talked about how women were banned from reading and the Bible was locked up.  It’s easy to take things out of context and force it on people when they are not allowed to read and think for themselves.

I thought it was very interesting that the wife in the situation,  Serena Joy,  was a very vocal advocate of conservative values that were adopted by the new regime.  Offred wonders how Serena now feels living by these traditional values and not allowed to go out and live life in the world like she used to.  It’s an interesting thought – telling others to do something and then having to live it yourself are two very different things.

My husband and I started the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale and are about half way through it.  We have limited time watching TV with no kids around so we are very slow at making our way through adult programming.  From what we’ve seen the show follows the book very well and is very well done.  Any show watchers out there?  What are your thoughts?

I also liked the new forward by the author.  It gave great insight into the novel and also how it is still very relevant in today’s society.  

Favorite Quotes:

“The street is almost like a museum, or a street in a model town constructed to show the way people used to live.  As in those pictures, those museums, those model towns, there are now children.”

“If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending.  Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it.  I can pick up where I left off.  It isn’t a story I’m telling.”

“They show us only victories, never defeats.  Who wants bad news?”

“But who can remember pain, once it’s over?”

Overall, The Handmaid’s Tale is a book that I will be thinking about for years to come.  It is a haunting look at a possible future that I hope we never see.  It’s also a great book to use for discussion at a book club.

Book Source:  Borrowed from my best friend Jenn