08 November 2007

October Book Report

Alas, no knitting in October. But lots of reading!

Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery. These were the first two titles in the Anne of Green Gables Knit and Read Along. I actually read the first one right at the beginning of October, and the second one towards the end of the month. I never read the Anne books as a child, and didn't really know anything about them until a few years back when PBS showed a dramatization, which I just loved. Reading the books was a treat, because I had forgotten how enjoyable the whole story was, and the books of course also provided more in the way of characters, story, Anne's adventures, etc.

Anne Shirley is an orphan adopted by a middle-aged brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. They think they are getting a boy, to help on their farm. The first book covers Anne's arrival, and her efforts to stay at Green Gables (the Cuthbert home), make friends, and have "adventures," most of which get her into all sorts of trouble. She is a dreamy, imaginative, sensitive child, and although you completely understand Marilla's frustration with her, you can't not like Anne. The second book starts with Anne having finished school, and teacher's training, and having her first job as a teacher at the Avonlea school, where she went to school, and where some of her old schoolmates are in her class. Though she is older, she is still very much the same, and it's interesting to see how she changes into a young adult by the end of the book, while still being unmistakably Anne. I can't wait to get to the third book!

Next, was The Impersonators, by Jessica Anderson. This book won the 1980 Miles Franklin Literary Award in Australia, and was part of my reading list for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. Sylvia, a woman who is Australian by birth, but a citizen of the world as far as she is concerned, comes home to Australia after approximately fifteen years to visit her siblings, and her parents, who divorced when she was a child (both since remarried to other people with children of their own). Though she doesn't find out until she arrives, her father is close to death, and her stepsiblings assume she has come home to make a grand effort to impress everyone.

The book takes a look at each character's viewpoint of both Sylvia and the various other family members - how they feel about one another, what is going on in each person's life at the moment, and Sylvia's growing relationship with one of her stepbrothers. As the only daughter of her father, she is somewhat the favorite, and when he dies she inherits his money. Needless to say, this makes for interesting reactions from others, and Sylvia finds herself deciding whether or not she wants to stay in Australia and begin a life there, instead of returning to a new life she had planned in England.

I enjoyed this book, the characters were well-drawn, and the story did not take the path I was expecting. Though there was plenty of conflict between the two families, they also gave the impression of people who realize that for better or for worse, they are somehow tied together, and they try to make the best of it. Some of the dialogue between Sylvia and her mother was really funny, as her mother tried to pump her for information on her stepmother, the same thing she had done when Sylvia was a child. I will admit that I didn't really become very fond of anyone in the book, but they were all interesting people to spend time with, and get to know.

Finally, Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. I read this as part of the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, which was a good excuse to read it, as I had wanted to since it had been published. The book takes place in World War II, as the Germans are occupying France. The book is written in two parts (it was originally planned as three parts), and the story is told from the viewpoints of different characters, some from Paris, some from the countryside, and all from different economic levels in French society at the time. There are a couple of times when one or two of the characters or families cross paths with others, but for the most part, each story is its own.

This book was really evocative of place and time, as far as I'm concerned. The chapters about families preparing to leave Paris at a moment's notice before the Germans arrived, or the people in the country hiding their treasures so the Germans won't find them, were written in a way that made you feel as if you were there, trying to think of what you needed to take, when you didn't have a lot of time to decide, or know if you would ever return. The characters were interesting, and Nemirovsky managed to paint many of the German soldiers who interacted with the French characters as human beings with feelings, hopes, and human desires.

I found the book to be poignant, even more so when I read the afterword, which included her notes for the trilogy, and information about what happened to her and her family. As mentioned earlier, she had planned three parts, but only two were written, and what is published is the draft she left behind. Nemirovsky was born in Russia, and though her family was originally Jewish, they had converted to Roman Catholicism and moved to France. Though she never became a citizen of France, she considered it her home, and had a successful career writing for several French newspapers through the years. At the time the Nazis were rounding up Jews, they arrested her and sent her briefly to a work camp, and very shortly thereafter to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chamber. Her husband, left with their two young daughters, had no idea where she was, or what had happened, for quite a while. He was eventually arrested and immediately sent to the gas chamber, while the two girls were raised by friends of the couple. Though both girls survived into adulthood, only one lived long enough to see her mother's final work published.

I enjoyed each of these books, and they were all different enough to make for an interesting month of reading. I would recommend them all, albeit for different reasons. But I felt that each one was well worth my time and attention.


Carol said...

Okay, first of all, go to

then I can say that I had a very similar experience with Anne of Green Gables. A friend in law school insisted I read it and I can't believe I never read it as a child! I went on to read all of the ones in the series. I really liked the PBS series, and recently I was watching some lame TV show when I realized that the reason that a minor character looked so familiar was that it was the girl/woman who played Anne!

teabird said...

I'm in the middle of Anne of Avonlea, and enjoying every word. Thanks for posting the reviews of the other two books - both will now be on my to-read list.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Wow - what great book reports! A+++ You can tell you really connected with these books. I've ordered Belinda for the KTC December book. I'm kinda a slow reader, though, and have no idea how I'll finish the book and knit something ispired by month-end!

Anonymous said...

I never have read the Anne of Avonlea books but I'll have to pick them up.

The Impersonators & Suite Francaise both sound good! [putting them on hold at the library].