‘Do things ever give you a thrill?’

I am so not a literary fiction aficionado.  I wish I was, but as I finished the latest, which was an excellent book, I realised that I prefer the simple book – the book that leads me on a path of happiness and delight and that I can put down at night realising I am contented and calm.

That’s what happened last night.  Finished the Lit. Fict., couldn’t get to sleep, went to the bookshelves and idly picked up an LM. Montgomery . . . one of the Anne books.

I was transported.

I discovered the Anne books when Anne of Green Gables came to our TV screens many years ago.  Megan Followes and Prince Edward Island captured my heart.

This far on though, I wonder what it is about Montgomery’s books that I love so much.

Without doubt, the first words in any of the books create a clear visual image in my mind.  No doubt that’s helped by the beautiful cinematography of the Anne TV series, but it doesn’t matter, either way the picture is superb.  Montgomery’s skill at evoking a setting is simple and uncluttered.  Anne’s story too is simple: the journey through life of the red-haired, fiery tempered orphan.  And to me, what makes it so pleasing is that Anne rarely ever ceases to look at life as anything other than a glass half-full.

Montgomery has a way of capturing dialogue as well.  It perfectly encapsulates her characters.

‘Well now, you must mean the Avenue,’ said Matthew after a few moments’ profound refelction.  ‘it is a kind of pretty place.’

‘Pretty?  Oh pretty doesn’t seem the right word to use.  Nor beautiful either.  They don’t go far enough.  Oh, it was wonderful . . . wonderful.  It’s the first thing I saw that couldn’t be improved upon by imagination.  It just satisfied me here,’ she put one hand on her breast, ‘it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache.  Did you ever have an ache like that, Mr.Cuthbert?’

‘Well now, I just can’t recollect that I ever had.’

And of course we know that Matthew is quiet, sensitive and retiring and that Anne is just one pre-teen bundle of indefatigable joy.

Further on :

Well they didn’t pick you for your looks, that’s for sure and certain,’ was Mrs.Rachel Lynde’s emphatic comment . . . ‘She’s terrible skinny and homely, Marilla.  Come here, child and lets have a look at you. Lawful heart, did anyone ever see such freckles?  And hair as red as carrots!’

And for all of us, Rachel Lynde remains emphatic and brusque just by the use of Montgomery’s easy dialogue.  And Anne’s red hair becomes the foundation for a series long love-story.

Everything about these books is easy and uncontrived and it’s what makes them such a pleasure to read.  But as mentioned before, more than anything I love the way Anne looks at life.  As inspiration.  Everything has a book behind it and if the book is already written, she enacts the story.  Who could ever forget the infamous Lady of Shalott episode?  It was where I first found interest in Tennyson’s poem, a hundred years after studying him at school and university and being arrogantly bored.

There she weaves by night and day

A magic web with colours gay.

She has heard a whisper say,

A curse is on her if she stay

To look down to Camelot.

She knows not what the curse may be,

And so she weaveth steadily,

And little other care hath she,

The Lady of Shalott.

Right now I’m reading Anne’s House of Dreams because it was my mother’s favourite Anne book when she was a child.  It surprises me that Mum and Dad never gave me the Anne books as I was always a voracious reader.  But it doesn’t matter.  The point is that I did discover them and have never looked back.  As a writer myself now, I appreciate the gracious simplicity of Montgomery’s work and would emulate it if I could.  ‘I know because of the thrill.  When I hit on (something I like), it gives me a thrill.  Do things ever give you a thrill?’ (Anne to Matthew in Anne of Green Gables)