Saturday, 26 March 2016

Rereadathon the Third: Part two - Saturday 26th - Wednesday 30th March


Saturday:

I finished American Gods yesterday, and although I've read it several times now, I'm feeling a hint of a book hangover; I can't get Shadow and Laura, Wednesday and Mr Nancy and all the rest out of my head. I spent the evening yesterday at a 50th birthday party, which was a really lovely evening, and read most of the stories in Through the Woods, a collection of gothic fairy tales in comic-book form. I left the last one until this morning, however. I remembered being really creeped out by one of the illustrations, and didn't really want that to be the image left in my mind after lights out. Yes, I'm a wimp.

And today I've got stuck back into Anne of Green Gables. If I must buy lots of different editions of my favourite book since childhood, it's only right that I read each one, and I've got a lovely collector's library, pocket-sized with gold edges and illustrations. I know that book inside out. If I found myself in the dystopian world of Fahrenheit 451, where books are banned and live on only because people memorise them word for word, Anne would be mine. I don't know it word for word,  and yet I can identify it from a half-glimpsed sentence on an e-reader screen. I can tell if the wording is slightly different from one edition to another. This copy I'm reading today has Marilla saying she didn't want a "Barnardo boy" instead of "'home' child," which was the wording I knew from my existing three copies. When was this changed?

It really struck me today how little legal protection orphans had back in the nineteenth century, when Anne of Green Gables was set. For one thing, Marilla and Matthew just decided the night before, that if Mrs Spencer was going over to the orphanage in Nova Scotia to adopt a child, she might as well pick one up for them too at the same time - like she's running grocery errands for them. There's no paperwork, they don't even need to go to the orphanage themselves to be assessed (hence the mix-up when they wanted a boy and got Anne instead.) Yes, Matthew and Marilla are good people, but they could be anyone. Mrs Spencer doesn't even take Anne all the way to Green Gables, but drops her off at the Bright River railway station in a strange place where she knows no one.  There's no follow-up; once Anne's off the hands of the orphanage trustees, we never hear from them again. If it weren't for Marilla's change of heart, she could have been fobbed off onto the awful Mrs Blewett and worked half to death, and no one would have any record of where she went or what happened to her. It's all rather sombre to think of what could have happened, if the story had gone differently.

Saturday Stats

Books read from: Through the Woods - Emily Carroll
Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery
Pages read: 202
Books finished this week: 2
Favourite reread so far: American Gods. 
On the menu: tuna couscous pot, apple, easter egg


Sunday and Monday

Although it's currently quite sunny, the last couple of days have been very temperamental weather-wise with Storm Katie hitting yesterday evening. (I had nothing to do with it, I swear!) So the usual Easter walk has been postponed, and I spent most of yesterday afternoon finishing Anne of Green Gables. What makes Anne stand out from the other children's books of the late 19th and early 20th century, is the way that L. M. Montgomery captures the spirit of childhood in a rural community. Anne is neither sickeningly good, nor do the scrapes she gets in read as though written as a moral lesson to the reader. Montgomery gently laughs at Anne's eccentricities, but does not diminish the soaring highs and crashing lows that might seem mundane but are important to the child. Anne is one of life's optimists, but you read enough sorrow between the lines to keep the sweetness from becoming cloying; the down-to-earth humour keeps Anne's precociousness from becoming twee. She's a bright, sparky child who has survived a tough life - having to care for her former foster mother's eight children (with twins three times in succession) while little more than an infant herself - through the escape of books and imagination. So it's heartwarming to see her delight as she discovers the simple pleasures: eating ice cream, sleeping in a spare-room bed, and to finally discover people who love her unconditionally. 

I've no idea how many times I've read Anne. As a child I would read the same books over and over and over again, and a family friend's enduring image of me is reading that book, with my hair in pigtails and wearing a straw summer hat. But it still has the power to make me laugh and love and cry. I cried twice yesterday, once when the uptight, repressed Marilla half-grieves that Anne has to grow up, and the other time - well, you know which part!

Today, (Monday) I switched off my alarm and let myself sleep as late as I liked (which was pretty late) although the weather outside gave me some strange and frightening dreams. As I've already said, I've been getting into a routine even on days when I'm not working, but bank holidays are different. Today I ought to take a break from the rereadathon to catch up with The Stand for this week's readalong segment with Judith (which reminds me, I need to type up last week's notes.) But I also want to get started on my reread of The Charioteer. 

Sunday Stats:

Books read from: Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery
Pages read today: 267
Total books finished: 3
Favourite reread so far: American Gods and Anne of Green Gables tie
On the menu: hot cross buns, Easter egg (seeing a theme here?) apple, sour cream and garlic Graze crostini snack

Monday Stats:

Books read from: The Charioteer - Mary Renault
Pages read today: 220
Total books finished: 3
Favourite reread so far: American Gods and Anne of Green Gables tie, but The Charioteer is up there too. Look, they're all excellent! That's why I'm rereading them.
On the menu: Bit of Rocky Road Easter egg, caramel shortbread, apple, Graze snacks.


Tuesday and Wednesday:

It's the last evening of the rereadathon, but I could quite happily do another week, and maybe I will, unofficially; I've still got Monstrous Regiment and Miranda Hart's autobiography, as well as others which got added to my mental list after the books I did read - notably, Anne of Avonlea and Anansi Boys. Yesterday (Tuesday) I spent the evening away from the rereads, as I was a bit behind on my reading of The Stand, although I came back to The Charioteer for another chapter before bed, and over breakfast this morning. The problem with having two books on the go at once - especially when they are two good books - is that you can't choose which one to pick up. But for now, I think I'll aim to finish The Charioteer by the end of today. I'm feeling a little sleepy, however, and might fall asleep quite early.

(Later)

I finished The Charioteer at about 11PM, and I think I'm more satisfied with the ending on the second reading. Although I've concluded it is a happy ending, I find myself wondering about how the story will continue past the last page, and how much of a rollercoaster ride the characters are in for when the book is closed. I don't think that their problems will go away as easily as they, or we, would like. But they will endure the storms together, of that much I'm sure.

I am writing about these ink-and-paper people as if they are real, alive today, and that the next page is tomorrow, despite The Charioteer being written in the 1950s and set in the 1940s. That's the power of books, and why we like to return to books we've already read - to reacquaint ourselves with old friends, and try to know them better. When I was about 17, I read an author's afterward for a novel I studied at school, where they wrote something along the lines of, "People keep asking me what happened to the characters after the events of the book. Nothing happened! It's a story! They don't exist off the page!" I'm certainly misquoting this author's words, and probably misrepresenting what they were trying to say, but it was the message I took away, and I've never quite forgiven that author since. 

Tuesday Stats:

Rereadathon books read from: The Charioteer - Mary Renault
Rereadathon pages read today: 31
Other reading: The Stand - Stephen King
Total books finished: 3
Favourite reread: Anne, American Gods (see above)
On the menu: Apple, Bit of Easter egg, Graze cheesey corn snack

Wednesday Stats:

Rereadathon books read from: The Charioteer - Mary Renault
Rereadathon pages read today: 168
Other reading: The Stand - Stephen King
Total books finished: 4
Favourite reread: See above
On the menu: Special K cereal, chocolate brownie bites.

Final summary:

Books read: American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Through the Woods - Emily Carroll
Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery
The Charioteer - Mary Renault
Pages read: 1592
Best reading day: Sunday (267 pages)
Average: 159 pages per day

Thanks again to Bex for hosting the rereadathon. I've really enjoyed it. Another one in the autumn perhaps? 

5 comments:

  1. YES I KNOW WHICH PART THANK YOU, OH BRINGER OF STORMS. I reread Anne so many times as a child but one particular time must have been 'too much' (because of THAT PART, it almost made me sick I got so upset) and I gave my childhood copy away. Shame, it was a lovely little blue hardcover with a picture of Anne on the front and I really did adore it. Still, I have the pretty Puffin In Bloom version now, a gift from my sister which makes it more special, so it's aaaaall good. I love your readathon updates. :)

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    1. "Bringer of Storms," I like that. Makes me sound like Thor or the like. My first edition of Anne was a two-in-one, and the blurb for Anne of Avonlea spoiled THAT BIT for me before I'd even read it! So I suppose it was never the shock for me. Doesn't stop it from being utterly devastating though. And the last sequel, Rilla of Ingleside, really did have me sitting up all night long when I finally bought my own copy, and crying my eyes out, enough that my Dad hid it. And this was NOT when I was a child. So I totally appreciate that. CURSE YOU MAUD! (But not really, because <3 Anne.)

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    2. Haha, I hadn't thought of Thor! I thought it made you sound a bit Game of Thrones-y actually. Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons. KATIE EDWARDS, BRINGER OF STORMS. :P

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    3. I have a colleague who is another Katie, so I addressed her as "Bringer of storms" today. Thanks for the awesome title.

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    4. Haha, you're most welcome. And congratulations on an amazing week of reading! I kind of flunked this one, but I had a lovely time rereading a couple of books I last read way back in 2009, plus I reacquainted myself with Dorian Gray for the first time in MANY years. I'll be reading the rest of that one today, as a kind of bonus extra day of the rereadathon! Roll on the next one... I'm already looking at my shelves and wondering what I'd pick! :)

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