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Reading Life: 8th March 2019 (This Is Long, And Long-Winded)

All the posts I haven’t made on this blog the past few months have here been somewhat accounted for by the length of this one. I’ve separated it into sections and fully expect you to only read some of it.

Book cover of L M Montgomery's The Blue Castle

For Starters

In my February round up, I said that for March I plan to read at least one more classic, having spent time with three in those short 28 days. Eight days in to March and I’ve completed one classic and am quarter of the way through another.

It took only the first day of March and my craving to return to Montgomery’s The Blue Castle – to both fulfill my want of a re-read and to carry on reading Montgomery without necessarily carrying on with Anne’s story – to realise that I need to read classics.

I’ve a number of contemporary books I’d like to read right now/soon, and will be reading Sofie Laguna’s The Choke as planned (published next month) but otherwise in terms of active attempts I’m opening contemporary books and getting nowhere with them. Perhaps it’s the way I’m having to juggle my mental energy at the moment, but classics, even lengthy ones, are appealing where newer books aren’t. There’s a peace to be found in older books that have continually ‘made it’ through the years – even if they’re dark or full of filler content, you know you’re going to find something in them that’s worthy of your time.

Right now I’m definitely conscious of that value.

So re-reading The Blue Castle and gaining more from it, which I’ll discuss in a moment, was fantastic, but the book in mind when I speak of value is my current read: Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

A photograph of D H Lawrence

Lawrence

I attempted a brief description on Twitter but character limit made it difficult: I’ve been wanting to read D H Lawrence since I was pretty young. My dad had a mundane-looking hardback of his stories that sat on the bookshelf beside a collection of Graham Greene’s. (When I was younger, adult books with mundane covers drew me more than any colourful, pictorial ones; I think it was some sort of thought as to the way in which reading them would mean you were very grown up.) I once asked someone else about the books and was told of the Lawrence that it was just smut. Of course this made me want to read it more – forget about the sex (or only possible sex, given the person who told me), this was definitely a grown up book.

Unfortunately the negative word still stuck in my mind, and my dad eventually sold his copy on to a secondhand bookshop (I actually went looking for it but he’d been to a number of shops and couldn’t remember which book had gone where). I have the Graham Greene.

I’ve since read up about Lawrence, prepared myself to do battle with that voice in my head and the fact that Lawrence’s work was banned – so at least in this case that opinion of ‘smut’ was correct – found a copy of the book that flustered the world’s feathers, and started reading it.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is full of sex, and swearing. It was published 90 years ago and it’s still a bit shocking. But the thing that actually grates on me, is Lawrence’s deliberate use of repetition – he uses it when something about society annoys him, wanting to rant, and it’s a literary method that works, but ‘by jove!’ as his upper-class 1920s characters might say, he really didn’t need to keep on with it as much as he does.

Otherwise, there is value in Lawrence’s work. He writes from the female perspective which is often weird and unrealistic… and often relatable. He hits you over the head with his desires for England to stay traditional, not industrialised… and often achieves something that, whilst I don’t like the book myself, is rather as well-done as North And South.

I’m officially enjoying it, likely more than Lady Chatterley, though in a very different way. Lawrence lacks a certain closeness to his characters, and I don’t think I’ll necessarily want to read many, if any, of his other novels, but there’s plenty to appreciate. Of course this could well all change; there’s still the other 75% of the book to go.

A photograph of L M Montgomery

Montgomery

It was after having finished Anne Of Green Gables, and then Anne Of Avonlea, then I decided to re-read The Blue Castle; it had been 6 or so years in the making. It was a surprising experience: while I loved it as much, if not more, than I did the first time around, I hadn’t quite remembered the story correctly, nor had I remembered the amount of humour in it (I had thought there was a lot more humour to it than there was). This may have something to do with the particular experience I had, reading it a few years later, several years of life having happened in the meantime.

But most interesting was the way reading order affected what I took away from it. When I first read the book, it was my first experience of Montgomery’s work. Now, not only was I reading it with added context of her other work, I was reading it straight after those other works, back-to-back, with all the extra memory recall that provided.

And I found that Montgomery kept a number of themes going between the two stories (lumping the two Anne books together for a moment) which, if the difference in years has anything to do with it (Anne Of Green Gables and Anne Of Avonlea 1908 and 1909, The Blue Castle 1926) suggests a likely use of the themes in her work over all.

What I took away with me most was the use of daydreaming – Anne Shirley’s day dreaming that may well have been partly ADHD but is certainly both a young girl’s hopes and a way to get away from trauma, and Valancy’s day dreams as a way to get away from abuse and trauma. The characters both dream, and they dream for the same reasons. Perhaps the writer used dreaming herself – she is known to have suffered from depression in large part due to her unhappy marriage. (Wikipedia, link at the bottom, notes the long-thought – and recorded – death from coronary thrombosis that’s since been brought into question by the revelation from her granddaughter that she may have taken her own life.)

Perhaps this is partly why Anne, once in Anne Of Avonlea, dreams less – she now has stability. (‘Partly’ because I do think it has a lot to do with the idea of maturing.)

As well as this, through day dreams, Montgomery seems to suggest that so long as it doesn’t have a bad impact on reality, dreams should be had. She shows it’s a good thing and not just for children. She prefers fantastical dreams – princesses, castles. Valancy dreams a lot of this type – whilst an adult, she’s treated like a child by her family, and her Marble Halls-esque dreams echo both this child-like past and the desire to escape via the proverbial knight in shining armour.

Speaking Of Anne…

As I’ve said previously, I hadn’t planned on reading the Anne books; they were effectively on the very edges of my reading list, being books I might-maybe-possibly get to one day if there wasn’t another book to read. Recently, however, I’d seen publicity shots for the latest adaptation – Netflix’s – and it got my attention. I’m not planning to watch the adaptation, in fact if reports are anything to go by the 1985 Canadian production is the gold standard and the Netflix version, Anne With An E, whilst good, is informed by our present culture rather than the things that occur or are included in the book – menstruation, for example, would never have made the book.

Anyway, I read Anne Of Green Gables, moved straight on to Anne Of Avonlea, and loved it. I didn’t continue onto book three simply because I didn’t fancy having to write notes on the same characters, and no others, for the next few months. I’ll go back to it, likely some time in the near future.

Online References

Wikipedia (n.d.) Lucy Maud Montgomery, accessed 8th March 2019

 
 

Kelly

March 8, 2019, 4:47 pm

I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover in high school, but honestly don’t remember anything about it other than it was quite scandalous. (which I’m sure is why I read it)

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