When someone gave me the awesome Christmas present of the Emily of New Moon trilogy, I didn't like it! I didn't like old-fashioned books. The girl on the cover had her hair in two long tails and wore black stockings. I just knew right off that I wouldn't like it. Thank goodness I was brought up to have enough manners to act nice about it. And I think that I knew deep down that I ought to be more grateful than I was. (I was a girl named Emily who loved books, and here were books about a girl named Emily; natural fit!)
I just opened up the first book to try to remember why I had such a bad first impression and read six pages before I could stop. These paperbacks are over 30 years old, and don't they look it!
There's no telling how many times I've read these, but it's been years now, and I'd love to read them again. The problem with that is, these pages made me think of Vincent Van Gogh, and how I'd like to read a few biographies of him, and a book of his letters. And I won't be able to read half of what I want to read if I keep re-reading old favorites. I love re-reading, but I really must pace myself.
Anyway, I wasn't pleased with my gift and didn't give it much of a chance. I took it home and put it on a shelf. I guess I thought that I might want it someday; I did love books, just not these books. I think that I was 9 or 10 at the time, and they sat there for a few years, until I discovered Anne of Green Gables. I don't know how I became aware of Anne, probably the book was mentioned in another book. (This was before Tumblr or Goodreads, by a long stretch.)
I loved Anne of Green Gables. I loved the descriptions of Prince Edward Island- I loved Matthew and Marilla- I loved Diana and Gilbert- I loved the Haunted Wood- I loved Diana's scary aunt- I loved raspberry cordial (if you don't know, the recipe in the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook tastes like raspberry Kool-aid). I loved sweet, accident-prone, imaginative, motor-mouth Anne Shirley. (It's OK- I can call her a motor-mouth, because we're kindred spirits.)
I devoured the whole Anne series, maybe reading about WWI in Rilla of Ingleside before I was quite ready. And at some point, I look up at my shelf and saw the name L. M. Montgomery on those old Emily books. I launched myself at them, ran through the house to show my mother, and then swallowed the trilogy whole. Or something like that.
Now, I like the Emily books even better than the Anne books. The Anne books make me think of apple pie, and the Emily books make me think of a dark-red wild apple that I found on the ground once, all veined through with red inside. It was sweet but so tangy. (I'd give alot to have kept the seeds of that apple, although I don't have a place to plant them.)
I remember the spinning shelf in my childhood public library where all the L. M. Montgomery books were shelved. I read them over and over. That was when there were still check-out cards in the back of the book, and I could look to see how long it had been since I read one, or if I'd managed to find one new to me. When Amazon was new, I got on and ordered all the L. M. Montgomery books that I could find. I spent years looking for Jane of Lantern Hill, only to have to settle for a used copy that has something like mustard on it.
Now, I have a whole shelf for Lucy Maud books. I've bought most of her books, although there may still be a few short story collections that I don't have. I'd love to read a biography of L. M. Montgomery, and go to Canada to see some of the places where she lived.
I wrote in a post about my childhood Sweet Valley High addiction that the Anne books were like a gateway into better literature for me. Even if it had only led me to the rest of LMM's work, that would have been more than enough, but it opened the door to a whole world of classic children's and YA books, The Secret Garden and Little Women, especially, that stayed with me far past childhood. I'll always love these books. I also learned more about WWI from Anne than I did in my high school history class, and more about the hardship of seeing young people you love going off to war, and waiting.
Even though, as I said before and really meant, I am going to try to limit my re-reading, these books will stay on my shelf forever, standing by until I need a dose of their sweetness and humor.
Please leave a comment if you have a favorite LM Montgomery book, or something like it.